While Bridget is looking onward and upward and JoAnna is learning to fly (literally!), I will be looking forward and at my side mirrors, trying not to stall. Or attempting to get out of park and trying not to hit anything. Confused yet? So am I. And I haven’t even had my first driving lesson.
You see, my next journey to make a negative into a positive is an actual journey. It’ll be me, in a car, terrifying myself and others as a brand-new, late-bloomer, 30-year-old learner driver.
I was having a conversation a few months ago with a friend wherein I attempted to explain why I still don’t have a driver’s licence. And I couldn’t, really, because no explanation I have makes sense anymore. I don’t live in a city so big that public transport is everywhere and more convenient than driving. I have no medical issues that prevent me from driving. I’ve never experienced a traumatic event that causes any anxieties about driving. I couldn’t think of a single thing other than “It seems hard and time-consuming and I’m worried I won’t be any good at it”. Convincing, huh?
It used to be easier to explain. When I was 16, my mother wasn’t keen on teaching me herself and lessons were expensive. A few of my friends got cars early, so I figured I had plenty of time to learn and could do it when I had a part-time job that paid better.
When I was 19, my city brought in a new law that required all new learners to do a course costing $270 before they could even do the test for a learner’s permit and start lessons. Another roadblock to minimum-wage-earning-student me.
In my early twenties, I travelled a lot and managed to work public transport into my identity as part of a budding creative ( “Faye Weldon says the best way to write natural-sounding dialogue is to spend time listening to conversations on the bus” “It gives me time to write and I don’t have to think about merging lanes on the way to work”). Someone once told me, “Some people drive, and others are driven” and I thought it was a cute thing to say, until I realised that it was actually pretty obnoxious to the ears of anyone driving me home. When I got back from Taiwan in 2008, I even went so far as getting my learner’s permit but let it expire because I didn’t make taking lessons a priority – in the next few years I moved houses, careers and relationships often enough that it kept getting pushed to the back of the list.
Since then, putting it aside each year has caused me to feel more and more uneasy – even if they weren’t obvious before, the positives of getting my licence are hard to ignore. Being able to drive my mother to hospital when she has a knee operation next year. Sharing the driving on a long road trip with my boyfriend. Going to the beach whenever I want. Knowing that if I get a dog, I can take it to the vet without having to call a taxi. Doing my turn as designated driver. All of these things do their part to defeat “I get distracted easily and I’ll probably just add to the stereotype of bad women drivers” and “I don’t like the idea of spending money on something only to find that I’m terrible at it”. Even through the excuses, I can see that the only way someone gets good at driving is by doing it until they’re good at it. No one gets in the driver’s seat for the first time, knowing what to do. We all start at the same place – the very beginning.
So, I’m sharing this new beginning with you, despite feeling a bit embarrassed about it. Maybe because I think there’s a better chance of me finally going through with it if I’m accountable. It feels different this time though, and I really believe that it’s time to grit my teeth and get it happening. Somewhere, in amongst the nervousness and the questioning and the self-defeating thoughts, way down…I guess I’m actually a little bit excited.