We all have “things.” Things that scare us. Things that are easy for most people but hard for us. Things that make us grow if we can JUST get past them. Phobias. Fears. Unreasonable things that terrify us. For me, this always was driving.
I think I was about 20 when I got my driver’s license. I was not one of those kids who couldn’t wait for the freedom that having a license came with. The thought of driving on the road in a CAR with actual other PEOPLE on the road scared me. What if I got in an accident? What if I was a bad driver who everyone honked at? What if I got lost or had to actually parallel park?
Getting my license was a nightmare, as the guy assigned to my fate at the DMV immediately rolled down the windows in my car and turned the AC off in the 90 degree heat. He was hacking phlegm out the passenger side of the car .. No joke. He wasn’t very nice. He was really gruff and he yelled a lot. By the time the test was over, I was a ball of stress. He said I’d passed and he got out of the car and I started to cry hysterically.
Little things like getting gas, going through drive thrus, and parking caused me anxiety. I got nervous if other people were in my car or watching me drive. It wasn’t something I could explain, but my heart rate would race every time these things occurred. And there were two things I absolutely would not do .. Drive downtown and drive on the freeway. I let so many opportunities pass me by because of this fear, as this was long before Uber or Lyft. People thought it was silly, and I did too. But I couldn’t will myself to change things.
At some point, the best invention ever was at my fingertips and it solved so many of my problems. GPS was the anchor I’d needed all along, and it gave me freedom and bravery I’d never had before. It was then that I realized then that though driving scared me immensely, it hadn’t scared me as much as the fear of not knowing where to go or getting lost.
Who I am, in a nutshell, is a planner. I want to know every turn ahead. It drives my loved ones crazy but it calms the voices in my head to know as much of the unknown as I can and plan for every scanario. Just going with the flow was never my MO. It’s caused so much anxiety and stress over the years and it’s really hurt me at times. I’m learning now, maybe because as I get older I realize more and more what really matters, to do all the things that Elsa sang about. It’s time after so many years of a white knuckled grip to let that shit GO. Because it’s really not worth it to sweat the small stuff.
I was the girl who was always the shy one who hated to speak up in class. And now, I’m the girl that stands in front of groups of people and tells them what to do. And they LISTEN. I’m the girl who still doubts her knowledge despite the training and experience that reflect it, and even as my nerves get stuck in my throat, I will speak up. Fake it until you make it, they say, but it’s not fake. It’s just the confidence needs to shine through and to to stop holding me back. It’s the same story as it was with the driving. I could park, I could drive, I could do hard things. I just needed to have faith in myself to go place. I finally learned how to take my foot off the brake and let it fall to the gas. There’s no looking back.
These days, I drive on the freeways and it’s liberating. People take it for granted when they drive everywhere without fear, but I feel proud of myself every time I get out there. I say to myself “look at you, doing all the grown up things.” It’s not such a hard thing. But facing your fear, ANY fear, whether it’s taming wild lions or leaving your house, is a hard thing. And we should celebrate every step we get past that.
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