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How to Get Alone Time in 2020: The Year I Took Refuge in My Car

As a stay-at-home, work-from-home mom, Monday mornings used to provide my moment of zen. The three teens would head out the door to school, and my husband would head to the office. I would take a deep breath, put the house back in order from the chaos of the weekend, and get to work in our home office. With my favorite tunes playing and the dog curled up at my feet, all was right with my little universe.

Once COVID hit, my husband required a dedicated office, so I moved to the kitchen table. My three teens set up in different parts of the house. Exercise equipment was next to arrive since gyms were closed and sports were canceled. The kitchen became a constant flurry of activity. Watching the teenagers work together to perfect their mac and cheese, grilled cheese, and cheeseburger (I’m sensing a theme here….) recipes made my heart happy, but the piles of dishes and pans left behind did not. I know many of you can relate.

Missing Me Time

I know that in the scheme of things, I am so lucky. Yet finding quiet time alone became difficult. For the sake of everyone’s sanity, I had to let go of some of my issues about clutter and tidiness. But I still needed a way OUT, and I could only walk the dog so many hours a day. That’s when my car and I became best friends.

This was a surprise, to put it mildly. We moved to LA four years ago and the driving here has been a source of stress since Day 1. Case in point: One day shortly after we moved, we set out to explore the Getty Art Museum. It was a long trek from our house near Pasadena and I burst into tears, crying, “There’s so much to see and do here, but none of that matters because you can’t GET to any of it.”  We adapted and learned to be strategic about when to head out for certain locations, and we just avoided some areas altogether. After a few years of traffic, it took a lot of convincing for me to leave my general neighborhood.

Disorganized teen mini-course

Unlike the traffic, one thing we’ve loved about LA from the moment we arrived is the vibrant and diverse dining scene. It was the first time we’d lived in a place where we knew there was no way we could ever try all of the interesting food available … from food trucks to diners, seafood shacks, ultra-fancy and experimental restaurants, and every ethnic variety you can imagine, LA has it all.

We decided to try as much carryout as we could during COVID to bring some joy to our days and help out the struggling restaurants in our great city. Because traffic eased up, we ordered from restaurants in neighborhoods we hadn’t yet explored. Since my schedule is the most flexible, I became our family’s designated food delivery gal.

It’s 2020 and I Love Driving

I never would have believed it, but I’m loving every minute in my car … playing my favorite tunes or podcast, exploring this beautiful city, and having much needed time alone. I may not be able to get to family on the East Coast right now, but I can talk to them on the phone while cruising down a palm-tree-lined freeway. I may have a house in constant chaos, but I can zip through the car wash, use that super-suctiony vacuum, and find just a little bit of control and order in this topsy-turvy time.

The end of this time cannot come soon enough. So many lives lost, so many special moments not celebrated, and so many mundane routines missed—the drives to practice, the muddy cleats, the waiting for your teen’s coach to stop the post-game analysis or for the rehearsal to end, the ability to head out on a road trip to visit grandparents, cousins and friends … how we will celebrate when we’re sitting in traffic again with a car full of stinky, noisy, messy teens! But, in the meantime, I’m giving thanks for my clean, quiet, empty car—my trusted quarantine companion.

Emily Vitan is Special Projects Editor for Your Teen Magazine.  
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