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Monday, November 28, 2022
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Over a year ago, I wrote a column about how I was preparing for my permit test and how I was getting ready to take to the roads. Almost a year after I took my permit test for the first time, I took it a second time (note to self: don’t take government-made written tests during final exams!) and at last got my permit. What was I up to in between? Email me and I’ll send you links to the Ramaz 11th-grade syllabus, plus the College Board website. But at last, in December 2015, I got my permit and scheduled my road test for June 30th…which eventually got pushed off because of a summer program.

Yes, it seemed for a while as if I’d never actually drive, allowing all of you to breathe a sigh of relief that I would not be taking to the roads. But breathe easy no longer, as towards the end of July I finally took and passed my road test, and received my probationary driver’s license! Watch out, America, because I’m taking to the roads! (Actually, I’m currently the world’s Most Defensive Driver™, so you all have nothing to worry about.)

I suppose one day I’ll feel fully comfortable behind the wheel, but right now (despite having done practice driving for over six months, and having taken six hours of formal lessons) it still feels novel, and slightly nerve-wracking, every time I go in the driver’s seat. I always took my parents’ driving for granted when I was younger, but now I’m aware of all of the dials and mirrors and details a driver needs to pay attention to. Also—perhaps we can blame Nintendo for this—I know that when driving, one does not keep his foot down on the accelerator the entire time like in Mario Kart! Jokes aside, I’m still finding my footing, and I’m still driving with supervision for the time being so that I can become more adept before I start travelling on my own, but it’s nice to have at least finally made it to that point.

By becoming a licensed driver, I’ve transitioned from being a frequent passenger to someone who can sit behind the wheel; I’ve been afforded more independence and responsibility because of my age and experience. It’s pretty appropriate that this happened at this stage in my life, which is a stage where I’m slowly being afforded more independence and responsibility in general—even as I face a massive paradigm shift in my entire life.

I’ve finished high school, and in a few short weeks (!!!) I’ll be all packed up and flying to Israel to begin my gap year in Jerusalem. It’s hard for me to believe that before I know it, I’ll be living independently a few thousand miles away from the area I’ve lived in for all my life, having to make my own decisions and learn how to function independently on a level I’ve never needed to before. Of course I’ll be in touch with my parents through WhatsApp and Skype, and I’ve got plenty of friends and family in the Holy Land, but it’s still going to be quite the adjustment. To be honest, I’m very nervous. I’m hoping that I’ll be successful, but I have very little idea of what it’s really going to be like.

But—like my experiences driving and earning my license—I’m going to keep pushing forward. When I’m given more independence and responsibility, I’ll do my best to use it in the right way, to stick to the right road (apologies for the driving pun!) and to do the right thing, even when faced with a new set of rules and experiences. After all, as cliche as it sounds, that’s part of growing up, and I’m ready to look beyond the “permit and road tests” of high school to the uncharted road that is the rest of my as-of-yet unwritten future.

Oren Oppenheim, 18, is an alumnus of Ramaz Upper School in Manhattan and lives in Fair Lawn, NJ. This coming fall he will be attending Yeshivat Orayta in Jerusalem; he will start college at the University of Chicago in 2017. He is currently a high school intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Contact him at [email protected]

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