|Photo of me in Blacksburg before hopping back in the car for the return trip|
It’s a universally known fact among my close friends and family that I drive like a grandma. In fact, my dad likes to joke that I am a nervous chicken when it comes to driving, in stark contrast to my younger brother who drives like a daredevil. I have major driving PTSD because I was involved in a car accident that totaled both cars back when I was in middle school and have been nervous about cars ever since – even as a passenger or pedestrian. This means I often walk briskly or run across the street even at crosswalks, both to avoid becoming road kill and because nobody ever wants to be that person who takes their good ol’ time, obliviously crossing the street completely unaware or unconcerned about cars trying to speed through before the traffic light turns red.
My dad took a year-long break from giving me driving lessons when I was in high school because I was so afraid behind the wheel that he was fearful for his own safety as I frightfully inched the car at 20 miles an hour through my quiet middle-school parking lot and neighborhood, learning the basics of making right and left turns. So, after college when I accepted a job an hour’s drive away from home, I think we were all a little worried. But I needed the daily practice, and in about six months’ time making that hour-long journey each way, I was comfortable enough to change lanes once or twice a week, sometimes mustering enough courage to pass a slow, right-lane driver. A year after that, I was brave enough to conquer Route 66 during the morning commute. Three and a half years after starting that job, I inexplicably volunteered to pick up my brother from Blacksburg, Virginia, a town in the middle of nowhere – twice the longest journey I had ever driven from home. That was an expedition that tested my bravery as my sweaty hands clutched the steering wheel, hoping the cliff views – much too uncomfortably close to my right-lane situation – would soon be out of sight so I could relax my tense muscles. Even I can’t believe my parents let me do that.
Very seldom would I ever volunteer to drive anywhere, but if I do it’s for one of two reasons: 1) because I don’t trust the other passenger to transport me anywhere safely, or 2) because I recognize the opportunity as one for which I need to push myself out of my proverbial comfort zone. After all, driving and navigating highways are facts of life, and fears I need to conquer. It’s just like tackling that tough new work project that secretly intimidates the crap out of you, or making that big career leap that will lead to better long-term prospects.
“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William G.T. Shedd.