Reflection: Two 16-year-olds Unknowingly Living Life’s Deeper Meaning
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Reflection: Two 16-year-olds Unknowingly Living Life’s Deeper Meaning

It seems like, often, we don't realize we're living through some of life's most important moments until long after they've passed.

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Reflection: Two 16-year-olds Unknowingly Living Life’s Deeper Meaning

"We come with the dust, and we're gone with the wind." - Woody Guthrie, Pastures of Plenty

When my old Subaru Forester's engine blew in the summer of 2018, I was at a crossroads; I wanted a truck so so bad. I could just picture myself at the steering wheel of a blue 4x4 Tacoma doing all the outdoorsy, manly things guys who drove trucks do. But a nagging voice in the back of my head said not to do it. Even after all the sneers and insults the then 18-year-old Forester had raised from others, the fact remained that the car had taken everything that a teenage boy could throw at it. Hell, it did more than just take it. It seemed to enjoy the adrenaline rush more than I did.

I put that car through so much more than it should have been able to handle. I drove it fast. I drove it hard. I left a lingering smell of burning clutch in the parking lot of Woodward High School more times than I can count. I flew down backroads and across the open prairie on near-bald street tires. It never so much as stuttered. It never showed one sign of letting up. There's one time, in particular, I'll never forget as long as I live.

It was an ominously stormy summer day just a few days before my junior year of high school. I'd recently become addicted to fly fishing Oklahoma's rivers for bass, catfish, perch, or whatever would eat my fly. I don't mean "enjoyed it" or "thought it was fun," that summer I would wake up thinking about fly fishing, go to basketball practice thinking about fly fishing, and then sit at work thinking about fly fishing. It was the weekend, and I was obsessed. I wanted to fish a river close to our farm in Camargo, but one of those summer storms that dump their bounty on the land and across the maze of dirt backroads before dissipating without a trace within an hour was quickly approaching. My eyes were glued to the radar. My dad (I have no doubt he's done the same kind of things when HE was a kid) gave me strict instructions not to even try it. He said I'd get stuck or crash into the side of the embankment of the little-trafficked dirt roads that so suddenly transform into a river of mud when it rains. But, after all, I was a 16-year-old kid that'd just worked for an entire week and wanted to go fishing. There's nobody in the world that can stop a 16 year old with that kind of dedication.

The summer storm came; its thunder echoed across the lonely prairie, and its rain indiscriminately soaked miles of dirt roads that just so happen to stand between me and my fishing. You can probably tell where this is going. I sneakily threw my rod in the car, grabbed my camera & GoPro, and I "went to the gym."

For a little bit of context, my car was a 2000 Subaru forester. It also happened to be the same car my parents took me home from the hospital in after I was born. It was six months older than I was. As I grew up, my parents would joke "Hey, there's your first car sitting out in the driveway." We would all laugh because we never imagined it would actually come to fruition. A car's not supposed to last that long, right?

As my 16th birthday rolled around, my family came upon some financial hardship, and we were in no place to afford an extra car payment. For me, my options were between my bicycle, and the car that had sat idle out in the driveway – not seeing regular use in years. I begrudgingly took the latter.

I'll never forget when I was starting to get it ready and make it "mine", as every 16 year old does to their first car. I popped the hood, and jumped back, startled, as I got an earful from the family of packrats who had made the Subaru's engine bay their home for the past God knows how long. That's the car we're talking about. The 16-year-old Subaru with 175,000 miles that had sat and weathered the elements (and a family of packrats, apparently) for years. The "Subie" as my family nicknamed it, took it like a champ. Now, back to my stupid, "that's something only a 16-year-old boy would do" story.

As I turned off the blacktop and onto the backroad which was now little more than a river of liquefied red clay, I realized It was the sketchiest thing I've ever done. Hands down. By far and wide. It was hard to keep the tail end of the car from swinging from side to side. I drove way faster than I should have, but I loved every second of it. My tires tore into the earth and the earth fought back. Mud was everywhere. Not the "kinda" wet dirt mud. Oh, no. This was the "step in it and you're ankle-deep" kind of mud. It was everywhere. I could barely see out of my windshield. I came roaring over a hill driving way too fast because I was scared if I slowed down I'd get stuck. As I flew over the hill, I realized a bend in the road was suddenly approaching. I reacted instinctively and slammed on the breaks. That was a mistake. I didn't exactly think it through; you see, when you brake in mud, all you do is slide. I was sliding straight into the embankment at the next curve. I grabbed my stick shift (The Subie was a manual transmission), put it in first gear, floored it and yanked the wheel. It was just like in the movies. It seemed like time slowed down. I could see the wall of dirt closing in on me. I drifted around the corner just like the movies...maybe not exactly, but in the eyes of a 16-year-old that wanted nothing more than to go fishing and prove his dad wrong in the process, it was pretty badass. I made the turn with inches to spare. I made it to gravel and just sat there for a second. I couldn't believe I made it. I felt invincible, again, as most 16 year olds who have just lucked their way through something incredibly stupid, probably feel.

However, after my near-catastrophe that would've involved a very dented, very mud-sunk car and a couple very pissed off parents, it was like the heavens had recognized my passion for completing my endeavor, and what followed was one of the most beautiful evenings I've ever seen. As I started my mile-long hike to my fishing spot, everything around me was teeming with life. As with everything else in life, the most beautiful, wholesome moments can be found off the road, on the footpaths less traveled. This was no exception. The young jackrabbits chased each other in the open field; the meadowlarks danced in the air and chirped their beautiful songs for all to hear; the deer were out with their yearlings munching on the endless fields painted with popping color from blooming wildflowers that blanketed the Oklahoma prairie for as far as the eye could see.

The fishing that evening was, to this day, the best I've ever experienced. Not only were the largemouth bass fat, beautiful, and healthy, but they were MY fish that I'd earned through my blood, sweat, and (almost) tears. I caught and released one after another into the warm, crystal clear water of the seldom-frequented creek dozens of miles away from the chaos of school, sports, girls, and the stresses of whatever else causes 16-year-old boys to fret.

I fished up until pre-dusk, and towards the end of my trek back, I could see my car's silhouette on the horizon. After a chaotic evening, It gave me a sense of security – a feeling of home. I knew I would turn the key and the engine would start; I knew as I pressed my foot on the gas the wheels would spin; I knew the Subie would take me home safe. Obviously, you shouldn't ever be that naive as to take life for granted, but that evening I just had a feeling. Indeed, the Subie got me back through the river of mud and as the tires finally met asphalt, I paused for a second to pat the Subie on the dash in recognition of the fact that it'd faced this undertaking with just as much passion and perseverance as I had – in all actuality, it probably faced it with more.

Fast forward. So there I was. I looked at my car with great sadness. The blown engine was simply too much for it to recover from. I tied down my 2000 Subaru Forester onto the trailer and watched my mom and grandpa haul it away. Never will I forget that feeling. It was a feeling akin to walking the empty halls after the last day of your senior year of high school; there is both nostalgia for what's been, and excitement for what's to be.

Nor will I ever forget the moment my parents handed me the keyfob to my brand new-to-you 2015 Subaru outback, a gift for all A's the previous year, and a promise to my parents that I'd graduate valedictorian the next. The bluetooth, voice control, leather seats, radar cruise control and automatic braking were a far cry from the worn, depleted (but, make no mistake, still very proud) state of my previous ride.

It's only now that I appreciate the grace, strength and perseverance of my first car, and the car I so ignorantly took for granted. The original Subaru key to my 2000 Forester hangs from the rearview mirror of my new 2015 Outback to this day. As with the car to which it once started, the key does whatever I need it to do. Whether it's serving as a reminder to be grateful for what I have, or a way to reminisce and appreciate the memories that have come and gone, the key will stay dangling beneath my rear-view mirror until the day my 2015 outback takes its last gulp of gasoline, and I can decide which Subaru I pick to be my next.

That key hanging over my rearview mirror truly holds an astounding amount of power, for it was the key that took me home from the hospital when I was only a few days old, and it was the key that catapulted me into young-adulthood. Much of its power rests in the power of reflection. Using just one of many examples, to this day, I truly believe wholeheartedly, with every ounce of confidence in my body, I was not alone that day I almost barreled into a muddy embankment and then proceeded to be blessed enough to view with my eyes one of the most beautiful days I've ever seen. Whether it was God, Mother Nature, a guardian angel, or all of the above, I was not alone.

Whether it was my Subie, my high school adventures, or my life in general, it seems like, often, we don't realize we're living through some of our most important life moments until long after they've passed.

Again– whether it be with my first car or my high school adventures, they've come and gone. Eventually, the same can be said about everything else in life. It comes and it goes. No one lives forever. We all too often neglect to reduce life from its daily hodgepodge back down to what really matters. The moments we share with others we can never get back, the moments we spend with ourselves grappling over the complexity of life, and ,perhaps the most important, to be grateful for what we have before we realize it's no more.

As Woody Guthrie might say, "We come with the dust, and we're gone with the wind."

And, I dunno, maybe that's what makes life so special.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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