When I got my drivers license, my parents were surprised. I was, as you can imagine, a bit offended.
"Tim told us he didn't think you'd pass on the first try," my mom explained.
Tim was my driving instructor. And, apparently, a total asshole.
Maybe that’s not fair. I've never performed well under pressure, especially in front of an authority figure. I don’t rise to the occasion, no, instead I get very anxious and worry about not doing everything perfectly. Which. OK. That's ridiculous, right? I can’t remember the last time I did anything perfectly. But that doesn’t stop me from worrying. OBVIOUSLY. I worry so much about not doing something perfectly that instead I do it horribly, which is what I was worrying about in the first place.
Note: this does not apply to tests. I kick ass at taking tests. But things like giving speeches or performing at a piano recital? These things make me want to poop my pants. Also, I don't play piano so that might be part of the problem. Obviously, I can do things like taking tests without anyone watching, whereas if I'm giving a speech, um, duh, everyone is watching.
So, yeah, back to Tim, my asshole driving instructor who wasn’t really an asshole. He was actually very patient, as all driving instructors should be, and I can't say that I made the greatest impression during my first driving lesson.
I'd already started taking the official driving classes (the ones where you sit in a classroom and watch terribly sad videos about what happens when you drink and drive...I imagine now they also include terribly sad videos about what happens when you drive and text) and my dad had taken me out driving a few times in parking lots and such, so I was familiar with things like, oh, turning the key in the ignition and putting on my seatbelt. And, aside from the time I mixed up drive and reverse and drove onto a sidewalk instead of backing out of a parking spot, I'd done fairly well. Still, I’d never driven on an actual road with, like, other cars and stuff.
With Tim, though, we were going to be driving on real roads RIGHT AWAY. I was so nervous. Why couldn’t we just drive in circles around a parking lot for a couple hours? You know? Just to warm up! Alas, no, Tim wanted to turn me into a responsible driver, not someone who could execute beautiful figure eights in front of a deserted Best Buy.
Everything went well at first. I successfully pulled the car out of the driveway and out onto a main road. Things started going downhill when I realized there were all these other cars on the road with us! What if I hit one?! I started to feel a little vomity. Then we approached a red light and, in my terror, I asked, "um...do I have to stop?"
Now. Tim's reaction (a patient YES) was pretty good. He didn't make any snide remarks, he didn't DUH me, and he didn't do what I would have done, which was yell, "YES YOU HAVE TO FUCKING STOP, PULL OVER RIGHT THE HELL NOW."
[sidenote: this is why I'm not a driving instructor DUH]
Not my finest moment NOT EVEN A LITTLE. I didn't fare much better with maneuverability, annihilating cone after cone, because it just seemed like nonsense to me. I’d nod and smile as Tim explained what I needed to do, but in my head, I was all, “Stop talking crazy, you crazy car sorcerer! Take your dark magic out of my face!”
I feel like we don’t even need to talk about driving on the highway for the first time, right? I mean, it was basically this:
I wish I performed better under pressure. I’m not sure how to fix it or if it’s something that’s even fixable. Some people thrive under pressure and some don’t, yeah? Some like conflict (oh, I’m sure of it) and some, like me, avoid conflict at all costs because WHY WOULD ANYONE LIKE CONFLICT?
I do wish I could make myself stop worrying so much about fucking up in these situations, because it feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m afraid I’ll fuck up, so I do. It’s not even that I’m not confident I can do these things, it’s that once I’m in the moment, I start doubting everything I’ve ever learned.
For instance, on the last day of middle school, I forgot the combination to my locker. The combination I’d been using all year. It was just gone. I told the janitor that my locker was stuck so he would open it for me. Now I feel like maybe the pressure of high school was starting to loom over me, causing me to fuck up before I’d even started.
Or, you know, I had brain damage.
Now, 13 years later, I can totally see why Tim didn't think I would pass my driving test on the first try. I could barely control a locker, let alone a car. Still. It hurt. And I'm glad I didn't know about it before I took my test, otherwise I probably would have psyched myself out and not passed. But pass I did, and with (almost) flying colors. Conveniently, I didn't have to drive on a road with any stoplights, so that probably helped.