This week's challenge: a story from high school.
It was the summer before my junior year of high school. Fourth of July specifically. I don't remember who exactly - but I believe it was a friend's sister who was getting married that night. If you're that friend, or that sister reading, then hi - your wedding night was the night I got four tickets.
In typical fashion, there was always a plan. My friends did a lot of drugs, drank a lot of alcohol, but they were punctual about it. We always knew what we were doing, where we were doing it at, and where we would end the night at. I'm going to skip the super logistics of this night so this post doesn't get even longer than it is but that night my older friend was going to lend me & my friends her car for the night so that she could go out to the bar and have a designated driver to come get her and so that we could have a car to drive around town on our evening. I was 16, I didn't have a license but none of my friends did either. I was in the middle of driving school with my best friend so I at least had a permit. I drove for a very long time in high school without getting a license but I was getting it together that summer. However, I was always the extra responsible one of my friend group. Please don't mistake my words for anything negative about my friends. It's just how we worked. They did all the ~things~ on the regular, and I was always there in case anything went wrong and on the nights that I did want to do ~things~ there was always someone there also who wouldn't do the ~things~ to make sure I was okay. We were a beautiful group of idiots, and I loved them all so much.
So this night, I was going out with my gals and token guy friend. We went to said wedding, hung out but ended up deciding we'd rather be at someone's house hanging out, watching fireworks pop up around the city since it was the fourth and all. We decided to leave. It was raining that night and we were about 3 blocks away from our destination when police lights began to go off behind me. It couldn't be for me because I was the most safe driver since I was paranoid about not having a license. However, as we continued on down the road, my friends began to point out that those lights were in fact - for me. Panicked to my core, I pulled over conveniently right by my high school's soccer fields. It was a lady cop who shined her lights in all the windows before making her way to mine. She was already suspicious but she told me firstly why she pulled me over: the back tail light on my friend's car was out.
Although we were sitting outside with this cop and eventually another cop she called to help her issue tickets to five people for around 3 hours, most of it feels like a blur now. I remember telling her straight up that I didn't have a license. I figured I was already going to be in a mess so might as well be honest about it. I remember her telling us to all call our parents and me hearing my friends break the news to their parents that they were on the side of the road getting a ticket for being out past curfew when most of their parents thought we were at the wedding. One of my friends specifically had snuck out of his house because he was on probation already and so his mom was EXTRA angry when she found out he wasn't in his room. And lastly, one of my friends' parents wouldn't answer and the police said she would be put in juvenile detention overnight if they didn't eventually pick up. I stood with that friend in the pouring rain while she cried her eyes out in fear, and me casually side eyeing the car and hoping they didn't search it and find the handle of alcohol underneath the seat. To both of our advantage, they didn't search the car and they let her be released to someone else's parents.
At the time of this, I took my ticket and got in the car with my mom and immediately let out all the tears I'd been holding in. I expected her to yell at me, tell me how much I had just messed up. But instead she said "why are you crying?" WHY WAS I CRYING? I was 16 and in my hand I held four tickets. I had no clue what I had just done but it seemed scary. Why wasn't she mad? There are a few times in my life, probably anyone's life where something your parent says sticks with you forever. Mine was this night. She told me that she wasn't mad, because she knew I was mad enough at myself. She also said that I knew what I was doing when I decided to drive illegally and that I take that risk living the life I want to live and at the end of the day it was going to be me cleaning up my mess or messing up my life, not her. She told me I was old enough to make my own decisions and I better start owning up to them. I don't know if the how to parenting books would deem this the right thing to say in this moment. I still think she should have yelled at me a little bit. But it's what I needed to hear in that moment.
I'll tell you this. I've told this story many times before because now, it's funny & interesting and doesn't align with the personality the people who know me now know. However, looking back on it personally after almost a decade (almost is key), I really think that this was a turning point for the trajectory of my life. I was petrified that the only dream I really had - moving out of my hometown, was going to be compromised because of this stupid, stupid event. I remember constantly thinking no college would want me despite my grades or extra curricular activities if I have a criminal record at such a young age. At least not a good one. I remembered being terrified that I had left my guard down and I was on the brink of becoming like so many people around me despite the potential I knew I had. I had spent the last year rebuilding my life after crumbling so much of it at such a young age with other things that maybe I was really just destined to be stuck in this place forever. It was my unintentional wake up call to work both harder and smarter.
I went to court and stood up in front of all the other people in Wichita Falls who've been given tickets the night of the Fourth when the judge read my four offenses - driving without a license, out past the city's curfew since I was a minor, driving a car with a broken taillight, and driving a car I wasn't insured under since it wasn't my car. All my friend's parents stood in the same room and I felt their judging eyes on me since it very much looked like I was the bad seed in the group but that was the farthest from the truth.
The next year would be spent going to teen court (a saga that deserves its own post) and procrastinating my community service hours until the last minute where my "warden" aka case supervisor directly told me I better figure out a way to finish my hours before she'd send me back to court despite the year of work I'd already put into this. I would spend my junior year of high school going to teen courts every other Wednesday, and using my days off from work to figure out a way to get community service hours done.
This year of my life dealing with this is directly why I am too lazy to break most of the laws anymore. I hated having this one night haunt me for the next year while I fixed it in many different ways. I had to stand in the freezing cold and sell Christmas trees in the winter to get the hours I needed. Eventually, once I was thru with everything, it was expunged from my record and I was clean. I'd never been more happy to be finished with something.