Smile Politely

Sometimes I cry in parking lots

a view of a green wooded area next to a parking lot.There is a tall tree in the middle of the photo
Louise Knight-Gibson

I’m a mom of five, which means that every once in a while I leave my kids with a responsible adult, grab my keys, drive to a secluded parking lot, and cry in the car. If you are a caregiver like me, you might be familiar with the feeling of being burnt out, touched out, overwhelmed and/or just needing a moment of silence. But crying in the car isn’t relegated to parents. I’ve also cried in my car as an 18-year-old after breaking up with my boyfriend, as a college student after getting a horrible test score, after a particularly cringy first job interview, and many many times during the pandemic.

As a semi-professional car crier, I have a few qualifying factors for my crying locations. There needs to be some nature (water, trees, grass) that you can see from the parking spot (the whole point of crying in the car is privacy so we will not be getting into the nature today), the location should not be in a through traffic area, and preferably not in an open space where someone might approach me mid-breakdown. 

A picture of a fountain and rock waterfall next to a parking lot. Visible from a car window is a tall fountain in the middle of a pond. There are large pine trees surrounding it on the back side. A car is just visible on the lower left side of the picture.
Louise Knight-Gibson

Currently I have two spots. The first one is outside of Lodgic near the duck pond. The water fountain is peaceful and there are usually only a few cars parked in that row since most people want to be closer to the entrance. My second favorite spot is the parking lot of Japan House. If you park in the back right corner, open the windows, and close your eyes, you actually feel like you’re in nature. The birds chirp, squirrels run around the trees, and no one bothers you even if you are parked there for two hours with your head resting out of the window (don’t ask me how I know this). 

looking out of a parked cars window is a view of a green wooded area next to a parking lot.There is a tall tree in the middle of the photo
Louise Knight-Gibson

Writing this, there is a big part of me that wants to add in caveats: ”I love my kids”, “parenting is wonderful”, “I have many other coping mechanisms”, but honestly, I like my car cries (and the New York Times says it’s good for me!). No one bothers me, I get some time to sort through my feelings, and I always feel better afterwards. 

Now, dear reader, it’s your turn. Am I alone in my car crying? (Please say no.) And where is the best place to cry in your car around Champaign-Urbana?

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