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Four Gears to Freedom
By Irene Palmer
It all began when I was sixteen; I had dropped hints and even broke down to begging at one point for my father to buy me a car. My dad, like most, wanted to make sure I had the best little car that a minimal budget could afford. After what seemed like ages my father finally settled on a a little sporty Honda, Civic. I begged my dad to take me out and teach me how to drive my new symbol of freedom; unfortunately my father was a hard worker and didn’t have much time to teach me how to drive my Honda.
So, my mom took over and began to teach me how to drive her minivan which happened to be an automatic. For the next three years my poor little car sat there, waiting on me. I used my mother’s car for basic transportation and began neglecting the item I had spent almost four months working for; my once prized possession became my most neglected one. After some unfortunate mishaps, and my long break from practicing my driving, I realized I had this fear of fine tuning my skills and actually driving a stick shift on a day- to- day basis. I knew all the basic mechanics of driving my stick shift but always failed at the execution. I soon realized due to previous experience and a small incident of miss judgment that overcoming fear is the most vital step in learning how to drive stick shift.
When looking back to those precious moments my father actually spent with me, teaching me the basics of my new stick shift vehicle, I realize now the basic mechanics were simple. In my car, there were only four gears and reverse. Instead of a single gas pedal, it is accompanied by a second pedal called a clutch. For some this can be a bit tricky, especially if you are a clueless teenage girl in flip-flops. When switching gears you are required to release the clutch and press on the gas in a fluid motion. Once getting the hang of this fluid motion all you need is practice. It wasn’t until a few years later did I realize that my dad failed to mention the one factor that actually hindered me from successfully learning how to drive my hard earned vehicle, fear.
Jump ahead to the summer of 2006; I had recently moved to beautiful central Oregon to attend their local community college. I was raised in the valley where I had grown accustomed to the gray, mundane and rainy existence. Central Oregon was so surreal, It was as if I had entered a world of constant sunshine. It was my first day of work at the local Safeway, I had my favorite sunglasses on, Bob Marley’s One Love blasting from my roommates newly purchased little Toyota truck, which was a stick shift. I was driving her truck when I had no clue what I was doing, and not to mention I was cheating on my little Honda waiting patiently to be driven, I had no idea! However, nothing could ruin my newly found freedom, or could it? Enter what I like to call, the hill of doom.
On one of the main intersections stretches a long, steep hill. At the top of this hill sits the traffic light that allows you to either proceed up the hill across the street or turn, still up hill, onto the main beltway. I had driven the whole way to this point without faltering; I was idling on the hill waiting for my light to turn green. The light changes, I slid my foot from the break onto the gas pedal and fearlessly released the clutch. Instead of smoothly moving onward, I began to slide back. I looked back and saw myself rolling back into the truck behind me. I immediately slammed on the brake and time froze. I thought to myself, if I let go of the brake in going to crash but if I don’t let go I will never move and traffic will be stuck behind me indefinitely at the red light, or until someone comes and saves me from myself. My Fear kept ringing in my ears taunting me, telling me not to let go of the break, to submit and give up.
Slowly people begin to realize that I am not moving and impatiently begin to lay on their horns in protest to my current predicament. I begin to release the break again just to swiftly return my foot when my vehicle jolted back almost crashing into the poor mans bumper who innocently lay behind me. The honking gets louder and it was at this moment I had to overcome my fear or I would lose! I took a deep breath and slammed my foot on the gas. The truck began to lurch forward in an angry protest to my stupidity but luckily gave in and moved up the hill! I let out a “whoop!” in triumph and proceeded with my day. After that incident and my close call with the hill of doom, I realized it wasn’t my fathers lack of teaching of skill;, it was my fear that had hindered me from succeeding in the past. This is why my little car sat patiently waiting for me to jump in the driver seat and begin experiencing the world with me.
That following week I returned to the valley to pick up the rest of my things, but instead of riding back to my new home with my roommate, this time I dusted the dirt of my shiny little gold Honda and finally experienced what I had been missing for the past few years; the pride and payoff of all my hard work from so many summers ago. After all this time it wasn’t my faltering knowledge of the mechanical aspects that kept my little car going; it was knowing that I had no more fear of failing.With my fear defeated and my new found confidence illuminating me, I drove off into the sunset, stick shift and all.