During the last night of my trip in Texas, someone asked the group to share their best experience. Not necessarily during the trip, but just in life. A lot of people mentioned how all of their experiences were special not because of what they did but because of the people they were with. I agree. I even started my answer by mentioning that I have some pretty amazing friends. However, my best experience was definitely getting my driver’s license.
I’m twenty-two going on forty-two. Seriously. My boyfriend and I joke all the time that I am more of the parental figure in my mom and I’s relationship than she is. Funny thing is, I just got my driver’s license about nine months ago. Go ahead and laugh. I know you want to. Everyone does. Either that or you probably have a dozen questions going through your mind right now. Let me answer some of them for you.
How did you get around in high school?
This one is easy. I didn’t have anything to drive when I was in high school; my parents couldn’t afford to buy me a vehicle. My grandpa was also retired and didn’t mind being my personal chauffeur. He picked my brother and I up from all of our sports practices, attended all of our games, and made sure we always had a way back and forth to work.
That makes sense. What about college?
Grandpa couldn’t come to college with me. He probably would’ve if he could’ve though. My university was small. I could walk from one side of campus to the other in fifteen minutes. I also had friends with cars, although I hardly asked for rides. I usually just walked everywhere – the grocery store, certain restaurants, the bank, one friend and I even walked three miles to her orthodontist appointment.
Why were you afraid?
This one is a little tricky. It can actually be broken down into two questions. Why was I afraid then? And why am I afraid now?
Let’s start with why was I afraid then. Growing up, my dad was not the best driver. He’s been in a few accidents, totaled a car or two, and has had his license suspended. Granted most of these occurred under the influence of alcohol. There were many nights when my dad would pick my brother and I up from somewhere and be under the influence. Did he have an open container in the car? No, but I could still tell that he had been drinking. You’re probably wondering why we chose to get in the car with him. Well at a young age of eight or nine, it’s not like we could’ve just said no. Well, we could’ve. He wouldn’t have taken no for an answer. I got really good at becoming a backseat driver and paying close attention to the speedometer. When he was intoxicated he used to play a lot of R&B and slow tracks on the radio. We wore Usher’s 8701 album, Case’s Open Letter album, and Jagged Edge’s single “Let’s Get Married” out. That’s probably the reason I like the music that I do.
When I was learning to drive during my freshman year of high school, I actually totaled the car in a parking lot. After that day, I decided that I wasn’t going to drive. Ever. If I could do that kind of damage in a parking lot, just imagine what I could do on the street with other people. I was also worried that I was going to follow in my dad’s footsteps. Silly right? I know. I know that genetics doesn’t work that way. I also wasn’t under the influence the day I totaled that car.
Why am I afraid now? This academic year three of my friends were killed in two car accidents. Three. Two of them were killed driving along a winding highway during a thunderstorm. I’m not really sure what caused the other young lady to crash. All three were on their way back to campus.
So why twenty-two?
After I graduated in May, I decided to set some goals for myself. I chose a few goals that I wanted to complete before August 1st, others before January 1st, and a few more before May 1st 2017. I’ve since modified and tweaked those goals and deadlines, but that’s a story for another day. Since I decided that I no longer wanted to be an engineer, I didn’t have any plans after graduation, but I knew I would need a license one day. August 1st gave me a little more than two months to figure things out and I thought it would be enough time to get my license. Fun fact, my twin brother also didn’t have his driver’s license (he still doesn’t). I decided to challenge him to see which one of us could get our license first before our twenty-second birthday. He wasn’t interested, but I stuck with it and asked my family to chip in and buy me drivers ed classes for my birthday.
It sucked. It was five two-hour sessions. The first session was fine because we were in a parking lot all day, but the minute we got on the road I immediately became frustrated. My instructor even made me cry. During our fourth session he evaluated me and told me what my chances were of passing the exam. I had a thirty percent chance. He pretty much told me I had failed, so the day of my last session, I told him I quit and didn’t go. My twenty-second birthday came and went and my family was out of a nice chunk of change.
I never had someone tell me I couldn’t do something before. People had told me that there was room for improvement in certain areas of my life – academics, soccer, social skills, etc. – but no one had ever flat-out told me that I couldn’t do it. Until now. He didn’t even know me. He ticked me off, but he also lit a fire inside of me. I was determined more than ever (plus I didn’t want my family’s money to go to waste). So I had my dad teach me. I know right? After everything I said about my dad’s driving history and I still picked him? Shh, don’t judge. It worked and I got my license before August 1st.
I’m still afraid of driving, mainly because of my friends. I still try to walk everywhere and drive as little as possible, but lately I’ve really been expanding my horizon. I’ve made several trips to visit my family that live three and half hours away. I recently just returned from a work conference today that I drove to earlier this week. Driving at night and in the rain scare me so I try to avoid it at all costs. If I can’t, then I just take it nice and easy in the slow lane.
I finally understand what all the hoopla is about gaining your independence when you receive your license. I had finished school, was starting my job (my grandpa actually had to drive me to my job interview because I didn’t have my license yet) and was making other important adult decisions, but was missing out on the freedom of transportation. I dislike asking people for favors and now I don’t have to rely on others to get to where I need to go. It’s a nice feeling.
Disclaimer: I’ve never seen Driving Miss Daisy, but my grandpa used to reference the movie often when he chauffeured me.