As a young teen, one of our greatest moments growing up is learning how to drive. Driving is a rite of passage that signifies freedom through the ability of being able to maneuver a vehicle and get from one point to another. Learning to drive is considered a life skill because its associated with living a better quality of life, through the fact that it is a useful aspect in one’s daily life. Driving provides independence and a social life that no longer consist of relying on parents to take us to a destination or worry about the fact that there is a specific pick up time. As young adults looking forward to driving is a moment filled with excitement as it represents a leap towards adulthood. At the age of 17 as I was learning to drive I faced my greatest mental obstacle being fear and self-doubt.
There was a certain eagerness that took over me when I thought of myself behind the wheel. I always imagined driving and taking long trips with the window rolled down as I felt the rapid breeze press against my face and smelled the freshness in the air. This thought always made me enthusiastic towards when the actual time would come. To me, driving meant arriving at my doctor’s appointments on time and having the ability to go out with no parental complain over me. I knew from driving would come a sense of maturity that meant responsibility and decision making. The excitement and expectations I had built up as I got closer to when my parents would finally tell me the one sentence I waited for being, “it’s time for you to learn.”
When my parents finally believed I was ready my mom had driven me out to an empty street at precisely 8:00 a.m. At this point, I was wishing it was earlier so I wouldn’t intersect with any cars coming my way. As my mom gets off the car to switch seats, I got off and speeded around the car feeling happy, but intensely scared. The time had finally come I thought, as my mom began to explain the gas and break. When I began to move the car slowly, I thought of driving like a simple game that had rules to be followed in order to maneuver it correctly. I have been driving for approximately 20 mins now in the slowest pace ever as I began to acquire a general sense of how to control the car.
I approached an intersection and came to a stop until the light switched green, I pressed the gas suddenly as the car screeched with the sudden speed. As i lost control of the car, my mom next to me is shouting out to stop the car as we flew forward. I pressed on the break as quickly and hard as I could as we were inches away from crashing into a pole. That thrilled feeling that grew over the last months had vanished and turned into fear. I could feel sweat dripping down my forehead as my body became cold and began to shake unbelievably. When my mind finally caught up with my body, inner thoughts were racing through my mind stating, “I can’t do it” and “I wasn’t ready.”
When my mom and I finally got over our shock and acted upon the situation, I immediately got off the car. At this moment I thought I would never want to drive again, as I heard my mom continuously telling me to keep going. I found it more accessible and much safer to allow my parents to drive me from forward on. In this chaotic moment, I had lost all interest in driving, and no longer believed I was capable of doing so. As my mom finally took over the car and pulled us out of the mess we were in, my mom’s lecture on our way home simply just crossed my mind as I felt guilty. This “I can’t do it” state of mind took over me for the next to months as I refused not to ever drive. A day finally came when I had no choice other than to drive since my sister needed medical attention. This emergency led me to step out on the road not thinking twice about my fear and my past experience.
As a current driver today, I can say I am cautious every second I’m on the road. The fear ultimately grew smaller, but I realized there is still a small thought sitting in the back of my mind that will always remain there. Being a new driver, means I have the ability to go out on my own as I’ve gained a bit of insight into what adulthood consists of. I now have the freedom to be able to take myself where ever I want, as I’ve reached a point where I am dependent enough to acknowledge what can lie ahead and how I can take action. I’ve come to learn from my mistakes and turn my mindset and perspective around to be able to approach further situations.
Every day we encounter fears whether they are good or bad. For many, it is the fear of starting college and being in a new environment that is relatively new to us. There is the fear of starting a new job, fear of thinking you aren’t as good enough, the fear of trying something new, fear of not succeeding, as for me it became the fear of driving. With fear comes self-doubt as we begin to questions our abilities and potential. Fear is a natural and profound emotion for a human being; it is an uncontrollable reaction that can become one of our most significant obstacles. It is impossible to say one is never going to be scared or uncomfortable because everyone at least has one fear in mind. With this being said no one is alone when it comes to feeling afraid. We can turn this mechanism into a positive or negative thing where we can try to avoid it leading us nowhere or we can try to get past it. Fear is a noncompliant emotion that we must come to embrace and ultimately accept because putting it behind us means reaching a bigger goal and knowing that it is normal to feel discomfort.
Being afraid of our fears and what it can lead us to should be a daily reminder that it shouldn’t define a person nor stop one from wanting to experience more. Getting rid of the “I can’t do it” mindset and evaluating yourself and how fear can be holding you back can play a significant role in one’s life. Flipping the “cant” thought can come with rewards or life lessons, but one can never find out if one doesn’t directly go for it. With risk comes the fear that makes up life and learning and achieving greater things. Without taking those risks, we can’t achieve much more than what is within our comfort zone. Be prepared to overcome that obstacle behind your mind that is going to want to stop you. Come to learn your strengths and weaknesses and accept that you can either face successes or failure, but you will be overcoming the barrier of fear. As we are in control of how we deal with our feelings, give yourself a chance to feel fear and realize that its nothing more than an emotional state that you can allow yourself to let go of and pass.
As I reflect back on the fear I had of driving and my constant fears today I challenge myself daily to step out of my comfort zone one way or another. Like the road, life is filled with surprises and situations you might never see coming, but won’t ever encounter if you don’t put yourself out there. Self-doubt and fear can be troubling in our future choices simply because we are afraid of change. This mindset can hold you back from life as lead you to not take on opportunities or new challenges coming your way. I now focus more on what I could gain from trying new things and what could go right instead of letting fear dominate and persuade my thoughts as I worry about what could go wrong. Putting this in terms of my driving experience, my worst case scenario was I almost hit a pole but gained much more because I view it in how I was able to achieve this newly found freedom that I would have never discovered if I continued to let fear and doubt drive my actions. Get rid of that inner doubter, and don’t let yourself fear what can come from attempt and evolving as a person through taking a chance and exposing yourself to new things in life.