Fear Vanquished: My Learner Driver Experience So Far

🎃🕷 This Hallowe’en, I have finally begun to shed my intense fear of driving. 🚗🚘

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In September, I started learning how to drive. I am 28 years old – I was legally allowed to learn how to drive a full decade ago, but I put it off for so long because driving was never a skill that carried an urgent relevance in my life. As a lifelong Dubliner, I’ve grown used to being able to hop on public transport whenever I need to go somewhere. I’ve rarely found myself in a position where I cannot reach my destination by bus, Luas, Dart or train.

In some ways, I think I should have gotten behind the wheel years ago, but as my wise mother often reminds me, there are no ‘shoulds’ in life. We learn whenever we are truly motivated to learn and we grow whenever we are ready to grow.

The process of learning how to drive has been both daunting and joyful. It has helped me to refine many of my mental skills: how to stay calm when faced with unexpected obstacles, how to be more flexible and sharp in my reactions, and above all … how to have faith in myself, knowing that despite the odd setback, I really can do this.

‘We learn whenever we are truly motivated to learn and we grow whenever we are ready to grow.’

I’m currently just over halfway through my mandatory course of twelve driving lessons. I have yet to decide whether to take my test immediately after the lessons have ended, or wait and build up some more experience. I would ideally like to take the driving test just once and pass it without ever having to book a second one, so I’m inclined to wait until I’m very confident in my abilities.

My driving instructor and I have built up quite a rapport over the past couple of months: there have been times when he has had to really challenge me, and I’ve had to push back when he’s been a little too impatient, but we have a good understanding of one another now. I encountered a number of difficulties during my early lessons: for example, I often panicked while changing gears, forgot which gear was which, and had to glance down at them to check – taking my eyes off the road in doing so. I still have those blank moments when it comes to gears, if I’m being totally honest, but they definitely happen less frequently now.

Steering was another huge problem for me: I constantly used to miscalculate how far I had to move the steering wheel, went either too far or not far enough, and ended up in the wrong position on the road as a result. Thank goodness I was always on a quiet, sleepy housing estate when that happened. 🙈

I live on a road right between Phibsboro and Drumcondra, two of Dublin’s most traffic-heavy areas. In previous lessons, my instructor has handled all of the busier roads and junctions around my house, driving me up to quiet estates where I can practise without the fear of running into too many other cars. Today, however, he got me to do all of the driving.

ALL. OF. IT.😱😰

The second I stepped outside my door and saw him sitting in the passenger’s seat, smiling innocently at me, all I could think was, ‘oh dear God, no…’ 🙈🚗

At the same time, I knew I needed to do it. I needed to challenge myself a little more: to realise that I am, in fact, capable of moving beyond small little housing estates. It helped that my instructor had faith in me: he knew I could handle busy roads without getting him killed!

‘Today, I handled myself pretty well on the roads, and I’m considering that to be a small personal victory.’

I’m trying to do a few things that scare me these days – the #NaNoWriMo challenge is one of them – and being out in the middle of a busy street, coping with traffic lights, fast-paced junctions, cars streaming past me and pedestrians jaywalking all over the place certainly falls into that category.

When today’s lesson had ended at last, and I finally pulled up outside my house again, my instructor mischievously said to me, ‘you certainly won’t forget that scary Hallowe’en lesson, will you?’ All I could do was laugh. But I was proud too. Today, I handled myself pretty well on the roads, and I’m considering that to be a small personal victory. ❤️

During one of my early lessons, my instructor shared an amazing story about a past student of his: a 70-year-old woman who, when faced with the tragedy of her husband’s death, had taken it into her hands to learn how to drive. Her husband had always driven when the couple needed to travel, as she was too scared to learn. And yet – in the face of her overwhelming grief, and the anxiety she had undoubtedly felt at being a learner driver at such an advanced stage of her life – this woman took the wheel and eventually triumphed in her test.

Whenever I falter, I remember her great courage … and I drive on.

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Road and Track

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