Riding Shotgun

By Scott Schimmel

In the summer between my second and third year of college, my best friend, Nic, called me one day and asked: 

“How would you like to take a road trip with me?”

Immediately, without thinking or without asking, “Where to?” or “For how long?” I said: “Of course!”

Then he told me the details, that he needed to drive his car back to school for the fall at his campus…in Massachusetts (we lived in Southern California). 

So, on the day of departure we hit up Costco and got everything two guys would need for eight days on the open road: a map (this was before Google Maps and GPS), six pounds of beef jerky, Gatorade, and cheese. With a full tank of gas, a videocamera, and an ice chest with Blue Gatorade, we headed east and aimed to make as many memories as we could.


For over a week we stopped at every In-N-Out we could find before getting too far East, we broke multiple speeding laws over several state lines, filmed a lot of nonsense, and had the greatest conversations about what life means. I can’t remember the fights, squabbles, or irritations on the trip- we got to his school, said goodbye, and talked again a few weeks later to catch up. Miles were covered, memories were made, and the trip was more than worth it.

Our friendship didn’t slow down through college, or the early years into adulthood, or even through marriage and having kids and getting busier professionally— it’s grown and grown. We’ve been on the journey together for awhile, and he’s one of the biggest reasons it’s meaningful for me.

Which all leads me to the question: who do you call to ride shotgun? Or, who’s the person that gets your instant “YES”?

In studies on happiness and wellbeing researches conclude that deep, meaningful connections with a few people always emerge as the most important ingredient. In research on emerging adulthood, being interconnected with others in a consistent and loyal way is a signpost that adolescents have made the transition from self-centered narcissism to be fully functional adults. 

In YouSchool’s work with teenagers helping them think through their lives, who they are, where they’re headed, and what it means for them to live their lives well, we find again and again that friendships and close circle of community is critical to be mindful of and shaped. Friends influence you, shape your values, impact your mindset, and rub off on you in every way. It’s a big reason why parents are so intuitively concerned with who their kids friends are. 

As we seek to model for the next generation, and demonstrate what happy, whole, productive, successful, meaningful lives look like, now is a great time to ask yourself: who’s in your car?