Twenty-three hundred times.
A low estimate of the number of times I have driven the exact same route to work as of today.
It’s a beautiful, scenic drive.
At 7:30 AM, the fifteen minute drive from Kingston to Lenoir City on I-40 East allows you to see the sleepy awakening of the east Tennessee valley that most residents take for granted as they zip by me in the left lane, sipping coffee while anxiously riding the tail of the car in front of them.
Momentary openings in the stretches of trees along the interstate expose hills blanketed in morning fog, rolling as far back as you can see. Those in the left lane don’t seem to notice.
The end of the exit ramp is an entry to a much slower world, seemingly from a different time, for the five minute remainder of my routine every morning.
I enjoy driving past the long-since abandoned barn, trees bursting through the roof growing higher and higher by the year.
I love to peer at the small, white, one-room church at the top of a hill with an old cemetery behind it. I have a sincere appreciation for the old man who I have seen repair wind damage to the building throughout the years and clear fallen trees from the yard.
I crane my neck while crossing the small bridge over the marsh to get a better view of the even smaller, one lane bridge beside it, overgrown and less visible each year.
When passing the weeded lot where once sat the deteriorating house I drove by for so many years, I feel a pang of sadness for someone, somewhere, with memories of a home that no longer exists.
I look to the right each morning at the freight carrier terminal that now takes place of the dirt race track that my parents and I would frequently attend every summer. Fleeting visions of cheering on my dad in demolition derbies, running wildly to pick up quarters as they were tossed on the track as fast as I could with other children during the breaks, and wiping dirt out of my eyes after every other left turn flash through my mind before taking my own left turn to my final destination for the rest of my workday.
Nine uninspiring hours later I leave.
I wind through the same sights on the same curvy road before merging onto the interstate, being passed by cars that zip by me in the left lane, whose inhabitants talk on cell phones while anxiously riding the tail of the car in front of them.
Twenty-three hundred times.
Eleven thousand, seven hundred.
A low estimate of the number of times I will have driven the exact same route to work before retiring at the age of 65 in a normal life.
And eleven thousand, seven hundred times driving back home.
A normal life is tens of thousands of missed adventures.
Tens of thousands of what ifs and if onlys.
Of moments wishing I were somewhere else, doing what I want with whom I want.
A normal life is not for me.
Is it for you?