Like most recent high school graduates, I was invincible. Nothing could stop me. My parents knew and never tried, as they were once in the same position. I had a car, friends and freedom. I had plenty of money, thanks to my generous mom, and a summer to waste. Even in my youthful mind, life had treated me fairly well, and I had taken advantage of that life unapologetically. Yet, my friends and I were bored during those months, and our idle hands led to parties, mischief, and aimlessly driving in search of excitement. It was during one of those drives that life handed me my first adult challenge, and I learned that the world is far from perfect.

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My car, a late-model Ford Escort, was equipped for mountainous terrain with a skid plate, and I took it everywhere. When it rained, my friends and I would break into the fairgrounds to drive it on the muddy track. Even with the wipers, there was no visibility for too many curves, but we survived. I raced that car in the ice and snow. I backed it up on a snow bank to see if I could get it to stand on its nose. I took it to the brick yards, a local name for a 4×4 trail by the railroad tracks. It turns out I could drive just about anywhere my friends’ lifted Jeeps could go, and I was light enough not to get stuck. It was on one of these excursions that I learned that there are consequences to recklessness.

It was hot, and we had nothing to do, so four of us decided to take the car to the lake. It had rained the day before, and we knew there would be puddles. Sure enough, I hydroplaned through puddles at a speed that caused the mud to envelop my vehicle. We took turns driving, and I eventually lost a hubcap. I knew I was going to be in trouble with the parents for that one, and a logical person may have called it quits for the day. Not me, but we did take a break and met some people fishing on the side of the lake. They let us use their fishing poles, and in return, I let them have a go at the puddles. I figured I was already in trouble, so how much worse could it get?

After a couple passes through the puddles without further incident, I found out how much trouble I was in. The last guy to step into my vehicle went alone. The thought flickered in my mind that this stranger could take off with my car, but I quickly pushed it away. These guys were cool. He took off and went through the puddle and around the treed corner. He was out of sight when we heard the crash, and my heart sank. We rushed to the scene to see my car as far into the lake as it would go. The guy was already out of the car unharmed, but my floorboards had been smashed level with the seats. There was no getting out of this one.

It got worse. A guy in a truck stopped by and let us use his cell phone, but I couldn’t call the police because I had a case of beer in my trunk. I called my dad, and he started up the hill to the lake. The new guys we met fishing were trying to leave, and I didn’t really have a way to stop them. The guy who crashed wrote me a 200-dollar check, and they left. For twenty minutes it was just my three friends and I alone at the lake waiting for my dad. We wished we were bored.

In too many ways, I had it coming. When the tow truck lifted my car out of the water, the engine dropped into the lake. It was totaled, and the insurance settlement went to my parents. It did not go to another vehicle for me. I beginning adulthood without a car. I cashed the check, then the guy cancelled payment, so I owed the bank $200 that I’d already given to my parents. I felt like a victim of my own choices, and I accepted responsibility and was thankful nobody was harmed. It perplexes me to this day that his legs didn’t break, as the floor boards were literally knocked up to seat-level when he hit boulders on the way into the lake.

The following weeks made me realize that the world is very far from perfect. The life balance that had been achieved through my consequences was shattered when I received a letter from the bank stating they were sending me to collections for 200 dollars. I called the bank, e-mailed my deposit slip showing that I had paid, and it was resolved. Two months later, I was sent to collections. I again resolved the issue and vowed to save the deposit slip for life, which was excellent preparation for the summons I received that the bank was suing to collect 200 dollars. The 200-dollar mishap made a significant black mark on my credit report by no fault of my own.

The world is far from perfect, and my imperfect behavior caused the entire incident. I knew that I might one day pay for my recklessness, but I did not know that I would further pay in the imperfectness of others. My consequences seemed to blossom at every level. I needed a lesson like this before going out on my own, as a person prepared to face the world must realize its imperfections. Reckless behavior can result in much worse consequences, but making responsible decisions smooths the road.