How I overcame my fear of driving.
Where it all began.
I've always had a fear of driving when I was a kid. I remember when my parents were dropping me off to my grandmother's house, and we ended up almost getting hit by a car. My dad swerved out of the way and we spun around, feeling myself lift up out the seat and hit my nose on the side of the window. Suffice it to say, that put a big fear of driving right in my head. It affected me all through high school, as I watched everyone else getting their learner's permits, and some even got their driver's license. It probably didn't help that my mother absolutely forbid me from driving,and the very mention of it ended up turning into a dramatic soap opera straight out of Days Of Our Lives.
My usual routine for the week consisted of waking up, watching t.v, going to work, coming home to play video games and then going to bed. Wash, rinse, repeat, for about 8 months straight. It was fun for what it was, but it got old very quickly. I wasn't satisfied with just using the days off I had to play Xbox all day. I was well within my 20s and still asking my mother and father to take me places, like I was some kind of lazy person who had a Peter Pan complex. I needed to grow up. I couldn't coast my way through life with a fear of getting behind the wheel and exploring what is out there in life.
Get out there and drive!Click thumbnail to view full-size
1. Practice makes perfect.
One day I asked my father if he could teach me how to drive. My mother objected and went on a tangent about not wanting me to drive around the city because it was too dangerous. But we all have to get around the world somehow. As much as the image of me being in my 40s and having my father chauffeur me around town would be amusing, I'd much rather learn myself. My father would take me to the parking lot of our high school and teach me the driving basics: parking, watching for others, speeding up, slowing down. I was still learning and I had a lot of anxiety. My body felt really tense, but my father talked me down and helped me relax. It was a tiny step, but it was one step closer to me getting comfortable with driving. The more I drove, the more comfortable I was getting behind the wheel.
2. Support from my friends and family.
Having a good support system can really push you to get over your fear and conquer it. This happened with a strong push from one of my assistant mangers and his wife. After I told him how old I was and that I didn't have my license yet, he pulled me aside, sat me down in the office and gave me this tidbit of advice. See, I work retail and we're not in the most glamorous of locations. There's locks on our bathroom doors, locks on some of the items in our store and "questionable"clientele that berate you for moving too slow. On payday when we're located right next to a bank. He made me think of all the "clientele"that come to our store and how many of them were driving with licenses. Which to that point made it very clear that with me having all my teeth, moral decency for people around me and an education, there was no excuse for me to not have my driver's license.
Another driving factor came from talking to my friends on Xbox Live and Facebook. Some of them also had a fear of driving, but they helped talk me into venturing out further in life and to explore what it has to offer. They helped convince me that the fear was in my head, and that the more I drove the less scared I would be. I would tell them how far I got, and they would commend me for getting that fear out of my head and facing it head on.
3. Using my fear to my advantage.
It never occurred to me to use the thing I was scared of as a factor to help me drive better, until I took a course for driving so I could get my license. I distinctly remember that piece of advice that my instructor gave us that day, besides sitting through the obligatory film about driving safety and all that other good stuff. The thing in which we fear the most can also be used as a focus point for ourselves. When I get in my car I turn my phone off, turn on the radio at a suitable level that doesn't sound like a symphony going on in my car, and my eyes are constantly fixated on the road and mirrors. I take a deep breath, examine the area around me and just drive.
I often get from other people that I can drive over the speed limit or that I can even turn on some red lights, but they have their driving style and I have mine. The style that doesn't get me in trouble with the law and play "assemble the car"with parts I didn't even know existed on a car. My fear of driving is what keeps me safe and double check cross walks when there are people around. It keeps me from speeding through a yellow light that may or may not turn red and result in hazardous consequences.
To drive or not to drive
Have you ever been afraid to drive?
Alternatives to driving.
Just because you have to get around in the world doesn't mean you have to do it by driving. There's other alternatives out there, and some of them are actually much greener. These are just a few examples that I know, but there's much more out there that you can explore.
- Biking your way to work or to home is a great way to travel around. Besides, is it really all that fun being stuck in traffic in 100 degree weather, when your car feels like an oven? As a bonus, you save money from having to buy gas and all that other "perks"that come with owning a car.
- Bus transportation is another good way to travel around. Granted, sometimes the bus has a slew of what I call "interesting"people, but it does make for some good conversations. Sometimes sitting next to someone and talking about ducks is more fun than driving by yourself. Speaking of driving....
- Carpool! Got a friend with a license? Ride with them for a little while and just travel. Your friend might also help give you some driving lessons at the same time. Just make sure to chip in for gas and snacks. No one wants to feel like a cheap taxi service.
Fear is an illusion of the mind.
You can do it.
Don't think that your fear is going to rule you forever. Even if you never get behind the wheel of a car, it's ok. No one can judge you for your actions, and thus you shouldn't worry about it. Over time you will be out there driving with the best of them. That feeling you get when you go to your favorite store all by yourself? It feels pretty dang awesome. Feel free to even do a little dance. Just do it on the inside, or the outside, I won't be judging you.