I grew up loving road trips. We spent a lot of time in the car driving from whatever place we called home back to North Carolina where my extended family lived. Those long drives were full of music and views. Laughter and life stories. It felt like the one time where we could talk about anything.
During college, my car was a safe haven. No matter how bad my roommate or the frustration of classes got, I could just get in the car and go. I didn’t really head anywhere in particular and I think that was the best part. I would pick a left or right and drive until I was ready to go home. We didn’t have GPS on our phones and somehow I made it back every time, on time, simply by going with my gut.
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My friends knew I went on these drives. Whenever they were feeling frustrated, they would ask to go on one of our road trips. During the winter, we would just meet at the car and stay right there. I hated driving in the snow – I had to think too much just to stay safe. But during the dryer months, we would open the windows and drive. No timeline, no destination. Just the freedom of being distracted from our minds by something beautiful along the route.
So many of my memories from college center on those roads and my gold Nissan Sentra with the black interior. The time we got so lost we ended up in New York. The playlists. The nights we went from a house party to quiet back roads, interrupting the peace with laughter and stories. I was happy.
When I left college, I got a job in DC. That’s not a place where you go for a drive for fun or discover quiet roads picking a turn. I never really made time for road trips either – I had the chance to get overtime and took every opportunity I had. Driving, this thing I loved so much, became a burden and something I didn’t have time for. I stopped choosing a direction and letting my gut guide me, too. We all had Garmin GPS devices, then cellphones with maps. A million different voices to tell us exactly where to go.
I couldn’t imagine doing that now – picking a road and just assuming I’d know how to get everywhere. To allow some guide inside to point me in the right direction instead of relying on all the tools that tell you how to move.
Driving again on those college roads in the van that has made me feel alive and tried to kill me a hundred times, I turned off the GPS and fell back into that flow – left, right, knowing where to go. It was like going back to my grandmother’s neighborhood where I knew the turns without the GPS interrupting my favorite song every five minutes.
I fell into that reminiscing feeling that we all have going back to places that hold so much history, asking myself what I’d say if I could go back to that day when I walked on the campus for the first time. The stories I would tell. The lessons I’d want to leave them with.
But in all the lessons learned, maybe they knew one lesson that’s more important than I do. My 17 year old self knew something about trusting the you that says “yes, no, go left” without looking around for some guide to get you home.
So instead of some lesson I could lie to myself about, pretending that knowing anything could change my life, I simply made a wish to remember. To celebrate my 37th birthday this weekend like I celebrated my life at 17 – by simply trusting that I know the right way to go.
Katrina (Kat) Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive, unbiased job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.