Ordinary Things

My sophomore year of college I used to commute an hour every week to lead a small group of Junior High students at a youth group. My good friend, Trevor, was my co-leader. Every Wednesday, Trevor and I would hop into my ’99 Honda Accord coupe, and we would spend the majority of our evening driving, listening to music, joking around, hanging out with students, and making memories.

It was a fun time, and one I look back on fondly. 

One of those memories, which has become a sort of inside joke amongst my friends, started as something genuine I said on one of our drives. 

It was late November, and the days were getting shorter. We started the trek north to the church, and it was becoming dusk. It was dark enough for headlights to be necessary, but light enough we could still see the silhouettes of trees and houses, backlit by the setting sun.

I remember looking at Trevor, with a sentimental mix of indie-folk music playing the role of our soundtrack, and I said, “I love driving at night. There’s something so comforting about it. It’s just me, the music, and the possibilities of what lies ahead.” Looking back, I was being so cheesy.

Trevor nodded, shrugging it off, and we went back to whatever it was we had been talking about. However, that line, “I love driving at night.” stuck with us. 

Every week following, one of us, generally me, would say in some way, shape, or fashion, “I love driving at night.” 

Time went on, and Trevor and I became busy doing different things.

I got an internship doing youth ministry at a different church, the next year, which took me away from our campus more than I probably would have liked. He got a job on our college campus, which connected him and rooted him deeper to that community, and because I could no longer give him a ride, he found a new church as well. 

We lived together for a bit, during our Junior year, but then we had to part ways for several different reasons.

The deeper we got into our college careers, the easier it became to grow distant. Time and proximity became big obstacles. There was so much to do, and so little time to do it. I have found that in the busyness of life, it becomes easy to lose sight of the people who made it all worth it. 

So, as senior year began, I knew I had to make a more conscious effort to see my friends. That was our last year and our last shot to make some of the memories we had wanted to make. I remember, pretty fast into the fall semester already seeing that this would be more difficult than I had originally hoped. 

Everyone was hitting the clutch time in college where decisions were having to be made of peoples’ futures, classes were in hyper drive, and the desire and drive to do the work for said classes was at a minimum.

So, when I found a Friday that both Trevor and I were free, I knew we couldn’t pass it up. It had been several weeks since we had last talked. I mean, really talked; about things of substance.

I made a plan for me and Trevor, and our mutual friend, Scott, to go to my Parent’s house for the evening. We would have a bonfire, eat some food, go for a walk, and just enjoy the night.

There was a gentle nip in the air, and some stray, early November snowflakes. The kind that offer more in the realm of aesthetic than any substantive collection.

As well, the same road Trevor and I used to take to lead students, all those years prior, is the same road you take to my house. We piled into the car once again, and we were off.

I had made a new playlist, but the real soundtrack was the laughter and conversation. Then Trevor said something very reminiscent, “Matt, you want to know what I really love…” and without skipping a beat he said, “Driving at night!” We all had a good laugh, but that moment wasn’t lost. It remained in my mind for some time and still comes back to me vividly.

You see, I think back to what made me originally express my love for late night drives. I remember Trevor and I taking on the open road, one Wednesday night, now three years prior. I remember the perceived stress I had in that moment. Papers were piling up, friends were coming and going, my family was going through some health complications, and I still had no clue what I wanted to do with my life.

I remember driving, Trevor to my right, drinking coffee, listening to Mumford and Sons’ album Wilder Mind, and for a brief moment I could disconnect. I could let the music, conversation, and coffee envelop me. I could be present, and just enjoy the ride. I was not thinking of what I had missed, what I should be doing, or what still had to done. I could only focus on thing; driving. And in doing so, I could just be alive with no strings attached. 

There is a line of dialogue that resonated with me, from 2014’s The Equalizer, in which Denzel Washington and Chloe Grace Mortez are on a walk late one night. Mortez’s character says to Washington, as she overlooks a city skyline, 

“I love being up at this hour. You know, everything’s so dark. It makes everything seem possible again.”

During the day, with the light shining, it’s easy to get lost in everything that surrounds us. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and to lose ourselves in the hustle and bustle. Rushing from place to place. Constantly working. Being available for our loved ones. Finding time for hobbies. And God willing, maybe scratch out a moment to rest. 

I have found that my days are filled with a lot of noise; 

Obligations and expectations.

Honking horns and slamming doors.

Invasive thoughts and pervading opinions. 

Always looking to and working on the next thing, project, meeting. 

My days are noisy. Every problem and worry visible and waiting to be fixed. However, there is something about the night. A time to breathe in deep, rest my heart, and be present. The wind rustling the trees. The laughter of my friends. And the night sky surrounding us. 

When you drive at night you can only see what your headlights allow you to see. You focus less on what is behind you, or at your sides, you can only focus on where you’re going. At night, everything seems possible again. So yes, I do, in fact, love driving at night. It’s an opportunity to be focused and to be allowed to rest my heart and mind.

Not too long ago there was a meme circulating the internet, with a picture of kids doing something relatively iconic, and also generic for kids to do. For example, kids playing a certain game, or jumping through a sprinkler in the back yard, and it carries the tag line, “There was a day when you played outside with your childhood friends for the last time.” This picture is meant to instill nostalgia, memories, or even regret of the past or lost moments. 

What’s funny is, when I see those pictures, I don’t think about my childhood. I don’t think about growing up or playing in my backyard.

I think about those late-night drives to hang out at youth group, with Trevor. I think of the walks I would share with Tom, where we would recap the semester, sharing our highs and lows from that season of our lives. I think about getting McDonald’s coffee with Scott, and walking around campus dressed in suits for absolutely no reason at all. I think about laughing hysterically in the halls of our freshman year dormitory. 

What I think about is how subtle those moments were. And now, I think about how valuable those memories are to me now. 

There was a day when I went on my last walk, drank my last coffee, hopped in my Honda for my last night drive with my college friends. 

In the television show the office, Pam Halpert (Jenna Fischer), says an unforgettable line in the series finale, which adds wonderfully to this thought. She says, 

“There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?” [1]

The beauty of this life is so ordinary we often miss it.  

I believe hindsight is 20/20 because what we’re seeing are the facts as we perceive them, devoid of the anxiety of time. We can look back and see situations and scenarios without the pressures of deadlines, the worry of the unknown, and the fear of people’s opinions. 

How different would our lives be, if for a few brief seconds we could just open our eyes to what is unfolding right in front of us, without all the added pageantry?

What would happen if we understood that the beauty of this life, the wonder of our time here, and the transcendence of the college experience was not linked to a degree. 

It is not tied to achievement or having the right job. It is not about money, or sex, or pride, it’s about the little things. What would happen if for just a second, we realized just how important these little, inconsequential things truly are? 

I love driving at night because the night offers us a chance to dream of potential and to hope for new beginnings. Life gets busy and I don’t envision a world where that changes, but as long as you have friends and the open road, it’s somewhat manageable. Because there’s a lot of beauty found in completely ordinary things. 

[1]Jenna Fischer, The Office,“Finale Part Two.” 

1 thought on “Ordinary Things

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