Why I Didn’t Learn to Drive Until I Was Twenty Three.
A Late Bloomer
To the amazement and occasional ridicule of many, I did not first get behind the wheel of a car until I was twenty-three years old. Okay, so technically I first got behind the wheel when I was about eight because my grandfather let me pull the car into the driveway, but that was a one-time thing and totally doesn’t count.
When I share this fact with people who were otherwise unaware to it, their reactions are quite predictable. First, it’s confusion. Their mouths fall open and I get a chorus line of “oh wow” and “no way” that doesn’t intend to sound passive aggressive, but it still completely does. From there, it goes to pity. They somehow feel this kind of second-hand shame for me, and begin to profess how sorry they are that I missed out on so many great opportunities during my teenage years because I couldn’t drive. Then we take a turn to self-promotion, as they tell me all about how they started driving when they were *insert impressive age here* and how they couldn’t imagine a world where they were unable to legally mount and command a functioning motor vehicle. And finally, we take one last circle back to confusion again, as they once more lower their eyebrows and raise the pitch of their voices while asking me “you didn’t start driving till when?”
Why I Waited
I’d be lying if I said this didn’t occasionally bother me, as from time to time, it did. But I got over it. I got over it because I knew that when I was teenager I was simply not prepared to undertake the task that so many of my peers had taken up with vigor. I watched my friends, one by one, take their first foray into the world of driving, and one by one received text messages from them in all capital letters happily informing me that they passed their driver’s exams. I watched them buy and (typically) subsequently dent or mangle used starter cars, heard their stories about how great it was to be free on the open road, and endured with a smile the constant barrage of questions related to when I would get my license as well. One friend told me one day that when I got my license we could start driving together as a team, and unless he was secretly building a duel steering wheeled vehicle, I still to this day have no idea what he was suggesting.
I got a front row seat to all of this, saw firsthand their successes and failures on the road, and knew in those moments that it just was not for me. Because I knew myself, knew the nooks and crannies of my personality, and understood that I simply was not ready for the great task of driving.
This was due to a multitude of reasons. My anxiety, something that has been my near constant companion for my entire life, can dissolve me into a twitchy, hesitating mess when thrust into high pressure situations. My cockiness and ego (something you wouldn’t think pairs all that often with anxiety, but strangely does) often makes me much too brash and blinds me to certain realities. And my tendencies to become over analytical, occasionally a help but usually a hinderances, leaves me often paralyzed with indecision. These, spoiler alert, are all textbook traits of what you should never be behind the wheel of car. Nervous, cocky, and indecisiveness mixed together are without a doubt a perfect, and I do mean absolutely, no question, unequivocally perfect Martha Stewart caliber recipe for a disastrous experience on any given road in the United States.
I knew this, could feel it in my blood and guts, and waited to drive. And waited. And then, just in case, waited some more. Until I felt something change.
Taking the Plunge
The change wasn’t overnight, and nor was it entirely complete (I am still a nervous, cocky, indecisive mess most of the time) but it was enough. I got a little older. I worked at new jobs. I learned how to save money and how to spend it. I, slowly but surely, took up the task of discovering how I could take the things that I was and use them to help push me up the necessary ladders of life. And somewhere in the process of doing that, I found I was ready. When I did drive, when I finally took that plunge, I discovered that I was nervous (enormously so) but that it felt healthy, and right somehow to be so. I found I was still a little overly confident, but also that my skin felt a little less invincible than it did some eight years prior. And I still grappled with simple decisions, but that eventually the needed answers came all the same. I drove when I was just a little older, a little more aware of myself, and it paid off.
Understand that I am not claiming that this approach would work for everybody, and neither am I claiming that driving at twenty-three and not sixteen entitled me to some great secret of the universe. I am simply suggesting that, for me, I found that waiting to get behind the wheel of car and not jumping behind it the second it became available allowed me to appreciate and understand the undertaking I was committing myself to in a way I don’t think would have been possible in a teenage state.
For some, I know this wouldn’t be an option, and I get that. They have lives or responsibilities that require the use of a car, and to tell them not to drive as soon as possible is simply not on the table for them. And who knows, maybe I would have been just as capable of driving as a teenager as I am now, and all of what I have said thus far is just a desperate attempt to justify a worried mind’s excuse on why to postpone responsibility. That just may be.
But just know that I didn’t start driving until I was twenty three years old, and I am okay with that. It worked for me, you see. And it might work for somebody else, as well.