Not All Lessons Learned Are Big Ones

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As an eighteen year-old, most people would say I do not have much experience in life. They think that if I’m ever really going to understand how the world works, I must go through something really tragic or life changing. I know that I have had plenty of opportunities to deal with my own hardships, struggles, and balance between good and evil - and that they have made me grow stronger and more independent, but I think it is also important to remember that any experience, no matter how big, can make us more mature and understanding individuals. There is one night in my mind that sticks out as one of the most important in my young adult life. It is basically a short, exciting road trip with my best friends, and I will never forget it.

The month before I turned eighteen, my best friend, Artie, got his license. To celebrate, we decided to pull an all-nighter, driving around to all of our favorite places. The group consisted of me, Artie, my other best friend Mike, and Mike’s cousin, Jake. Because none of us are twenty-one, we couldn’t get into any clubs or bars, so we had to get creative. We started with a celebratory dinner at Gino’s East. I ordered my favorite thing on the menu, a sausage and pepperoni pizza. I always ask them to add extra cheese. I was surprised because our waitress was really rude to us. I remember being annoyed that she was being so nasty on such an exciting day. Artie told her, “I just got my license!” and I don’t even think she smiled in response. Before we even left, she said, “Hey, I have to leave soon. Pat will help you now.” She didn’t even wait for her tip, but that’s probably a good thing, because she wouldn’t have gotten a very good one from us with how we had been treated. The reason I remember her so well, though, is because when we were leaving, I saw her getting into her car. It was a really old, beat-up truck. I could see the backseat was full of trash. I realized that she was much older than we were, and she was a late-night waitress with a terrible car. I wouldn’t have been too happy to deal with a bunch of excited, young kids at the end of a long shift if my life was a difficult as I felt like hers might have been.

We followed our dinner with a stop at Logan Hardware. I don’t know if it’s actually my and my friends’ little secret, but it really feels like it is. We like to go check out all of the old records, toys, and video games. None of us have a record player, but we usually buy something anyway, because they write a “secret code” on your receipt that you use to get into their backroom. I am planning to buy a record player soon, but for now, they are all stacked up in a corner of my room. I can probably remember which record I bought on which day, so they are all like little souvenirs of various adventures I’ve had with my friends over time. The backroom to Logan Hardwar is one of my favorite places in all of Illinois because there is a secret arcade hiding behind the locked door. It has a lot of old video games that you can’t really play anywhere else. The best part of the arcade is that the games are free. It’s a great place to kill some time.

After we felt like we’d worn out our welcome at Logan Hardware, we drove over to Millennium Park so we could hang out together at the Bean (I know, “Cloud Gate.” It’s not a cloud. And it’s not a gate. It’s a bean). There always seem to be plenty of people doing the exact same thing there, but that’s kind of why I like it. Whenever you go, there are older people, young people, every age and race, and they are all staring into this giant sculpture, making funny faces and trying to take pictures of their reflections. I can’t deny that we tried to do the same thing for a little while. It was too dark, so we just took some pictures together of us sitting on the hood of Artie’s car. It’s really easy to go there and remember that even though everyone is different, we all really do have a lot in common. I know that might sound kind of sentimental, but it’s definitely true.

Once we got tired of how busy the city was, we drove out to Evanston. We’ve tried to make this a semi-frequent occurrence, because as exciting as it is to drive around in the city, it is difficult to relax when there are a thousand other cars on the road, and you are always stopping for traffic lights. It can be a longer drive, but Artie had made a special playlist on his iPod for the occasion, so we weren’t worried. We started with Kid Rock's Rebel Soul album. Artie and I both grew up listening to him. We even got to go to his concert a few years ago, and it was another unforgettable night. We probably didn’t make the people in their houses too happy because the music was pretty loud, but we were all so excited to have control of the radio and no one to tell us to turn it down. We also played Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” There is a famous scene in the movie Wayne’s World where Wayne and his friends drive around Chicago singing that song really loud, and even though the movie is before my time, and the song is even older than that, it is still one of my favorite scenes, and I used to imagine doing just that when I was little. Finally achieving this may seem like a small goal, but it still felt really satisfying. Driving around listening to a playlist of our favorite classic rock made me feel younger and older at the same time. It reminded me that age can’t be determined by the number of years you live. I try to remember there’s no reason to be frustrated by being “only” eighteen. I can still grow and mature as much as I can, but it’s okay to be young and have fun, too.

I know that I will experience many events in my life that will shape who I am. In fact, there will probably be so many that it will be easy to forget the smaller moments that have also contributed to who I am. I truly believe that this one night, consisting of pizza, video games, a giant silver bean, and long drive full of good music, will have an influence on the person I am for years to come. I do not ever want to forget how important this night was to me, and I do not think I will any time soon.