Getting over my traumatic experience



It has been three months since I started taking driving lessons. I had only ten 1.5-hour lessons before I became too busy to continue, so basically I only had my parents to coach me about once or twice a week for the past two months.

I was made to believe I was a terrible driver and I just didn’t have the talent for it because these backseat drivers would just never stop criticising me. I was either doing this wrong or missing that sign. I was always sweating behind the wheel and couldn’t understand why people could see driving a relaxing hobby. It was worse than the GRE!

Last week, my worst nightmare came while I was trying to do reverse perpendicular parking. I thought there was enough space between my car and the pole next to it. Boy, was I wrong. When I heard the scratching sound, I was petrified. My mom immediately screamed at me, “I told you so!” and I just didn’t know what to do. My dad ordered me to find another parking space, and so I did. It took me at least four more trials to finally park the car with my trembling hands. We got out and inspected the ugly scratch on the side above the left rear wheel.

I felt so embarrassed of my huge blunder. It wasn’t because of the money because my car really is a piece of junk that is worth only US$1,000. It was already very scratched when we got it, so we won’t bother to fix this new one either. Nonetheless, the scratch is an indication of my incompetence.

To rub salt into my wound, when we got home my mom started yelling at me for being careless and know-it-all. She said, “Just because you’re good at many things doesn’t mean you’re good at driving. You have to admit that you have poor judging when it comes to driving. You need to be more humble and pay closer attention to details when you drive.”

I knew she was right, and it made me feel like crap. My first reaction was to just give up driving. I felt like even if i didn’t give up, I could never drive on my own. I would always need someone to tell me what to do by my side. I just don’t have it in me, I thought. I also felt super shameful of how a self-proclaimed intelligent person like me couldn’t operate a machine that a high school drop-out could work without problem. I know, I know, driving skills have nothing to do with education, but still, I felt like a complete ass.

I then went on Facebook and bitched about how shitty a driver I was and how I felt like giving up, but it would be so out of my character. A bunch of my friends chipped in and offered their two cents on driving. Nothing lift my mood until one said, “You can’t give up. You’re a role model of your students!”

He was right. What kind of example would I be setting if I just gave up like that?

I talked to more friends, even my student’s dad who gives me ride after class all the time, and they all told me I once I had my first solitary drive, I will gain my confidence. I just have to start with a route I’m familiar with.

Fast forward to tonight. I decided to drive around my neighbourhood after my jog. My father was very concerned and offered to be my silent passenger, but I turned him down. I had to do it by myself. I need to overcome this by myself. At the end of the day, I will be the one driving in Sydney, not him.

When I took the driver’s seat, I was a bit nervous. I circled the parking garage once then got on the street. I first circled my apartment complex and thought of just going back and calling it a night. At least I did it, right? But not me. I decided to go farther. I drove around my neighbourhood, which I’m very familiar with already. It was much less nerve-wracking than I thought. Soon enough I started to enjoy it. Not having anyone next to me gave me the freedom to finally match the speed limit (I’m usually waaaay under and get honked at all the time).

After ten minutes I even started to play songs on my running playlist and to sing Taylor Swift and Beyonce at the top of my lungs. I was terrible at hitting the high notes, but I just didn’t give a damn. I suspect other drivers must have thought I was high or something. LOL. I drove for an hour before returning to the garage. This time it took me three tries to park the car, but at least I didn’t scratch it! When I got off the car,  I just couldn’t be prouder.

I know this is nothing to people who drive every day and to those who has been driving since 15, but this is another milestone for me.  I’ve learned more than just driving from this experience. My lack of talent strips away all my pride and made me feel like a child again. A child who still couldn’t take his first step while all the other kids were already running. I had to overcome repeating failures, frustrations and humiliations to succeed in something no one thinks I’m good at. I could have given up because I don’t really have any immediate need to drive, but like with running, I saw it as a mental challenge to my perseverance.

Ya, I might have scratched my car, like I have done other stupid things in the life, but I never would have progressed if I didn’t take the leap of faith, if I didn’t believe in myself. I may never be shamed again if I just said no to driving, but I’d always know I was held back by my fear. Being able to overcome these traumas proves my strength and makes me realize the world really is at my fingertips.

I just couldn’t be prouder. 🙂


About Nicky

Nicky English is a journalist, an educator, a podcaster, a couch potato, a dreamer, and a child at heart. Learning is her passion, so is the English language, which she believes is the tool to unlock the door of knowledge. Born in Hong Kong, she received intensive writing training at The University of Iowa, where she double-majored in journalism and political science. Apart from the Hawkeye State, she’s lived in Chicago and Philadelphia. When she was a guest student at Georgetown University, she fell in love with Washington, D.C. She also has a Master of Arts in Communication. A little side note—she cannot imagine a world without her Mac and iDevices. Like many crazy ones, she hopes to change the world one day at a time.
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