You know Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous quote “do one thing every day that scares you“, well, I have been slacking a bit. I’m not sure to what intensity she meant “scare”; perhaps it was meant to be about challenging yourself, pushing the boundaries a little, rather than full-on mortal terror. But even so, I have room for improvement on the boundary pushing, so I am pushing for near mortal terror this holiday season. Maybe it’s that end of year repentance, you know, that ‘what have I achieved this year’ feeling?
I am leaving London, the land of convenient public transport (I know TFL aren’t perfect, but we are spoilt for travel options here), and heading to the land down under for three weeks. Over there, as the place is so huuuuge, you pretty much HAVE to drive…. so can you guess what my mortal fear is yet?
When I first got my license nine years ago, I loved driving so much. It was the kind of freedom that I had dreamed of for so long. Then I had a couple of little scrapes. Nothing serious, the kind we all get when we are learning. Oh and that one time a white van man on his mobile phone shunted me at some traffic lights in Piccadilly. Bastard. But with a few little knocks to my confidence, and with the, um, ‘help’ of the abusive partner at the time, I lost my confidence.
So after three years and two abusive partners, I hung up my car keys for a good five years. It was only just last year that a really good friend of mine started taking me out for drives, coaching me gently. We started with doughnuts in Regent’s Park car park (as in driving in circles, not stuffing our faces), then progressed to a couple of motorway drives to Oxfordshire and back. This was a huge step.
Unfortunately I have not kept it up. It was a work vehicle, and when the insurance excess went up, so did my reluctance. I think honestly that just gave me another excuse. The thing about driving that terrifies me is the responsibility for other human lives. I think a lot of road users don’t think about this enough, and I think about it too much. So much so that it stops me all together. I know that technically I’m a damn good driver. Shame I can’t say the same for my parking! But on the road I am safe and observant. The bit that makes it dangerous is the lack of confidence that makes me hesitate at junctions. It’s my father’s voice in my head, telling me that I am stupid, and those ex’s that reinforced it.
So I have been talking this through with my counsellor. And although we both agree that I don’t have to drive to get by in life, I really do want to. I want to beat this stupid fear. And it is stupid. There are some real dumb-asses who are allowed to drive. I am sensible and actually observe the highway code, so there is no good reason that I should keep missing out on something that I used to enjoy. I have three weeks in Australia with a borrowed car. Aussie roads are better anyway, and it so much less stressful than to drive in than London – so this is my opportunity to build my confidence back up. Next time you hear from me I will be driving around in a superhero sports car like Red Mist… OK, I will probably still be relying on Transport for London to get me to work. But I will feel a bit better about one day owning a car again. And not being afraid of it.
Have a good Christmas all x