Awkward Driver

This morning I operated a vehicle for the first time in four years. The first thing that struck me, besides the fact my husband’s Lexus 330-series has extremely touchy breaks, was the fact that this bizarre activity—navigating a multiton metallic apparatus down the road, occasionally at speeds man was not designed to travel—is actually something very few people think about. This being something much of the world does for occasionally hours daily, it shouldn’t have surprised me that it took three days of persistent nagging to convince one of my closest friends about the state of my driving ability, but it did. But considering that this is a skill that, for people of my age group, is about as intrinsic as the ability to read, perhaps it shouldn’t have.

Operating a car has never mattered that much to me. I didn’t bother to get my driver’s license right away when I turned sixteen—I waited nearly a year and a half, in fact, until just before I’d graduated high school, to even get my learner’s permit, and then promptly embarked on my first series of jaunts back and forth across the pond before bothering to cement my legal ability to operate a car on my own. A strange series of events at the end of the summer, which commenced the morning of the day I moved to Texas for college on a routine trip to Rite-Aid, resulted in a tap on the right headlight by the left taillight of my Jeep Cherokee and ended in my license being suspended for two years. But it didn’t matter—I didn’t have a car in Texas anyway. Princess Charlotte was about to become my brother’s.

Even after the suspense was lifted, my driving-illiterate status still didn’t abate. To this day I probably have the equivalent of two months’ driving experience. I’ve never driven on an Interstate, though I lived next to one for four years. So yesterday, when my husband suggested I take his car to the meeting I’d scheduled for this morning at the School of Social Work downtown, I spent the next half hour trying to convince him what a bad idea it was to let me drive his car.

Of course, now that I reflect on it, I’m seeing something else in this. Considering it’s almost entirely impossible to get around Texas, particularly smaller cities like Waco, without a car, it wouldn’t be entirely amiss to state that somewhere along the way, I resigned myself to immobility. I never seriously pursued getting a car—it always seemed beyond my reach. And I suppose one could say that it’s hurting me now that I’ve joined the ranks of the many thousands of college graduates who have graduated without a job already lined up. Many of you who are reading this are also probably monologuing with yourself on the subject, but what do I DO with my life?!, so I won’t bore you with my version of that. But what struck me yesterday, after the frustration with both my husband and myself over the subject of my driving had abated, was how stuck I feel in this case—as though the literal fact of my immobility is a metaphor for the present state of my direction.

Though I’ve attempted to blame others for my state at times, I’m acutely aware of the fact that my driving illiteracy is largely my fault. I never took it seriously when I had the chance, and when I wanted to, it was too late. The main thing my having driven myself to my meeting this morning says, in other words, is that maybe now I’m starting to care again. For all the attention and work I poured into my intellectual pursuits over the past years, I neglected a basic, foundational thing. It takes a minute of serious thinking before you realize that, wow, this really is like being illiterate. So what now? Well, if I’m going to continue living in Texas, I suppose I should try driving in the Interstate.

Truthfully, I don’t know at this point whether I’ll continue living in Texas. Luke and I made a wager before we got married, which still stands, that on account of our impasse on where to relocate and for whom, we would move after he finishes his commissioning internship on the stadium to wherever which of us got the best job offer first. At the moment, it’s looking like we’ll end up on the East Coast, but that may change. There are no plans. Those who wish to inquire about them will be referred to this blog entry.

I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life. It takes a good deal of active mental energy to fight my instinct to plan it. My plans have a solid track record of being shattered spectacularly right when I need them to crystallize, which, now that it’s happened three times with my career trajectory and twice in other areas, I’m beginning to think might be of divine fabrication. But that, of course, leads me back to the revelation I had about my driving: having spent so much time and energy on higher pursuits, I neglected a foundational skill. This shouldn’t have to be a lesson I learn twice, but it will be a daily battle to make sure my career and my marriage don’t take the places of my education and my driving ability.

I’m just thankful my husband is as patient as his car.

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