I love driving at night. I love blasting the heat and turning on the seat warmers until it feels like I’m sitting by the fireplace I’ve never had. I love how the darkness makes me more aware of every other sense. I love only being able to see so far down the road. It’s funny though, because I’m not inherently a daredevil. I shouldn’t like driving at night because it relies so much on trust and not knowing, and as a whole, I kind of suck at both of those things. But to me, driving at night isn’t about fear: it’s about anticipation.
Fear. When I was little, I was afraid of the dark. Pretty standard stuff. When the lights went out, I lost my ability to know, and that scared me. Fear is about not knowing, and being afraid of not knowing.
Anticipation. My fourth grade teacher used to pound that word into our heads, telling us that the ability to anticipate is the key to being a grown-up. I’m not sure why, but I think that makes sense. Anticipation is about not knowing, and not being afraid of not knowing.
Fact about me that everyone already knows: I love knowing things. I love knowing every step in the instructions so that I can do things perfectly; I love knowing when assignments are due and when I will finish them. I am a perfectionist, and knowing is the foundation of perfection, the wooden staircase that never fails.
Fact about the world that everyone already knows: sometimes, it’s dark outside. Sometimes, it’s nighttime, and then you don’t get to know. Sometimes the sun abandons us and then we have two choices: fear or anticipation.
I choose anticipation, and here’s why. Anticipation has two meanings: one is simply not being afraid of not knowing, and the other is being exciting about not knowing. I don’t really know if those are all that different, of if those are the actual definitions of anticipation, but that’s what anticipation means to me.
Toni Morrison wrote in The Bluest Eye that “happiness is anticipation with certainty.” Which is awesome. And true. It’s like waiting for a package in the mail that UPS tracking says is “out for delivery,” or seeing packages under the Christmas tree with your name on them. But anticipation without certainty is a different kind of happiness.
Anticipation without certainty is the kind of happiness where something good could happen, or it could not happen, and you don’t know which one it is, which makes it even better when the good thing does happen. It’s like checking your math grade on Aeries, or waiting for college decisions, or reading a story that may or may not have a happy ending.
Fear drives us away from anticipation without certainty because fear only sees the risk in it. Fear sees the not knowing and runs far away.
I hate not knowing, but I kind of love anticipation without certainty. I love that flipping in my stomach and the way my heartbeat like, triples, and the way it’s impossibly to steady my breath. I love that feeling so much that it’s worth the risk of not knowing.
The weird thing, though, is that fear still exists. In fact, the existence of fear is what makes anticipation without certainty even better. Diving into anticipation without certainty is knowing that fear exists and not caring, ignoring its presence in favor of the anticipation of happiness, or maybe even the simple happiness of anticipation.
Maybe that’s why the ability to anticipate is the key to being an adult: anticipation is not always an instinct, but a choice. Anticipation is a willingness to take a great risk for a great reward. I can stay in when the sun disappears because of the fear of not knowing, or I can get into my car, remembering each time I do why I love to drive at night.