“How come you never got your license?” That was the question my just turned sixteen-year-old asked me while standing at the Driving Center waiting to take his test, asked me. I mean who is afraid to drive at forty something years old?
At sixteen years old I couldn’t wait to drive. I took the test with a girlfriend of mine and failed it miserably. I drove around later as a passenger inside her vehicle, and ended up in a few collisions (not her fault), Thanks German guy for wrecking her Mazda Miata coming up a one way – can’t you READ! He was driving a small LeCar and thank goodness, anything bigger and we wouldn’t be here.
As time went on, growing up in Vancouver with the use of Skytrain and a damn good bus system, the thought of driving just seemed like something I would eventually do and get around to. Funny how time moves quickly.
In my thirties after marrying my husband, I felt ready to get my license finally. Then coming home one night after my girlfriend’s wedding, we were in a horrific car accident. Driving along the highway we had a green light to proceed. Traffic merging off also faced a green light. The light failed. We both had greens and proceeded. My husband swerved, drove up onto a meridian and went front first into a pole, completely destroying our vehicle.
My children were in the car with us. My then, fourteen-month-old and seven-year-old were not injured – Thank God. Neither was my husband. I however, was badly injured. I suffered whiplash, two dislocated shoulders, massive soft tissue damage across my chest and midsection due to the seat belt, which saved my life along with a cracked tailbone. My fear of driving turned into a real phobia.
Laced with anxiety and depression, I went on a downward spiral and for the next two-years barely left my house. I couldn’t get in a car with anyone, not even my father who I had never felt unsafe driving with. He was the best driver I knew. He drove cab for over twenty years while I was growing up. But I just couldn’t do it. My biggest fear — left-hand turns because the accident happened passenger side on my side.
As the years went on the lack of driving and being able to face my fear became an integral part of me. I mean who doesn’t have their license at 35 years old? My son growing up used to bug me and say he was going to drive before me, and I was okay with that. He could tease me all he wanted. I wasn’t doing it. My husband drove so why did I need to? Though deep down it was embarrassing and debilitating not being able to be dependent on myself and face my fears.
I remember having a conversation on my cell phone with my girlfriend Steph while driving into Vancouver. I couldn’t breathe going over the bridge. Everyone was texting me trying to help me calm down. All these people must have thought of I was a loon! But the fear was so exhausting and spun me into a place I had never been before. It was terrifying!
When I hit forty, I had accepted the fact I would never drive and I was okay with that. I mean you can’t fix everything about yourself, all the silly and whimsical, even fear-loathing tid-bits. It’s what makes us human. Then something changed…
My son just turned sixteen and got his license. He’s been driving for almost three weeks now. Listening to him and the gratification he feels gaining this new found independence and how much he loves being behind the wheel, sparked something in me. And I thought, maybe I can conquer my fear? I at least didn’t want to live my life without giving it a try.
This week I studied for the test. I took it and passed with 100%. I felt so damn great! I got my license for the first time at forty-two years old. I can’t believe it! The support from friends and family on facebook with comments like “It’s about time!” and “Good for you, honey!” has been overwhelming. So that day I decided to give driving a chance.
My husband took me along a back country road. I adjusted my seat, familiarized myself with the mirrors, vehicle dials, and buttons. Learned where the signals were and pedal placement, and I was good to go. I pulled away slowly and began heading down the road. And that’s when it hit me.
White knuckling the steering wheel, I felt it. Anxiety like never before. I didn’t feel empowered. I didn’t feel confident. I felt terrified! My brain constantly going over every accident I’d ever been in. Five in total, and I kept saying to myself “I can’t do this!” and not just CAN’T. I don’t WANT to do this. But I pressed on.
“You have to speed up,” hubby said.
“Why I don’t want to,” I replied.
“Because it’s 70 here and if you don’t you will impede traffic.”
“I can impede!” I yelled at him, trying to focus on the road.
“You’ll be a hazard on the road,” he said giggling.
“Why can’t I be a hazard?” I screamed at him.
My husband was completely supportive and understanding of my silly craziness. He guided me calmly as I drove through the city, went through the round-a-bout, some guy honked at me and I told him to leave me alone in some un-lady like terms. I drove down McCallum Road while it was busy (busy being 3 cars and me), past seven eleven where I get my Slurpee’s and big trucks that scare the crap out of me. I even made a left-hand turn at the light. Mind you very few cars were on the road at this time.
When I pulled into the parking lot, my husband and son told me how proud they were of me. They didn’t realize how afraid I was. I had tears coming down my face, and I felt like I was never going to do that again. That was it. I tried it and conquered it, faced my fear and I’m okay living afraid and without a license.
Then I woke up yesterday and suddenly I wanted to drive.
Maybe there is hope for me. Maybe I can face this and come out with some sense of independence and confidence and the fears will lessen over time. I sure hope so. What I do know is that it’s important to at least try. If I don’t I will have regrets for not doing it, and who wants regrets? I may or may not get my full license, but I know I’m willing to give it an honest shot. That’s really all we can ask of ourselves. Because no matter how old we are it’s never too late to learn something new and face the things that scare us.