I tend to try and post about things which are finished, over and done with, sorted and have been fully reflected on. But life isn’t like that, and I’ve been feeling obligated to blog about something I’m right in the middle of, as it were.
So this is my driving story. This is about learning to drive a car.
When I started my A levels, I was in no rush to learn to drive. The prospect of driving a car really scared me, and I wasn’t ready. A couple of weeks into September, school took us soon to be 17-year-olds to the local fire station where we were told about speed limits, drink driving and the dangers of driving in general. We were shown pictures of dead people spread across the road from driving accidents, and we watched as the fire fighters cut open an old car to demonstrate what would happen to the vehicles we drive if we’re not careful.
After that day, I went from being scared to learn to drive to being utterly petrified.
So as I watched my mates start to learn to drive, and they got better and better as my 17th birthday began to loom. The day came and I was given money so that I could start to learn to drive. I couldn’t avoid it, I was going to have to start. I chose the same instructor as many of my other friends. and when the day of my first lesson came, after my Dad teased that he had phoned Radio 2’s Sally Traffic to warn the public to get off the road, the sickening panic that I felt as the car first started to move was immense. He probably should have called Sally Traffic.
My lessons continued and although I never learned to enjoy myself in the slightest, I did start to get used to it. The responsibility of driving continued to freak me out a bit, but I did feel like I was starting to make progress. But then, people at school would come up to me and say ‘I hear you’re not very good at…’ and ‘well, your… needs some work, doesn’t it?’. It seemed that people had been told what I was struggling with in my lessons, which certainly didn’t help my confidence at all. To add to this, it transpired that a couple of months in that I had never been using the clutch of my own, but had been receiving help via the left hand pedals in the dual control car. By this point I had absolutely no faith in my abilities and when I had to cancel a lesson due to heavy snow, it was the perfect excuse to just never arrange another.
Over the next few years I played with the idea of starting up lessons again, but I could never bring myself to do it. I lived in Chester, London and Durham and so never really needed a car in any of those places. But since moving to Formby and starting my curacy, it’s become clear that I do need a car, preferable sooner rather than later.
So I have started! And I have been working through all of this when starting to learn to drive again.
For a while, I could drive better going backwards than I could going forward. Weird.
I also once finished a lesson on the hour, made an appointment for a new one, opened the door, made a cuppa, and when I sat down on the loo 8 minutes later, my legs were still shaking.
Another reason for my fear is that I never met an uncle due to him dying after being hit by a car at age 9. When driving down the bypass in Formby, I have this constant fear that a child will run out from the bushes and I won’t be able to stop in time.
After a couple of months of learning this time, I had a few lessons in an automatic to improve my road sense. It worked. But before I swapped back to the manual, I spent six hours overall constantly praying and trying to calm myself. Thankfully, I had a good lesson back in the manual, and slowly but surely, I am making some progress.
I have tried so many things to help myself feel positive about driving. I’ve thought about other people I know who can drive and I’ve written a list of things which I once found hard but have since become second nature. I’ve thought about other challenges I have overcome in my life, and how if I can do those things, I ought to be able to do this.
But none of this trumps the fact that when driving, I can be the most accurate and capable driver in the world, but an accident could still happen because of the way other people are on the road. It’s not enough to just be good, I need to be constantly aware of the actions of others, and that’s really scary.
So now I pray lots before each lesson, not for 6 hours, but I make sure that I am calm and have put myself into God’s hands.
And to be honest, I’m not used to putting so much effort into something and not making quicker progress. But it’s making me humble, and I’ve had no option but to hand the whole thing over to God, which I ought to be doing in all things, really.
I am absolutely determined to get there, and to get past this. But I hope to always be aware of the danger of driving, but I’d quite like to move past the sense of dread that surrounds the whole thing.
And one day I’m aiming to one day be able to say:
‘She is clothed without dignity and strength, and laughs without fear of the clutch pedal’*
*an adapted Proverbs 31.25