If I was ever to write my autobiography these words would be a potential title because that’s exactly where I’ve spent my life — the passenger seat. If you’re like most people you might in this space once in a while, I sit here every, single time… though not by choice.
What keeps me from the driver’s seat is congenital eye problems that make it impossible for me to pass the vision test for driving. Even with all the new technology coming out, that eye chart stands between me and the road, and I suspect it always will.
Only recently have I come to recognize that my place in the car mirrors my place in life, and it has for as far back as my mid teens. Back then I was the passenger, supporting the drivers in my life, with quiet, unassuming efficiency. A steady presence trying hard to prove itself.
How I longed to be in that driver’s seat! I imagined how great it must feel… going where you wanted, when you wanted — being in charge of the radio and the route. Having competently mastered a skill that’s a right of passage for teens into the adult world was (still is) a big deal. It’s a hard pill to swallow when you physically cannot pass such a barrier, you never carry a license, get a car, have a set of keys all your own.
In my imaginings the driver’s seat opened up the whole world.
Consigned to being a passenger, I realize now that took to the role with all I had. I earned the right to the seat while living as a passenger in a very real sense during those years. A stronger will than mine called for supporting someone else’s priorities; thrust into the background I played second far too naturally for my own good. I got used to being overlooked, part of the scenery, the one to depend on for all the thankless drudgery of the house that made greatness possible.
Too many years it took me to see that the passenger seat isn’t such a bad place to be after all. You’re never alone and you don’t have to know how to get anywhere — that’s the driver’s deal. You have the time to think, to plan, to appreciate the little things along the way that drivers are too busy to see. Also, it’s a whole lot easier to enjoy food, drinks or ice cream from the passenger side.
So for all those riding in the passenger seat out there… whether by choice or circumstance, take heart. Being along for the ride, it turns out, isn’t such a bad place to be. You may not be driving the car (or parts of your life) at this moment, but that doesn’t mean that someone isn’t doing it for you.
And that you’ll get just where you need to go in the end.