The Wrong Side of the Tracks

“Hey Mom: did you feel emotional the first time that you drove in

This quote is from the final scene of a film that holds a very special place in my heart: Lady Bird (2017). It is a particularly relevant quote because I drove for the first time yesterday, no one sitting in the passenger seat to guide me. Granted, my mother was behind me in her car, making sure I was okay. But, it was a significant moment for me, though I had been dreading it to be honest with you. I was so nervous and worried and anxious, about both getting into an accident and the idea that maybe I was growing up too quickly. You see, I didn’t quite follow the “timeline.” I didn’t get my permit at 15, a license at 16, and start driving on my own soon after. I turned 18 before I actually received my license. I had already graduated from high school and now, I have two weeks before my first day of college to become comfortable driving alone. Everything seems to have happened at the same time, the responsibilities of adulthood dropping on me like an atomic bomb. Maybe I’m not ready. I know that nobody ever is, but I genuinely wish time would stop sometimes. In Lady Bird, Christine (Lady Bird herself) is also a senior in high school without her license. Throughout this entire school year, she turns 18, falls in love, has sex for the first time, graduates high school, earns her license, and leaves for college. At one point, during a conversation with Danny, her initial love interest, he says that he dreamed they flew to Disneyland on a carrot and that he loves Disneyland. Lady Bird replies

“Me too, I think it’s kind of scary but I also love it.”

Driving is my Disneyland. I think it is absolutely horrifying to have to be in control of a vehicle on the road with a thousand other vehicles you can’t control. I think it is insanely terrifying to have to confront growing older and doing things independently without being able to pause to catch your breath. There are no red or yellow lights to life and I would be ridiculous to not admit that sometimes it feels like everything is happening at 70 miles per hour. Lady Bird‘s opening sequence features narration by a priest who says

“We’re afraid that we will never escape our past. We’re afraid of what the future will bring. We’re afraid we won’t be loved, we won’t be liked. And we won’t succeed.”

But, to be able to drive down those streets and travel anywhere I want, there is a freedom to it I never felt before. I am not some little kid in a toy car anymore and why would I want to be? There are endless opportunities that this car will take me to. And I cannot help but acknowledge my excitement, my confidence in the future and the experiences that lie ahead. In the film, once Christine has moved in, she attends a party, meets a boy, and gets so drunk that she throws up and has to be taken to the hospital. Not every transition into independence is a smooth one, and I have to remember that, along with locking my car. We are stupid humans who do stupid things and sometimes life will be so utterly stupid and pathetic, but I have to believe that there is something worthwhile waiting for me.


In the second to last scene of the film, before Christine calls her mom, she stands in a church listening to the choir, tears streaming down her face. However, the script reads something that is not shown in the film: Christine beginning to laugh and sing along.

Screenshot 2019-08-12 at 2.24.08 AM

That final line struck me. Because yes, no matter how scared or unprepared I feel, at the end of it all, my life is just beginning.

And so, to answer the question, I did feel emotional the first time that I drove.

-Ariana Martinez (A.M.)

I do not own these pictures.

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