Racecar Driver Jackson Lee: A time to reflect and ring in the new year
This time every year, I hear people say, “I can’t believe that this year is almost over! It’s gone by so fast!” It’s true - time does fly. Besides celebrating the holidays, December is a good time to look back and reflect on the past year.
For me, this past year was amazing because, after all my hard work, I was able to move up the ranks in the racing world and become a professional driver. When I signed with Jay Howard Driver Development early in the spring of 2021 to race in the Road to Indy USF2000 Championship series, it felt like a dream for me. It was the payoff for a lot of hard work and good choices. As I reflect, I am struck by how one wrong choice could have ruined everything.
Another thing that I have been thinking a lot about are my decisions as a college student. My first semester was difficult, for sure. It was much harder than I anticipated to juggle my racing schedule with my class load and homework. It forced me into some tough decisions about time management and starting over. I learned the hard way that sometimes you need to say no to hanging out with friends or surfing social media to concentrate on your homework if you want to stay on track with school. I must admit that I didn’t always make the right decision to better manage my time, and I paid the consequences with grades that were not where they needed to be.
Everyone is human, and everyone makes mistakes. It’s part of life. The important thing is to recognize when a decision can have life or death consequences. Bad grades in college suck, but the good news is that the poor decision to not study enough is reversible through working hard, re-taking some classes, and starting fresh next semester.
Unfortunately, not all consequences are reversible. Some can mean life or death, especially when driving is involved. In partnering with Responsibility.org this past year I learned the importance of making responsible choices about saying no to underage drinking and never driving impaired. For me these are not an option if I want to achieve my goals in the classroom and on the racetrack.
As people start thinking about their New Year’s Eve plans, a lot of people my age will be going to parties to celebrate, and might even think having champagne at midnight or drinking is a great way to ring in the New Year. But as the year wraps up, I am not looking to make any more poor decisions.
If you go to a party where alcohol or a midnight champagne toast is offered, I want to encourage you to say no. Even one drink can impair your judgment and reaction time. It’s dangerous and illegal and can end up being a life-or-death decision.
If you know that you’ll be somewhere where alcohol is available and you’re unsure how to handle it, talk to your parents or a trusted adult, have a plan and stick to it. And, if you find yourself in situations where you or your ride has consumed alcohol, you cannot change that, but you can start 2022 off with a good decision by choosing not to drive or get in the car with someone who has been drinking.
Even with the pandemic, 2021 was a good year for me. Truthfully, I must confess that I made a few bad choices last year, like not studying enough for my college courses. But I also remember that when faced with the choice to drink or not, I said no. It wasn’t always easy, but it was the right thing to do. The resources and information available at Responsibility.org encouraged me to think about the consequences of all my actions and helped my parents with some ideas on how to encourage me to make the right decisions to avoid alcohol.
I am proud of this partnership, and I hope my words and stories inspire other teens to think about their choices. I hope I was able to give others the courage to say no to underage drinking and helping them to understand the dangers of driving impaired. I admit there is still a lot to learn about the best way to make great choices and I am looking forward to sharing the resources from Responsibility.org to help other young adults and teens say no to underage drinking with confidence.
Wishing you a safe and Happy New Year!
College student and professional racecar driver