09 February 2007

Overcoming your fears: Setting the wheels in motion

For most adolescents, driving a car is an absolute dream! It is you first official step towards freedom and adulthood. I remember former classmates back in high school counting the days until their sixteenth birthday, that “magic” day when children suddenly become mature enough to get behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. Unlike most of my friends, I wasn’t too eager to take the leap.

By age 18, I finally decided that it would be a good idea to bite the bullet and apply for my learner’s permit. I’m still not entirely sure whether my decision was prompted by a desire to drive or the necessity of having a valid photo I.D. to get into bars...my priorities were questionable at the time.

I remember the thrill of receiving my G1 (Ontario learner’s permit) in the mail. I finally had a licence...but now what? With some encouragement from my parents, I enrolled in Driver’s Ed classes. While other students had taken to driving like ducks to water, my mood was less than apathetic. Truth be told, I didn’t much enjoy driving.

I passed Driver’s Ed, despite my terrible habit of speeding. Looking back, I probably should have failed the in-car sessions. My driving instructor urged me to book a road test with the Ministry of Transportation and not to wait too long. Following her suggestion, I booked a G1 exit test but never received a date confirmation from the Ministry. This is where things started to fall apart.

Instead of following up, I stopped driving. I lost my nerve. I started to have doubts and fears. I started to think about my mother, who lost her left leg at age 25 to an impaired driver. I have no idea why these thoughts only started to occur to me at that point. I was perfectly capable of driving and taking the test…perhaps I was just looking for an out.

For the past eight years, driving has been a bone of contention for me. I knew that I was doing myself a great disservice by letting my licence lapse. Despite my extreme embarrassment, I still couldn’t get myself back on track. Not only was this a huge letdown to myself, I know it also bothered my family. This was the first time I ever truly failed at something. A usual go-getter, I think my reluctance to drive shocked a lot of people.

For years I have had to ask others to play chauffeur. I’ve never been able to return the numerous favours to friends. I’ve never been able to be Designated Driver, while others got to have fun for a change. It’s a terrible feeling. Constantly being at the mercy of others is not a fun way to live. You no longer feel self-sufficient; you become the odd man out.

In only one month, I will be turning age 26. I am a newly married woman, a homeowner and hopefully a mother in a few years. On one hand, I seem like quite the grownup but I still feel as though I’m missing the final piece to a puzzle. It’s finally hit me; I no longer want to live this way; it’s time to face my fears.

Today I applied for my G1 learner’s permit….again. I swallowed my pride and redid the written test that I took back when I was 18. Once again, I passed the test with flying colours. The only difference this time is that I actually feel excited to get behind the wheel of a car - my car - the car my husband and I purchased with both our salaries.

Having my learner’s permit again, is a huge weight off my shoulders. I’m bound and determined to get my full licence this time. Driving will open up a whole window of freedom for me, I will be able to run errands without depending on my husband, my children will be able to depend on me and I will be able to see my family more…the possibilities are endless. To bad it took my so long to come to this realization.

There are a lot on non-drivers out there who may not agree with my viewpoint. Driving is a valid fear for many of us, but not learning is a frustrating dilemma. Sometimes life is about trying things outside of our comfort zone. I may never be a great driver, but I want to be able to get behind that wheel when needed.

I have not written this article to offend or upset non-drivers; if anything I can totally empathize. Hopefully I can inspire others to face their fear. I don’t think it is right to dictate a specific age or time for people to start driving. It is a decision that must be made by the driver him/herself. Never let anyone pressure you. Only you can decide when or if it’s time to get your wheels in motion…pardon the pun.

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