The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done…

 

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[Excited to get Sebastian, even if I don’t want to drive.]
When I was sixteen, I went out and got my learner’s permit like every teenager does. I was so excited to drive a car, to have the freedom that comes with not having to rely on others for transportation, to be a normal teen driving around with her friends.

I started driving. At first, nothing was a problem. In parking lots, I felt in total control, I could pull in and out of spots like a pro, and I enjoyed whipping around the empty beach lots in fast figure-eights that made my heart pound.

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[I enjoy washing fast cars, but not so much driving them.]
Then came the real road.

Fast forward four years, and here I finally am with a full driver’s license at twenty years old. After that first sixteen-year-old excitement faded, I was left with a crippling anxiety about driving that made it impossible for me to actively learn in the time span that “normal” drivers do. Every time I would start to progress, I would stop myself. Whether that was making excuses for not driving, refusing to drive certain cars, or even making a mistake and freaking out about it, it all produced the same result: More fear.

The people around me didn’t help. Everyone, even those who I knew meant well, bugged me about not having my license. The social pressure to be like everyone else only made me more hopeless that I could never be. It made me want to drive even less than I already did.

This summer was my last shot before my permit expired. I knew that if I let it go, I wouldn’t be able to make myself get another. So, I started a DIY driving school with my Dad. In under two months, I went from the parking lot to Sunrise Highway. Thanks, Dad!

The difference this time was confidence. I knew if I could get my license, I could do anything, even if it seemed like the hardest thing I ever did. The addition of my family’s new car, which I named Sebastian, helped too: It turned out that many of my anxieties came from not feeling safe in smaller, older cars. I was still having panic attacks practically every time I got behind the wheel, but together, Dad, Sebastian, and I worked through them to make me the best driver I could be. And you know what?

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[Dad! + The rare sight of me smiling in a car]
It worked. I’m a pretty damn good driver, and I’m not just saying that.

The day of the test, I shook the whole ride to the site. When the time came to drive, my hands were so slick with sweat that the wheel was visibly wet. But I took every direction as a separate mission, remembered everything I was taught, and made it through with only five points for parallel parking!

Getting a license is exciting for anyone, but it was like winning the Nobel Prize for me. Everything I went through had been worth it. Now, even if I never get behind the wheel again, I know that I don’t have to worry. If I need to drive, I can, but I no longer have to drive for the test. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders, and one of my proudest accomplishments to date.

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[Sebastian and I are besties!]
Everyone is different, with hopes, fears, and dreams that might be hard for others to understand. My path to driving is still continuing, and while I am much more confident in my skills than I used to be, I still have a long way to go before driving becomes a comfortable part of my daily life. I know there are others out there who are like me. If your fear is driving, I understand how you feel. If it is something else, if people think you’re “weird” for not being able to do something that everyone else can, I understand. Keep at it, and go your own pace. And for everyone else? Support them!

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