Thursday, 13 July 2017

Face the Fear: Chronicles of a Learner Driver

Three weeks ago I was a nervous wreck. Far from liberating me, it seemed that driving had ruined my life. I was having waking nightmares about crashing the car. Avoiding driving was making me feel like a failure.

I had passed on my third try, after I'd dominated my so-called mad goat personality for the duration of the exam.

On my first day, I hit an Audi.

Yes, on the way back home from a successful 12 minute drive with my husband, I overshot a yield, nosing too far into a road. A car zoomed passed and I was so shocked by what felt was a near miss I didn't hear the beep of horns behind me. Because the entry was uphill, I started rolling backwards. BANG.

I burst into tears, climbed into the backseat and begged my husband to drive us home.Thankfully, there was no serious damage done and the owner of the car never called.

It shook me though and my fear levels grew to an unbearable level, so that I had this shadow hanging over me when I woke up. Every time I stalled the car, I begged my husband to take over. Luckily for me, he refused.

I knew I couldn't go on like this so I bought the book Feel the Fear and I tried to follow my friend's advice of going out every day alone, 28 days in a row. Apparently if you do something every day for 28 days, it brings it into your comfort zone. But I didn't go alone, I always drove with my husband.

"Just sit in the car," my friend said. "Get comfortable just sitting in the car."

One day, I did just that. As soon as I entered the car, I felt so tense. The atmosphere felt thick with negativity. Now my husband is a carefree kind of guy, but put him in the car and he's unrecognisable. If  he doesn't like how someone is driving, he will let them know. "I'm Latin," he tells me, "We do everything with passion!"

Well I don't care what his nationality is, all I know is that when I was feeling nervous and he reached over to hoot my horn while I was driving, I wanted to run him over right there and then! 

Car rage may be something passed down through family, because his father was exactly the same. A lovely, gentle man until he was in the driving seat. It probably has something to do with learning to drive in the Colombian capital of Bogota.

Anyway, so I went and I sat in the driver seat and I breathed in and out. I even talked to the car. I made friends with it. I realised the car was my friend, not my enemy. He's called Pierre actually. Don't ask me why. I started to take him around the block on my own. We live in a very hilly area so it wasn't the easiest block.

Gradually I drove a little further. I got the hang of the clutch. I stopped stalling so much. Going to the supermarket was a huge milestone because it involved parking. Pierre is not a small car; he's a 7 seater Grand Picasso.

Fast forward to today. Today  I drove my friends to the airport.  More importantly I drove back from the airport alone. When I missed my exit and ended up heading for Palma, I didn't panic. 

I reminded myself I'd done this before in class. There were cyclists and buses and motorbikes and I kept calm. I didn't stall once. I made it home. I turned off the car and I grinned from ear to ear.

My books says:

The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.

It's so true. I'll keep going out until my hands stop clutching that steering wheel for dear life and my shoulders relax.

Face the fear. I recommend it. It'll feel so much better afterwards.

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