Wednesday, August 17, 2011

'Quirky' is just a nicer term for 'Neurotic'.

Today, I am going to talk about me. -------> ME <--------. Now's your chance to click that little red box with the "X". No? Then let's talk about what a freak I am. Was! Was. Okay, and am.

So, it took me a while (*cough* 13 years) to move past my fear that I was going to either a- die in a fiery car crash or b- kill someone, whenever I got behind the wheel of a car (To be honest, I am still 98% sure I am going to die prematurely in a car accident, but now I think it's worth it). Each time I celebrated a birthday, I would be staring at the candles while people sang, hearing "Happy Birthday to you!" and thinking to myself "Now I am 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and I still don't drive". Needless to say, the effect this had on my self-esteem wasn't great. I am not certain why I decided 2011 was the magical year. Maybe I knew that on my next birthday, I would be 30, and that it would usher in an entire new decade of sadness if I wasn't independently mobile. Whatever the reason, I decided to take control of my life and just do something about it. I had read 50 books about driving by this point, trying to identify and work through the reasons behind my fear (none of them worked) and even gotten to the point where I was considering hypnosis. In the end, I decided that the only thing that was going to help was to just do it.

I started in the parking lot of the high school across from our house. We would swing by there on our way home from picking up the kids after work, and I would attempt to swallow the vomit rising in my throat and wipe my sweating palms off on my pants and move over to the driver's seat. I would then drive jerkily around, park crookedly over multiple spaces, and only when a dizzy, sickening span of 10-15 minutes had passed and I couldn't take anymore would I stop suddenly and get out. I almost always realized afterwards that my teeth had been clenched the whole time and that my knees were weak, and was usually assaulted by a crushing migraine for the rest of the night. We did this for months. To give Russell credit, he was incredibly patient with me, though he did lose his cool a couple times. One day, we were away from home and couldn't find a parking lot, so I drove through a quiet neighborhood. It was a bunch of culdesacs, so I would drive down a street, turn around and loop out, and do the same on the next street. When we got back to the mouth of the neighborhood, I simply kept going, out of the neighborhood, through town. Neither of us commented on it while I drove. We talked about inane little details that weren't related to the car or driving- music, work, etc. When we got to our destination, I giggled wildly for a good 10 minutes and smiled till my face hurt.

After that, my confidence grew. I tackled highways, drove in the rain, navigated crowded parking lots. I clipped Russell's car once while parking and got knocked down a couple pegs, but was otherwise unshakable. When the day came that I felt ready to venture out on my own, I drove myself to and from work, alone in my car for hours. I felt as though I could fly if I wanted to. I was no longer scared of anything (except Sharks. I'm freaking terrified of those bitches).

At least I can laugh at myself, right?
 I may be the only 29 year old that regularly excitedly exclaims to my coworkers "I MADE A U-TURN LAST NIGHT!", "I am PARKED PERFECTLY! COME LOOK!" and "I am STILL ALIVE!". Every trip in my car is its own amazing and death-defying experience for me. Still, sometimes I feel that fear there, just under the surface. When I make a stupid decision and risk myself (or my kids!!!) even a little bit, I feel it bubble up slightly, threatening my confidence. To combat this, I have developed a list of huge positives that I go over in my head when necessary. Let me share them with you and perhaps you can apply them to your own irrational fears.

1) Everyone around me is my friend. Not that guy that just cut me off, okay, but everyone else. See how happy we all are? How we flow like a dangerous metal river together? Look at that car with it's turn signal on, almost like it's winking at my car. They are sharing a secret, and that secret is happiness and independence and love for each other. We are cool in our ability to operate motor vehicles.When someone has the opportunity to pass me, and they don't? That's because I am doing a good job and they love being behind me.

2) Sometimes, you don't die. I know this is a tough one to believe and accept, but I am not dead yet. I manage to log around 15 hours of driving a week and I am still around to talk about it. I also haven't killed anyone. Just a snake, and that's unconfirmed.

3) You don't want to be 30 and having to beg people to give you rides. Not sure that one needs any additional explanation, but I'm me, so you're getting some anyway. Do you know how embarrassing it is to be invited somewhere and have to make sure you can find someone to bring you and pick you up, and oh yeah, you're 29? What about being the second oldest in your family out of five kids, and being the last to drive?

4) You will feel like a superhero. I am not sure I'll ever not be afraid of sharks, but there was a huge part of me that was sure I would never drive. Now it's my bitch. Make your fears your bitch too. I might make sharks my bitch someday. Just maybe from the other side of a thick glass pane.

If you'd told me even 6 months ago that I would be a great driver (I am pretty sure everyone thinks they're great at driving. But I really am) and would delight in such things as a simple trip to the grocery store, I would've locked myself in a closet and cried, assuming you were being patronizing. This morning, though, after deftly avoiding hitting yet another wandering deer, parking absolutely perfectly, remembering to turn my headlights off BEFORE the chime sounds as I got out, and glancing back at my license plate, I realized how far I've come. I will never be the one to judge others for their fears. I know what it feels like. But fortunately, I know what it feels like to give it a big fat middle finger, now, too. And that feels a crapton better.

1 comment:

  1. Love you!!! Just remember ... don't forget the gas!! And not the kind beans give you!! I am sooooooo fearful of running out of gas, especially when I have the kids with me!! Huge fear!