It’s 15 years since I passed my driving test. Fourth time lucky, isn’t that what they say? I was never a dangerous driver. I was a cautious driver. I remember failing at least one of those tests for hanging out too long at a junction.
And then I moved to London, a place where having a car is probably more inhibiting than it is liberating, and successfully avoided being behind a wheel for the last 13 years.
And then Lancashire found its way back into my life. Lancashire, on the threshold of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales, a million and one incredible places to explore…by car. Not to mention my sister who's house is 8 miles out along a lake in the middle of nowhere.
So a couple of months ago I bought myself a second hand car. As I made the bank transfer and signed the papers, I made an internal observation - this felt scarier than quitting my job. Scarier than anything I’ve done in the four years since. Driving a car is something I’ve had a whole lot of time to create some pretty scary stories in my head about. And whilst with most other areas of my life I see the illusions for what they are, these illusions were set pretty solid. I’m not someone who can drive a car.
My dad took me out a couple of times. We drove the quiet roads. He was calm. I was not. Memories of all the times I’d flown into a rage whilst he was trying to teach me flooded back. The rage, of course, came from my perceived lack of ability and the frustration I felt when I got things wrong. I wanted to be able to do it. Now.
I clutched the steering wheel for dear life. I didn’t enjoy it, but to my surprise, I also remembered how to drive. I didn’t stall, the gears weren’t a problem and, unlike the first car I shared with my sister (Bruno the Fiat Uno), the handbrake was working sufficiently well that I was actually able to stop the car on a hill.
My dad took me to the gas station to show me how to fill up. If that sounds silly, then you really don’t understand the extent to which I’ve feared driving all these years. We did it. It was simple. I could probably do that on my own.
I drove from my parents’ house to town - a 30 minute drive - alone. No music. High concentration. Mirror checking every few seconds. Always at least 10 miles below the speed limit. People were driving too close behind me, pressuring me to speed up. I didn’t like it. My parents’ bought me P plates as a gift to keep people away. It worked. People stay a good distance behind me now. No one wants to get too close to someone who just passed their test.
I’m not embarrassed. Maybe a little. But at least the people stay away.
So I said, ok, this is ok. I’ll just drive during the day time and not play music and be really vigilant.
And I went out a couple of times like that.
Then one day I was in my new apartment and wanted to go out to the shops to buy something last minute. It was already dark. Ok then, I’ll go. It was harder than driving during the day. And I had to park in a car park and car parks are a pretty major issue for me. But I did it. And before I knew it night driving seemed ok. Not deeply in love. But it's ok.
Then one day I said, hmmm, maybe I can play just a little music. Quietly so it does’t distract me too much. So I slotted in one of the only compact discs I kept after I sold all my others in 2013. They’re all Michael Jackson, of course. I put it on, quietly.
Then the next time I turned it up. And the next time some more. And now?
Now I’m pumping Man in the Mirror out and singing along and going at the actual speed limit (most of the time) and going out in the rain and the dark and even really heavy fog. And you know what else? I quite like it. And one day really soon, I’m sure I’ll be able to stop going to the supermarket at 7:30am in the morning so that I don’t have to panic about parking.
All this to say:
Once you start, you’ll get brave really quickly. Way quicker than you thought, probably.
And not only that, you’ll forget what you were so scared about in the first place.
But, (and this is kind of the killer)...
You do actually have to start.
This is the last time you’ll hear from me before 2017. It’s nothing more than a date on the calendar. It’s significance is something we’ve decided to give it. But I like to use it. I like the feeling of going into a fresh new year with energy and oomph and feeling like I can stand up on my tiptoes and reach out with certainty for all that my heart desires to create. The New Year is an opportunity to start. That thing you’ve been avoiding, resisting, been in fear about.
So do it, won’t you? Start. And you’ll see...
You’ll get brave really quickly.
And if things get a little tough, just picture me at the gas station for the first time on my own, on my mobile to my brother because I can’t figure out how to open the tank and then the gas station attendants coming on over the tannoy system telling me to get off my mobile phone immediately. Seriously. How’s a girl supposed to know these things?
Love and courage,