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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

48-State Drive


Illustration of the Continental United States, which writer Paul Jury drove through shortly after graduating from UMass Boston. Here, he describes his five favorite states from the trip.

The day I threw my graduation cap into the air – and hoped it wouldn’t stab me in the eye on the way down – I was filled with mixed emotion. On the one hand, I was elated to be done with homework, with teachers, with everything my life had thus far been. On the other hand, I was terrified.  What the heck was I supposed to do now?

A few months after graduation, the combination of a cloudy economy and a cloudier idea about my direction soon plopped me into a job as an overnight news editor, with a weekend gig as a bouncer at a local bar. A fellow bouncer (who day-lighted as a mortician) and I joked that we’d found the only three industries immune to economic downturn: news, booze, and death.  We’d chuckle, and then look down at the floor as waves of soul-crushing depression washed over us.

It was frustrating to find that no silver platter awaited me at the end of college, that the road ahead was foggier than ever.  But then, one day, something clicked in my brain.

If I didn’t know yet what my career was going to be, I thought, I should at least do something I’d never be able to once I had a career, something ridiculous. Something my 60-year-old self could tell the grandkids about, as a partial explanation for why my student loans still weren’t paid off.

My “something ridiculous” was to borrow my parents’ beat-up blue van and drive to all 48 contiguous United States.

I scraped together graduation checks and what meager savings I had, ignored (for now) my eighty grand tuition debt, and set out with a cooler of  PB & J’s and a two-foot road atlas. I drove from Minnesota to Maine to Florida to Washington to California and back, zigzagging to pick up Texas and the Dakotas, doing whatever I’d always wanted to do in every state. I stayed with friends where I had them, but most of the time I slept in the van.  I ran into problems and strangers, and had a lot of time alone behind the wheel to think.

The trip wasn’t easy. I often had to get outside myself and do things I wasn’t comfortable with.  I became very lonely at times, and felt guilty about turning my back on everything I was “supposed” to do.  And then there were the middle-of-nowhere breakdowns, tornados, and at least one swim in a snake-filled river in search of lost car keys. One morning I woke up on the roof of my car in a strange park in Idaho and realized I hadn’t seen anyone I knew in six days, hadn’t showered in seven, and that I was almost out of money and had no idea where I was. And that was the moment I realized I was the happiest I’d ever been.

I learned a lot on the trip – about myself, about direction, about where not to accidentally sleep in one’s car or risk trouble with the police (daycare centers are a big one). Looking back, I’ve realized everybody has their own “road trip” where they figure out their path, and some people have known it all along.  For those who know their road: go after it, and don’t let fear and doubt stand in the way. For those who don’t: go do something else, something ridiculous.

There will be time for your career – in fact you’re going to spend most of your life doing it. Maybe now’s the time for a detour.

Paul Jury is the author of “States of Confusion”, about a misadventure-filled, direction-finding road trip to 48 states.