Driven

WHEWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

I have been waiting to write this post for six years, since I started this blog.

So here’s something that most people out there reading this don’t know about me.  I am 34 years old and I have never had my driver’s license.

I have gotten really really good at hiding it, because I just felt…ashamed and embarrassed and terrible.  I have gotten really good at walking places.  I have gotten really good at making my husband drive me everywhere, although we have had many many many fights about it.  Many.

For 18 years, I have resolved to get my license, over and over and over again.  I have taken the permit test so so so so many times, renewed it and practiced and taken it again when it was about to expire.  I’ve had this…lack…hanging over my head for EIGHTEEN YEARS. I have been in the DMV so very very many times.

I have no idea why this is.  I have no idea.  Well, maybe I have some idea.  I think maybe it was just the perfect storm of things I am not good at.  I am not perfect at driving, so I don’t want anything to do with it. It makes me nervous and it confuses me and it makes me anxious and it terrifies me, and it’s really hard to make yourself practice something over and over and over again when that thing scares the shit out of you.  It was always impossible for me to imagine not being terrified to drive anywhere by myself.   I couldn’t imagine what would happen if I got into some traffic situation or saw some sign and didn’t know what to do.  Mostly though, the thought of being trapped in a car with a stranger for TWENTY MINUTES while they JUDGED me just seemed…impossible.   Totally impossible.

Then I got really really anxious about life in general, and so the first time I tried to take the test, over two years ago, I was so anxious that I couldn’t even turn on the turn signals when the instructor told me too.  I just kept turning on the windshield wipers over and over again.  I failed, that time, and when it was over, I just wanted to DIE. I couldn’t stop crying.  I cried for what felt like days, the hysterical kind of crying where you can’t stop it.  It was one of those times when you felt like it was going to be terrible, ahead of time, and then it was that terrible and oh, it was just awful.

That was no excuse for letting it go again for two years. I have no excuses, I don’t think, but it just…got away from me. It became something that was so awful and shameful and anxious making that I just couldn’t face it.  I would try to drive and I would fight with Erik and cry behind the wheel and try to explain how much I hated driving and it just got worse and worse, the longer it got, and it became this huge  huge THING.

But finally a few months ago I found myself unable to sleep and I realized that this pit in my stomach wasn’t going away, and I was going to have to just do something about it. I was going to have to be straight up terrified and do it anyway, or else it was never going to go away, and I couldn’t be a mom of a six year old who could never do anything because his mother didn’t drive.  And as terrible as the problem had grown, I had to try to fix it. I don’t know, I just felt like I finally needed to try to fix this thing or I’d be haunted by it at 3 in the morning for the rest of my life.

I hate driving our car, our tiny little Jetta, because I feel like I can’t see out of it. It feels really unsafe.  But finally I quit crying behind the wheel and I got a pillow to sit on, and it made a big difference.  I made myself make a DMV appointment to take my test even though I really didn’t want to and as the date approached I felt sicker and sicker and sicker, I don’t even know how to describe it. I felt as though a giant force of impending doom was hanging over me.  There were so many things I had to get through, the preschool Halloween party, the election, and my drivers test, and I just felt like I wasn’t going to make it through the stress of SO MUCH all at once.

I never ever thought I’d pass.  I really didn’t  And it terrified me, because I can drive, I really can, but I was afraid that I was so anxious that I would never be able to be calm enough to actually sit in the car and pass the test without making a mistake.  I just…never thought I would pass, and I didn’t know how I was going to fix it, to fix me, so I’d be able to do it.  It seemed too huge to be possible.

I was so stressed and anxious and nervous last night I could barely speak at dinner.  I tried everything. I tried slow breathing and praying the Our Father and chanting “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” over and over again. I made bad jokes and tried to laugh about it.  I told Erik “I am just going to assume I’ll fail, and then we’ll figure out what to do after that.” but I was still just so nervous. I could not talk myself out of it, no matter what I did.

I didn’t sleep at all, last night.  I would calm myself down with affirmations and whatever else I could think of and then I would think “TWENTY MINUTES ALONE IN THE CAR WITH JUDGING STRANGER WHILE DRIVING” and I’d jolt back into terrified stress.  But when my alarm went off at 7 am I dragged myself out of bed and went for a run and then I had the nervous poos about nine hundred times.  Best diet ever!

And dudes, I totally passed my drivers test.

EIGHTEEN YEARS AFTER I TURNED SIXTEEN, IT IS OVER. I PASSED I PASSED I PASSED.

I never have to do that again.  I never ever have to do that again. I just…

I cannot believe it.  I am in shock.

I mean, Erik and I have been having this fight, this huge fight, for TEN YEARS, and now it’s over.  OH MY GOD.

I don’t even know how to explain it. All I know is I drove like an old lady and the whole time I said the “Our Father” under my breath and I think someone was watching out for me, up there, because the route was the preschool route that I walk twice a week and I know all the sketchy places where drivers try to run me over with the double stroller and I just kept thinking to myself “I won’t pass I know I won’t pass but what if I did? Oh please oh please oh please” and when the inspector turned to me in the parking lot after it was all over and said “Well, you passed!” I…there are no words. I’ve never heard anything better in my life, and after I stopped myself from saying “Are ya SURE?” and headed into the DMV to get my license I wanted to french kiss everyone in there WITH TONGUE and I don’t know when the last time you were in the DMV was but that’s really saying something, let me tell you.

Thank you for all of your kind thoughts and prayers.

Man, that was really really hard. AND I DID IT I DID IT I DID IT and I never have to do it again.

And exhale.

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40 Responses

  1. Oh, this is awesome. I am almost IN TEARS I am so proud of you. Yay!!! Congrats!

  2. You did it! Congrats! Another demon puffs into smoke.

  3. Holy Crap! What a day. I am so proud of you.

  4. Oh, sweetie. I’m so, so, so sorry that this stressed you out so much that you couldn’t even write about it. But I’m so happy for you that you passed!!

    P.S. I hate driving. I will do just about anything to avoid it. Driving with my husband in the car is pretty much like having a DMV person with you. But the stress about driving does lessen as you do more frequently, I promise. Although you’ll probably always still hate it, at least based on my experience!

  5. DUDE, I can’t believe you never driven before today!

    Amazing! Congratulations on your hard work and determination!!!!!! I don’t think I would be cool, calm and collected if I had to take that test today. That wasn’t easy! At least I was young and dumb at 16. hehe.

    A toast to you in Chicago missy!!!

  6. Proud of you, lady!

  7. Hurray!! Good work you!!!

  8. Congrats! Glad you were able to conquer your fears!

  9. Wooohoo! Congratulations! That’s something I never knew abou tyou!

  10. I am happy and proud for you! Congratulations!

  11. WOW! Huge congratulations to you. Those kinds of fears are even more impressive to conquer ten years after the fact.

  12. Congratulations! That’s the definition of being brave, you know—being scared shitless and doing it anyways.

  13. I’ve been reading your blog for a while but I don’t comment much but I just needed to say, wow, I totally get this! I didn’t get my license until I was 23, which is not exactly as long as you, but still a hell of a lot longer then anyone I knew. Then once I got it, I didn’t drive AT ALL, not once, for another couple years. Actually I kind of still feel the driving fear because I still barely drive. Well I drive every day, drive to work, drive the kids around, but I WON’T drive to places I’ve never been (um the first time I drive some where new I have to do a test drive really late at night) or on highways at all. I will take back roads even if it takes me 3 times as long. You are totally motivating me to get out there and try and be a more ballsy driver with this though! Oh yeah, the main part of this was to say a HUGE congratulations from someone who totally gets the driving fear and knows how much freaking courage it takes to do this!

  14. Wow. This really hit home for me – I’m 33 and I don’t drive. I have become a pro at hiding it, some of my closest friends don’t even know (they think my husband “always has the car”). And it’s also been a thing hanging over my marriage. He was so patient with me for years, but now it’s all starting to come to the surface and he is getting frustrated.

    I get so anxious about driving – merging, traffic, tight spaces, etc. I have convinced myself that something will go wrong.

    How did you find the time to practice? Now that we have a baby, that’s my big problem. I don’t want to learn with the baby in the car, but obviously I need to practice before I get judged by a total stranger.

    Congrats! You’ve inspired me! I can do it!

  15. Congratulations!

  16. Hooray for joining the “driving club”. But, even more hoorays for having the strength to overcome something that to you was like the great wall of china.

    I think we all have things that terrify us, and your post is a great example of “girding up your loins” {which i always took to be the biblical version of “get some balls”} and conquering your fears! You Go GIRL!!

  17. Congratulations!

    I am firmly planted on Team Never Driving Ever Ever Ever You Can’t Make Me, and you’ve just given me a little shred of hope. Although (and maybe this is because I am spouseless and a city dweller) I never get any flack about it. I prefer to think about it as a super charming quirk; which, naturally, means that it is annoying for all around me and will eventually eat away at my very will, but whatever.

    You, you have conquered it, which takes a massive set of balls. Congratulations again!

  18. I’m totally with you : the stranger judging me is almost impossible to overcome. I only took it because my parents expected it, and I STILL took it a year after my peers, and after the test I cried and cried (even though I passed) because the guy was JUDGING ME and BEING A PINEHOLE).

    Congratulations. You did it.

  19. That is AWESOME. Congratulations, Elizabeth. 🙂

  20. I am SO PROUD of you. So so proud. Yay yay yay!

  21. Good job, you! Congratulations.

  22. Yahoo! Congrats. You seem so fun, I am totally pumped to meet you in a couple weeks.

  23. Congratulations!

  24. Congratulations! I don’t know how you survived this long at home with kids without being able to throw them in the car and just drive around to regain your sanity. Although I suppose the stroller is more eco- and waistline-friendly.

  25. What an amazing account of inner strength. Good for you. Maybe your first drive should be for a pumpkin latte? Congratulations!

  26. Congratulations!! You totally did it. Wonderful news!!

  27. Good for you! What a big accomplishment

  28. Oh, wowza, that IS a huge accomplishment. I am so excited and relieved for you! I was raised in South Dakota, where we are allowed to get our licenses at age 14 (no joke!), so I’ve been driving FOREVAH. HOWEVER, how you described your nervousness? That’s exactly, to a Teeeee how I feel about going to the dentist.

    I hope you learn to love driving and the freedom it brings you!

  29. Congratulations! That’s awesome, overcoming a fear like that.

    I thought I was the only one with the nervous poos.

  30. So, SO happy for you! A lot of “overcomings” went into this and you can tell how many people are proud of you for this accomplishment. Plus — now YOU can go when and where YOU want to. Woo hoooooo!!!!!!!!!!

  31. Congratulations!!! Wow – you DID IT! You beat that anxiety and the fear and everything and you DID IT. Good for you.

  32. so proud- congratulations! I also wasn’t in any hurry to get my license when I was 16- but was so when I was 19 and commuting to college by train from my parents’ house and realized if I was going to have any semblance of a social life I had to get myself behind the wheel of a car, stat!

  33. Oh, and I am so on the “nervous poos” team too. I used to get them every morning before I flew anywhere. It was AWFUL. Especially having them with your kid in the stroller in the stall in the Phoenix Airport. Good times!!

  34. Good for you! That is just awesome!

  35. You are a rock star!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  36. You rock, lady! I failed my driving test the first time I took it when I was 16 because I was so nervous I could hardly think. It was AWFUL. And now I make my boyfriend drive anytime I can, which is really kind of mean because he’s a car salesman & he spends a lot of time driving already. He’s a saint 🙂

  37. Congratulations: what an amazing accomplishment! I’m kind of… shocked… but in a good way that you, and a few of your readers, are fellow non-drivers. I’m 31 and I’ve never so much as sat behind the wheel (except, you know, to turn on the windshield wipers or something I couldn’t reach from the passenger’s side). I have reasons, medically, why I feel like it’s better if I don’t drive, even though the doctors never told me I shouldn’t. (“Why don’t the other drivers swerve out of the way of all those little floaty things? Oh wait: you are the only one who sees those, you dope – they mean your blood pressure is dropping, so it might be a good time to pull over now!”) I always assume that I am the last non-driver in my age group, and it makes me feel… infantile. And ashamed. And embarrassed, and all the things you talked about here.

    I’m happier for you than I could say, and hope you are able to enjoy a nice long drive for yourself whenever you might feel like it.

  38. Elizabeth I just found your blog so this is my first comment and I don’t even know if you’ll see this since this was posted a while back. But I am SO COMPLETELY IMPRESSED AND PROUD OF YOU!! Seriously, whenever I am afraid or anxious I am going to think of this post and know that I can be brave like you and do it. SO SO SO IMPRESSED. CONGRATS!

  39. Dear Elizabeth, I am Arwen and Miriel’s mom, and I came here to read because Emily put your Twitter name in a tweet from The Blathering and I followed this link and … congratulations!! I got my license at 24 1/2 (I honestly thought when I started writing this it was 29 1/2, but then I did the math…) and although I didn’t have QUITE so many years of excuses, I absolutely understand and sympathize. And you are awesome! I’m fairly certain that if I hadn’t been driving when I married (at 30) I wouldn’t be driving yet. Congratulations!

  40. […] last year at the end of October, after MANY years of going without one, I finally got my driver’s license, and I have a few thoughts on the subject, eight months […]

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