The Friday Confessional : Always a Passenger


The Friday Confessional is probably well known by now as a very soul baring exercise in writing.  Today, I’d like to talk to about something rather embarrassing for me.

A major milestone in most people lives happens at the tender age of sixteen.  There’s the sweet sixteen, usually accompanied by the awesome responsibility that comes with a person’s first driver’s permit.  And the teenager blossoms into an adult as they take on that adult responsibility and freedom of driving.

I am nearly 30, and I never learned how to drive.

Originally, it wasn’t because of my lack of enthusiasm.  The prospect of the freedom that was associated with driving was intoxicating.  It was all I could ever want, being able to drive.  I could take myself places and not have to rely on anyone else.  It would open up new worlds to me, and allow me to do so many things I had always dreamed of.  I could pick my boyfriend up and see him more than twice a week.  We could go park somewhere and maybe make out for awhile.

My mother doesn’t drive, and my father refused to use his precious vehicle to teach me.  I was crushed.  They claimed they didn’t think I was responsible enough to take on driving.  But, as with everything else, it was an excuse not to allow me to have any kind of breathing room.  They could continue to circle me like vultures for my remaining two years in that house, ever judging and scrutinizing me while I remained under their thumb.

I was stuck for any options to circumvent this decision.  There is a law in Pennsylvania that prohibits teens from teaching other teens how to drive.  Most of my friends were under 18, and those who weren’t didn’t have their own cars at their disposal.  It seemed that I would have to wait indefinitely to gain all of that freedom that I craved so deeply.

Time passed, and most of my friends still remained as pedestrians.  It used to be easy in a city like Pittsburgh to get by without a car.  Most of the places anyone would want to go were accessible via bus.  And taking the bus was infinitely cheaper than owning and maintaining a car.  College came and went without a driver’s license.

Once out of college, I had already developed an alcohol problem.  Driving became less important.  My job was within walking distance, and everything else wasn’t quite as important anymore.  Most of my friends had their own license, and the responsibility of driving seemed to great for a person who was perpetually drunk.  It didn’t matter to me anyway.  I was broke, and there was no way I could possibly afford a vehicle of my own to drive.

More time passed.  I got married, had a kid, and jobs came and went as I settled into family life.  The need for a license started weighing on me, as I was begging for more favors from people with vehicles.  I lived poorly and saved every last penny to buy my very first car.  And eventually, I got it.  I paid outright to avoid financing.  It was a black 2000 Volkswagen Jetta.  It was beautiful and one of those 0 to 60 in ten second cars.  It would have been perfect for street racing, as it was the sport edition.  Of course, that wasn’t the plan.  The plan was to get my license in the spring.

A whole year passed without any attempt on my part to get my license.  The idea started filling me with dread.  How could I possibly drive while so incredibly medicated?  I had just started treatment that year, and I was foggy most of the time.  I couldn’t focus on a task for more than a few minutes at a time.  Driving seemed to be an impossible task that had become far out of my reach.

Then, it happened.  The car that I had paid in full was totalled in an accident with Xan.  I was devastated.  It was my very first car, and we had hardly seen more than a year with it.  I was supposed to learn how to drive with that car.  It was compact and would have been perfect for my needs as a driver.  But, no more.  The car was completely gone.

For awhile, we borrowed my MIL’s car.  I refused to begin learning on that car.  It didn’t matter, because fall was coming.  I was beyond hesitant to start to learn how to drive in inclimate weather.  The car didn’t feel entirely safe, and I was too nervous about the possibility of getting into an accident with it.  It would have been different if it was the Jetta.

That car died too.  It died up on a rack during an inspection, just a few months after we borrowed it.  It turns out that the undercarriage was completely rusted out.  The car was in such bad shape that we didn’t even get charged for the failed inspection.  Instead, the mechanic told Xan to get the car out of there, and get rid of it as fast as he could.

We were at the lot that day.  The problem with the car was that it wasn’t even ours.  There was no possible way we could trade in the car, even with the express permission of the owner.  Instead, we had to eat the entire cost of a down payment. It seemed that there wouldn’t be yet another Christmas in the Stark household.

We drove off of the lot in another dream car, a 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser.  My driver’s education teacher in high school owned a different years when they were brand new.  I had always admired that car.  It cost the same as the other, lesser cars in the lot.  I’m not a fan of Chevy’s and that’s all they wanted to give us.  But, I didn’t really want to buy another car.  I wanted the Jetta back.  But that was impossible.  It was wrecked beyond repair, with a bent frame and the entire driver’s side crushed in.

Almost another year has passed, and I still haven’t learned how to drive.  This time, it wasn’t for lack of a car.  It wasn’t a person standing in my way.  In fact, Xan has been more than supportive in this endeavor.  It is me standing in my own way.

I still don’t have my permit.  And every time I think about the possibility of getting it, I cringe.  I’m on so many medications, and most of the time, I’m falling asleep in the car anymore.  I’m so nervous that I can’t concentrate.  Even just imagining driving fills me with anxiety.

I’m Lulu, I’m in my late 20’s, and I can’t drive.

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6 thoughts on “The Friday Confessional : Always a Passenger

  1. my daughter has never gotten her driver’s license. I tried to teach her, but her fear of crashing was so great, I could never get her to go over 20 miles an hour. She was a traffic hazard. There are a lot of small roads to teach he but here, there are hardly any speed limit signs and cars go fast down those little roads. She has avoided it this long (26). Her husband claimed that she had to have her license before they got married but that didn’t happen. He has tried once or twice to teach her. But now they live in a big city and I don’t really want her learning there anyway. She hates being dependant on her boss t otake her home from work, but she just can’t seem to get over the fear. She is an absent minded person with a temper on her so I am kind of glad. I don’t know if she is really capable mental wise to think about all of the things at one time that it requires. I of course have been blamed for being too lazy of a monther to teach her by other frineds moms. But I taught my son to drive rather easilly at 16, He was the opposite, and not a bit afraid. He ended up wrecking quite a few times and rebuilding cars until he learned how to keep a good car.
    I was lucky to have a driving instructor. I say lucky but the bad thing about that is that you have to sit in the back seat while other learners take their chance lol. It was scary at times. I wish that we had one here that could have taught my daughter.

    • It makes me feel less pathetic that I’m not alone. I’m not much older than your daughter (surprise!), and I have a lot of the same issues with driving. I am absentminded. I forgot to make my husband the obligatory cup of coffee, while I did remember to make my BIL (our new roommate) the lunch I forgot to make over the last two days. I have a temper too, and I have passenger road rage as it is.

      I know these are excuses. I know they are. But, they scare the bejeezus out of me. I hate being dependent. I do. But, I feel like it’s safer for my family if I weren’t behind the wheel.

      Maybe I should just pay for a driving instructor in the spring.

  2. I think waiting until you are ready is the right decision. My grandfather’s wife waited until she was in her 50s to get her license. They lived in NYC for most of their lives, and there was no need for a car. Good luck when you decide to get your license! I’m sure you’ll be a more conscious driver for it, and much better at driving than some of the people I encounter on the road during my daily commute!

    • Thanks for your kind words. Here in Pittsburgh, it wasn’t necessary, because we used to have a great public transit system. Now, not so much. And I’m living on a more rural area. It’s becoming a need, but you’re right. I need to wait until I’m ready.

  3. I learned via driving instructor – less stressful than family/friends teaching, I think.

    Also, driving isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Sure, it’s convenient, but I’d rather rely on a good public transit system.

    Not to add another layer to your fire, but I have developed a fair number of driving-related triggers. At the peak of my depression, my thoughts turned to crashing the car to make a suicide look like an accident, so now I relive those thought every time I drive. Not fun.

    • Reckless driving is another fear I have. I am nervous that I’ll impulsively jump in the car while I’m upset and end up doing something like you described. Or worse, I’ll just end up wrecking the car into someone else and have a lawsuit on my hands on top of a totalled car.

      I feel like it’s just way too much. Maybe I’ll get to a place, hopefully a mania free place, where I’ll be able to do it. But for now, I just don’t know if it’s possible.

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