Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Girl Interrupted Wednesday

I have bad news for people in the vicinity of the general world postcode. I have a driving lesson today. It is my third driving lesson, and yes I am allowed on the actual road. Scary thought I know.

Up until a few months ago I honestly believed that I would never learn to drive. I "knew" I was not able to learn to drive. Is it not amazing what a cage a mind can be?

Yes, I am 29 and for most people my age driving is like breathing but yip, I am a bit... different. Hereforth lies a woeful tale of cowardice and misconception.

I left home to study before my parents could teach me to drive, and I could not afford private lessons in Cape Town, so I had faaaaaairly legitimate reasons for not learning to drive back then. When I hooked up with the BFG his car got stolen and he left soon after for Antarctica, so there was that. Then we came to the UK and we had no car for ages... And somewhere in between all of these excuses and me aging hugely, I managed to convince myself that I was incapable. After all I have no spatial awareness, no instincts whatsoever in the driving arena, and I just suck.

It is weird how leaving something so long can build it up into this huge, terrifying obstacle in your mind. I became more and more nervous about the idea of driving on the road (without actually trying it) and more and more convinced that I was useless and a danger to other drivers. I got the BFG to start giving me a few lessons in parking lots last year but I knew deep down that it would never go further than that.

Until a few months ago, when I was talking with the new lady at work. When she heard me saying I would never be able to drive, she just laughed and said if she could do it anyone could and she firmly believed that all people can be taught to drive.

Now I have heard this millions of times before and never been swayed. But here was a girl who suffers from anxiety, who was terrified, who tried her test 9 times(!!!!) and never gave up. I would have given up long before my ninth attempt I suspect. I realised from speaking to her that my fear of driving was nothing, NOTHING in comparison to hers, but she had faced it head on and here I was happy and safe with my comfortable avoidance techniques.

What she said really made an impact on me, and then another lady at work told me almost the same story and I was like, freaking hell! I am a coward. And although I truly believed I could not drive, I also truly believed I could pass in less than 9 tries. Sense-making? No, but there you go.

I do struggle from a deep and terrible lack of confidence in myself. I always believe my capabilities are nil. But these ladies at work really forced me into admitting that before I decided I could not do it, I should actually try it.

So I booked myself a lesson in a moment of madness. The thought of it made me dizzy, and when I imagined myself nearer to the time, I figured I would freak out, feel ill, cry even.

Haha, how dramatic. I just used my usual technique of not thinking about it at all, and on the day I was utterly calm and it all flew by. I did not kill anyone or bash into anything. I was not even mildly nervous. And I had let my mind hold me back all this time because I thought or imagined I was terrified of driving? I never was terrified of driving at all. Apprehensive at most.

So ja, this is what the mind can do to you if you let it. I now wonder what it has prevented me from doing that I don't even know about because in my mind I "know" I can't do things.

But before this tale of cowardice and avoidance lulls you into thinking you are in fact safe on the roads let me just say that in my second lesson, I attempted to look into those mirror thingies on the side of the car that look like little ears (I have not grasped how to look at mirrors and still steer).

The instructor told me to check if any cars were coming, so I looked into the mirror and I saw a car, and at that moment I honestly had no idea whether the car that I saw was in front of me or behind. For real. True story. In fact it could have been above me for all the disorientation I felt.

So don't let your guard down just yet, methinks.


Ches said...

Po, the next Michael Schumacher may have been sitting, dormant in you for all...these...years!

Go forth an unleash that fury! :)

Tamara said...

I used to hyperventilate at the thought of my driving lessons (possibly because my teacher was a bare-footed, chain-smoking wizened old troll who shed dandruff at an impressive rate and insisted on having my lessons in the middle of the Warwick Junction taxi rank), but it's all a case of muscle memory.

At first it seems impossible to use all your appendages in different ways simultaneously and still remember which pedal is the clutch and which is the brake, but once your muscles have taken over from your brain, it becomes second nature.

Persevere, Po. Onward to glory! ;-)

Goblin said...

Go Po go Po go go go PO!

Like Tamara said, it becomes second nature and you'll be a pro in no time. And having a hell of a lot of fun to boot.


Cos driving is like teh funnest okay?

I've been trying to tell the Boyf the same thing for ages since he still can't drive you have to succeed so I can tell him I'm right.

SA Expats said...

Lol! My wife was the same and now I wish she would drive less!

momcat said...

I was one of the most nervous learner drivers and had to have 101lessons before I felt confident enough to do the test. Now its so automatic that i can scream at the kids and deliver a lecture on the benefits of school and not even think about the driving. It is very true that we build mountains in our head and we only stop when we become exhausted at the process of mountain building.

po said...

Ches: hahahaha somehow I think not, since I freak out when I go faster than 15mph.

Tamara: I thought I would hyperventilate but I didn't. It was all in my damn head. I really struggle to believe it will all become second nature, but I am prepared to trust you on this one :)

goblin: fun??! More like hell. But maaaybe on day I won't mind it. But ja your boyf is probably blocking himself in his mind like me, and one thing is for sure, he HAS to be more co ordinated and have more ability than me! There is no doubt about that.

SA expats: good for her!

momcat: so impressive see, that amazes me that people just don't give up. I give up way too easily. I love to hear these stories, cos then if I need 100 lessons of fail 9 times then I will know that I am not the only one and that I can still do it.

LadyFi said...

Too funny! And good on you, nothing cripples our lives like fear itself...

I passed my test first time - even though a bus bashed into me as I was overtaking it and I returned the car to a bemused driving instructor with a wing mirror hanging off...

I'll have to blog about this in order to give you hope...

Sid said...

She failed her driving exam 9 times? Wow and I thought I was bad. I finally got mine! And it's weird how "used" to driving I've gotten.

Prixie said...

ah po, i share your driving phobia. even though i have had my licence for a few years i rarely drive 'cos of a lack of a car. therefore i am often a passenger. the way drivers react to other drivers unnerves me. they are so impatient and vile!

i was happy in the uk not needing a car. nevertheless i had to attend a few job interviews so i was forced to drive. and the roads are under massive construction because of 2010. but i survived and you will too.

doesn't meant i have to like it though. ;p

MidniteGem said...

When it comes to fear of driving I think you have nothing on my friend who was hit by a car in her teens and was seriously hurt. When it came for her to get into a car and learn to drive it was impossible. She failed her learners 15 times before even being able to get in the car. Professional driving instructors gave up as they could get her out of the driveway as she would break down right there in the car before it was even on....
BUT I did eventually teach her to drive !!! :) it was seriously hard! She still has a terrible spatial awareness but she really enjoys driving now :)
Fear only holds us back from seeing our true potencial.

po said...

LAdyfi: am looking forward to your story, I am sure it is as quirky as ever ;)

Sid: how long have you been driving for? I looong for that feeling you have!

prixie: the uk does make it easy to not have a car. The funny thing is most English people I know do not like public transport and prefer to drive places, but for me the buses and trains are wonderful!

midnitegem: you see, that is what I am talking about! Your friend suffered an actual terrible trauma and still she never gave up. And lucky that she had a friend who never gave up on her too :)

Since I have not suffered a trauma and have not done anything too dramatic yet, I am going to stick at it.I just wish the unsettling feeling that I get before lessons will go away.

angel said...

Well GOOD ON YOU for going ahead and conquering your demons!

po said...

angel: thanks so much I really feel that that is what I am doing.

Rox said...

Aah chick, I feel your pain!

I finally got my license last year, but waited too long between passing that and getting my car... so now I have a car, but am too scared to drive the damn thing!

I had a drive with my boyfriend today, it was going well til I stalled on a dirt road in Green Point, and the battery died, and we got stuck in the mud and had to push start to get back on track... and I totally made my man drive us home, lol.

All I can say is that it does get easier, you have to just keep throwing yourself out there and don't leave it too long between lessons - the more practice you get, the better.

It's damn hard learning later in life, and the people who started driving as teenagers will make you feel like it's such an easy and silly thing, but you have to take it one step at a time and at your OWN pace! :-)

po said...

Rox: aw thanks! I plan to take it at my own pace indeed, ie reaaaaally reaaaaalllly slowly!

I grew up pushing my dad's cars so I know I am good at that :) The driving, not so much.

DelBoy said...

Thankfully, I live on the opposite side of the world to you, so I (believe) I am safe!

po said...

Delboy: heard of the butterfly effect? Me being on the road in the UK could cause particle disturbances that could reach you down under! Beware :)

Prixie said...

yeah, i loved the trains and buses too. everyone thought i was quite mad.

oh and this will make you laugh: i did about two warm lessons on the day of my license appointment and my driving teacher actually wiped away sweat from his forward and muttered: "You're going to give me a heart attack, you really are." sigh...

po said...

Prixie: well, you passed right? You showed him, haha!

boldly benny said...

So funny to read this because for some reason today I started thinking about my first driving lesson. My instructor was a burly guy who insisted on wearing too-short denim shorts and after a few moments on the road he made me pull over and told me I was hazard to people on the road and shouldn't drive. I burst into tears and got a new instructor! Hey I'm still not great but I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm a hazard!

Anyway I want to say: woohoo, I think it is fab that you are learning! Good luck and I want a post all about it :)

po said...

boldly benny: what kind of an instructor is that?!!! How can you say that to someone on their first lesson? I wonder how succesful he was as an instructor. But yay that you didn't give up. My instructor is a woman, hopefully she is patient with me!

EEbEE said...

Po'bob squarepants

(i failed the test twice btw.)

po said...

EEbEE: haha my pants are not square :)