Spinning in Circles

I am not sure if learning to drive is still a rite of passage for this generation, but I am sure that the bonds we form when we teach our children, little things and big things, are good for a lifetime.

Our youngest son is a gifted writer and creative photographer. He has always loved books and words and visual images and writing is one of his ways of thinking and figuring things out. I recall an essay he wrote and posted on his own blog back when he was 15 years-old. He's 20 now and in college, majoring in English. I asked if I could share his essay and he said, "Sure, but I can write a lot better now." I already knew this. But his sincerity shines through in this simple story and just as in a photograph, nothing trumps content.

Driving and Writing: Spinning in Circles
Posted on July 30, 2012, See Jacob Write
I have reached that age when all jumpy fifteen-year-olds become jumpy, driving fifteen-year-olds.

To assure me that driving is not all that terrifying, and, yes, I’ll do fine, and, no, we won’t let you run into a tree, my parents have started giving me mini driving lessons in our local commuter lot.

They started swimmingly. On the weekends, we’d pack ourselves into the most stylish green minivan on the block, and head on over to any empty patch asphalt. I’d practice driving forward, making a few turns, braking completely. We even added imaginary stop signs at designated parking spaces. I thought, “Hey, this driving stuff, it isn’t so hard.”

Then, we went in reverse.

I cannot fathom why anyone would ever want to go backward in something as clunky as a car. Try to imagine my confusion. I turn my head so that I’m looking out the back window. I keep both my hands on the wheel. My foot is on the brake, or at least I hope—I’m looking backward so I don’t really know. And I have to figure out which way I have to turn the wheel so that the car doesn’t run into the large guard rail.

Sounds disastrous, does it not?

But that’s not all. Once I clumsily made my way in reverse in a semi-straight line, my mom suggested we go in reverse in a circle. Backwards in a circle. A car isn’t meant to do that, is it?

Here’s how the Circle Spinning went:

Mom: Turn the wheel all the way one way. No, no, the other way.
Me: That good?
Mom: Yeah, I think so. Go ahead, and give it a try.
(Commence spinning.)
Mom: Whoa, whoa. Are we about to hit that car?
Me: I dunno know. You told me to spin. I’m spinning right?
Mom: Okay, well, we’re awfully close to that van.
Me: I’ve been braking! It’s a gradual brake!
(The car stops, all helter-skelter to the pavement lines.)
Mom: Well, that was fun. A little bit dizzying, though.
Dad: Mmm-hmm.
Mom: Well, what are waiting for—let’s do it again!

You could’ve never convinced me that spinning in circles would actually be helpful. But it was.

Once I’d been around something completely, in a circle, and saw what I thought was the worst, I wasn’t so scared anymore.

Granted, I didn’t ask to spin in a circle again. But my forwards driving seemed to go even straighter, and my turns seemed to go even smoother.

This summer I am both a new driver and a new writer. I’ve spun in circles when driving, but I don’t think I’ve spun in circles when writing yet.

But I’ll know to relax when I do.

Spinning in circles can teach you more than just plowing through in a straight line. When you’re writing, and all these ideas just spring out of your eyes and ears and mouth, you see everything from different perspectives. You may not know exactly where you’re going, but you know you’ll make it back eventually.

All circles come back to their starting point.

Sometimes you have to see the whole thing through, and end up right where you began.
A little helter-skelter, maybe, but also excited and ready.