I have a reputation for being a bad driver, if you ask my high school buddies and university friends. My parents were overprotective and never really wanted me to drive, so when I got to university, the first thing I did was to join Young Drivers and get my driver’s license. Unfortunately, I was not a very good driver, because, really, what it takes is a LOT of hours of practice and some confidence.
To make my point, one of my best friends in first year university was a upper year student who had an old car. One day, he took me on a practice drive around campus. I realized that he wasn’t going to take me again, when he, upon my parking the car (badly, I might add) leapt from his seat with barely enough time to open his door, kneeled on the sidewalk, and began kissing the concrete over and over again. He wasn’t joking.
To further make my point, when I visited my high school buddies (all of whom had cars) studying at another university, they drove me around to various restaurants or coffee shops. At one point, I was invited to drive one car to follow the other car. Confusing the gas pedal for the brake pedal, I bumped the car in front of me and have never lived down my title as the WORST DRIVER EVER. I wasn’t allowed to touch the Acura or Corolla again. Yeah. (No, seriously, it was a bump. I literally rolled into the car.)
To take this point further yet, when I was visiting at home (as a young adult, making money, paying rent, travelling for work), my father would drive me around everywhere. He would drop me off, pick me up… and would not let me drive at all because of course driving in Taipei was a nightmare and terribly unsafe. When I moved to Hong Kong, I obtained a license but never had the nerve to drive. I mentally knew that 1) I was a bad driver and 2) I would not be able to drive in Taipei or Hong Kong, because you have to be aggressive and incredibly skilled. I knew that I was never going to drive.
To finally drive this point all the way home, when I moved to Toronto, my best friend / roommate drove me everywhere. After a year of this, she decided that it was time for me to learn to drive. It was going okay until I got us into a car accident where where her little VW was T-boned by a big SUV and completely destroyed. Luckily we all walked out of that accident, but I did end up with a blood clot in my spine and had to undergo risky spinal surgery. I did not drive for 15 years after that. Even sitting the passenger side of the car made me nervous. So… yeah, driving and me. It wasn’t going to happen.
Fast forward to now. Due to a change in my work situation and location, I had to commute further. Taking public transportation took over 3 hours per day; therefore… I learned to drive from scratch through Ontario’s graduated licensing program. With the kids taking various classes around town, I started practicing by driving them to and from their lessons. If we needed eggs, I would drive 2 minutes to the supermarket. I volunteered to go to Costco every other day to buy bulk things (“it’s cheaper that way, of course”). And… I squeezed my way, in and out of one way streets, tight parking spots, and traffic jams in downtown Toronto. I LOVE DRIVING. I’m patient, I’m easy-going, I’m careful. Not perfect, but pretty good. The freedom that driving has brought me has been breath-taking. Once a city girl who didn’t know anything north of Bloor Street, I now can drive (with the help of my handy dandy GPS Ms. Waze) to Markham or Peterborough or Ottawa or even San Francisco! Anywhere! I can drive anywhere. Need a ride somewhere? I’m your girl.
Today, I brought my son to a big parking lot (with no cars parked, it is Thanksgiving long weekend after all) and I gave him his first driving lesson. He was amazing. He is going to be an incredible driver, what with his highly skilled hand-eye coordination from gaming and his rules-based brain. He’s a little under-aged, not quite 15, okay, not even really that close. But he showed so much confidence and steadfastness (even when he made that one error mistaking the gas pedal for the brake pedal which he was able to calmly and quickly correct), that I know when he does drive for reals, he is going to be skillful, responsible and thoughtful.
Today I came full circle. After conquering a lifelong fear of driving, I am now making sure that my son wants to be, will be, and will practice to be a safe and confident driver.
Today I realize that I have other self-imposed fears that have held me back from my full potential to live a happy and healthy life, that I can identify them, work through them, and eat them for lunch.
Today I know that I don’t have to live with an assumption that no longer works for me, that I don’t have to pass on anything to the next generation that doesn’t work for them. I can be a good driver teaching a future good driver.
Today I start the rest of my life without self-imposed fear or limits. If I can do this, I can do anything. Today I start living my life.