Baby I Can Drive My Car

It feels like it has been a long week. Although the weekend promises more work squeezed into spare moments and crazy rushing around in the other moments, it’s still nice to have Friday night as a kind of mental full-stop.
Today I drove out to visit my dear friend Anne for lunch and long chats while Amelia destroyed delicate lego set-ups around her house. I felt very bad and could just imagine Anne’s 8 year old son’s frustration upon arriving home to be told that a three year old had pillaged his Viking set-up. Sorry Raff!

The most amazing thing about today was that I drove to Anne’s house. It probably only took me around 25 minutes or so, but for some reason that drive has been a psychological hurdle for me ever since I started learning how to drive. It was probably because I was spending a lot of time with Anne when I first started thinking about driving and how at the age of 29 I still couldn’t do it (that was now a big 4 years ago!) and to get out to her place always felt like something I should be doing with ease, and just wasn’t. I still had a great deal of apprehension this morning, and almost called her to cancel because I felt a little tired, but I didn’t and believe it or not, we got there! And I almost even enjoyed the journey home.

I am telling you this because a few people have written to me over the last couple of years who are, like me, late bloomers when it comes to road-worthiness. I want to tell you that now, after all that driving drama (1, 2, 3 and 4) that went on for so long, I find that I am one of those people who occasionally arrives at a destination and have been so preoccupied by other thoughts I can’t remember how I actually got there… most days I play the radio really loudly and sing along and laugh at dj’s jokes when I used to have to drive in dead silence with absolutely no one talking… I even occasionally think it might be nice just to keep driving because I am playing a good cd and Amelia is asleep in the backseat… I can drive to places I have never driven to before without a practice session… I can sometimes drive somewhere without sussing out where the best parking might be before hand… and I can do naughty things like eat a chocolate bar while I am driving out of the supermarket parking lot. These are all things I would never, ever ever have imagined I would ever be relaxed enough to do. And here I am doing it. I still suprise myself.

There are still things I don’t do – I haven’t really driven at night yet (apart from one scary session with my mum where I mounted the curb as I went around the corner and then almost took our mail box off the fence), I can’t back into a park, I will drive the long way rather than take the freeway, and I have no idea how to parallel park but these things are kind of trivial when the basic fact is I CAN DRIVE and I never thought I would.

If you don’t drive and are looking for the final word – I strongly advise booking a series of professional lessons – it’s so much easier than with someone you know.

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43 Responses

  1. says:

    Isn’t it a fantastic feeling to do something you never thought you could. I used to think only maniacs road a bike in London. Four years on and I’m one of those maniacs – sometimes things are easier than you think they will be.

  2. says:

    Hi Clare, I am also a late bloomer when it comes to driving, 32 and having lessons with a drive school! It’s SOOOO much LESS stressful than going with my husband, who makes me nervous by clinging to his seat and pumping his foot on his imaginary brake pedal on the passenger side… Bless him! I just hope I get the guts up to do the test before I give birth to my first baby in February!! ;0)

  3. says:

    Thanks Claire, this is so timely. I have my third driving test on Monday. It’s taken me two years to get this far (I’m 33) from a stage of absolute terror to mild acceptance. Anyway, fingers crossed for Monday …

  4. Hi – I’ve been dipping into your journal for ages and I just wanted to thank you for this particular post. I’m 28 and I’m only just thinking about getting my licence (at last), so this really seemed to speak to me. You make me feel a little more confident about it all. πŸ˜€

  5. I took my licence years ago (I actually learned how to drive in Britain, on the left, which is kind of amusing since I live in Denmark now and only drove on the left during my lessons (and test, fortunately), but I’m still not driving – too many years without any practise at all, nightmares about not being able to control the car… I feel so stupid when my boyfriend asks me if I want to drive and I say “No, not really…” I have to get on with it. Thanks for being a good example for chickens everywhere! πŸ™‚

  6. i didn’t learn how to drive until i was 38 and didn’t drive regularly until i was 40. but like you, i’ve turned that corner, where i’m not white knucked at the wheel, insisting on absolute silence when i drive. i do drive on the freeway and at night (i have no choice — although i hate it). it really opens up a whole new world, doesn’t it.

  7. Dear Claire, This post came at just the right time for me. Thank you! I really needed to hear these words. If I could drive I could do so much more than I currently do. I could come and visit you and Christina! But then I would have to drive over the West Gate Bridge!AHH! Have you done that yet?

  8. My husband’s almost 44 and he hasn’t yet learned how to drive. I’m grateful in a way because he doesn’t have to unlearn English road laws in order to learn American ones. But he’s taking his time gathering up the courage to take the lessons, and it’s driving me nuts!!

  9. this is just the kind of post i needed to read! just the thought of being in the drivers seat terrifies me, and makes my stomach churn. not only am i happy to see that i’m not the only one, but i’m very happy to see that there’s hope for us!
    thanks, claire.

  10. says:

    Thanks for talking about this, Claire. I passed my test fine at 16, and all was well until about 9 years ago. Here at 41, I am back to square one, and have made the decision to visit a psychiatrist. It’s not just when I drive, I even get panicky being a passenger these days. You are a glimmer of hope on my horizon …

  11. thank you for that.
    i really needed to hear it.

  12. I was a late bloomer, too. I used to think I was *the only one* who didn’t know how to drive at the age of 26. It was my dark little secret.I was working at a job that wanted me to go on a training that was in New York with two of my coworkers. Since they were under 25, they couldn’t rent a car…so I would have to drive.
    Well, three weeks later I’m driving them around in a rental car on strange roads in the middle of New York state…and were none the wiser. The push to avoid the humiliation of them knowing I didn’t know how to drive was reason enough for me to learn.
    Now, it’s wonderful to hear of others who are or were in a somewhat similar situation. Thanks for sharing and it will get so much easier and easier with each psychological block you jump. You go, Girl!

  13. thank you for that post claire! i didn’t get my driver’s liscence until last year at age 26. now i’ve owned a car for a year and it still seems like a “new thing” for me to be driving. i like that. i like the joy and wonder that comes with self-transport and i hope it lasts a very long time.

  14. I’m 27, I passed my test nearly a year ago, and I look forward to one day, one day in the future, when I will drive somewhere on my own….it didn’t help my confidence that after I passed my test and had been out a few times, my husband informed me firmly that I was not to drive on the motorways until he decided I was safe to do so.

  15. Congratulations!! You deserve some Green & Black’s to celebrate. πŸ™‚

  16. my dad taught me to drive. He would sit with one hand on the hand brake, and one hand on the arm rest. It was very stressful! I’ve been drving for 5 years now, and i still dont like driving at night.
    They dont teach parallel parking, but they should because its a necessary thing (especially for women) since all the spots near the strips of shops on streets is parallel parking. You could book one lesson witha professional driver and they can teach you.

  17. says:

    My sister just got her licence too… Nothing too amazing in that you say… Except -she just turmed 70… She got it first go too!!! It has taken nearly 2 years of driving lessons both professional and otherwise but her determination paid off… She has been told that she is a very safe driver by the person who conducted the driving test… At the moment she is just driving locally but hopes to start branching out… She is not silly and knbows her limitations…If she is tireed or anxious she won’t take the car…

  18. says:

    Claire you shoud try driving at night – I actually find it easier in some ways. You can see other cars from a long distance due to head lights, which makes giving way easier in a way.Freeways are ok once you are on them, but the on/off ramps can be stressful. Take note of an easy on/off ramp when you are a passenger, and start with that section to practice.
    Well done on becomign a driver – it continues to get easier.

  19. says:

    Oh, my goodness! I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now, and feel I must finally comment. I have spent most of my adult life (I’m 29) avoiding driving. I’ve lived in a constant state of embarrassment about my fear of driving. I’m petrified by the thought that I might get into an accident. I even have a recurring nightmare that I am driving an out of control car!
    I’m also finally getting over it now that my husband and I share one car and have different work schedules. However, I think I shall always avoid the freeway, especially since we recently moved to the Los Angeles vicinity–just being a passenger around there is enough to give me sweaty palms!

    Anyway, thanks so much for your honesty. I don’t feel like a freak anymore!

  20. Hey Claire, I passed my driving test 4 years ago in Sydney, got better with practice in Perth and now I drive to work on the Anything Goes streets of Melbourne! I just laugh now when I end up on the kerb for no good reason. I think I’m doing alright, considering I was taught how to drive by my mother’s friend, a man who didn’t speak a lick of English and was mad about Spielberg movies. I had to learn how to drive in Chinese…!

  21. says:

    I didn’t drive until age 35…when I finally took the plunge! I had taken driver education maybe three times..I could have taught the class myself!! I had this phobia about the road test…afraid to parallel park…I think the officer giving the road test was having mercy on me… with THREE car seats (for a toddler plus twins)in the back seat of the…this woman NEEDS her license to get a break from the kiddies! :o)
    I still avoid parallel parking….

  22. So happy for you, Claire! And glad to see I’m not the only one who has this hurdle to get over. I’m 31 and haven’t driven in three years. Have my U.S. license but moved to Melbourne and have totally avoided getting my license here, especially since I hate driving in the first place! On the other side of the road and car in an unfamiliar setting..YIKES! I think 2006 may be the year to face my fear and at least take lessons!

  23. Wow… I thought I was in a teensy minority not driving at my age, but look at all these great comments! I’ll be 33 in a few weeks & am still yet to bite the driving bullet. So nice to read that it’s possible to be a normal driver after starting late (unlike the nervous, twitchy one I image I might be!) Thankyou – you give me hope! πŸ˜‰

  24. says:

    Hello,Formerly silent reader, fan, and driving enthusiast here — with a comment that it’s SO much easier to parallel park than you think! I’ll preface this by saying that I didn’t drive for a good 13 years before I got my current job, where it’s a necessity. And when I drove back in my 20’s, I’d go to any lengths to avoid parallel parking, EVER. But there’s a cool trick to it that works like a charm! Just line up your car’s side-view mirror to the side-view mirror of the car in front of the space you’re parking in (a few inches behind the mirror if the car is a giant SUV). Then, turn your steering wheel in the direction of the curb, as far as it’ll go. Back your car up until your side-view mirror is parallel with the back bumper of the car ahead of the parking space. Now turn the steering wheel all the way in the opposite direction of the curb, and back the rest of the way into the space! Seriously, the first time I did this after not driving for 13 years, it worked perfectly. And I was a nervous driver as well — now I think parallel parking is actually fun! But then again, I’m insane. Try it on a quiet suburban street sometime — good practicing ground! All the best to you — and I adore your site!

  25. Really understand your whole driving thing. I’ve driven since I was 17, but in Ohio, small town farm country roads with some small city driving in Cincinnati. It’s nothing compared to driving in and around NYC, where I live now. I let my husband do most of the driving here because I get so stressed out, but this weekend I have to do a 2-hour drive on my own upstate to take my dog to the lady who will watch her while we’re gone on vacation. I’ve been fretting about the drive for days, but know it will be ok. I’ll just go slow, steady and remain focused!

  26. Claire, I heart you. I have similar fears re. driving to the ones you described. But just recently I decided that I couldn’t let them impede my shopping prowess any longer, so I took the plunge and drive right through the heart of Zürich, trams, buses and all, and of cours eit was totally fine. Being able to drive opens up whole new vistas of possibilities, doesn’t it?

  27. Wow i liked reading this.. Im 38 (really old)and I dont drive..I can drive thou when we lived in melbourne i even went and got my learners and took lessons and when it came time to go for my license i back offed cause i got scared ..then when we lived on this little island i got a old car for 500 bux and drove all over the island (with no license) till i hit a tree well i scrapped the tree slightly when i was reversing out of the shops ..i had to ring my husband to come get me and i’ve never driven again now we are back on the gold coast and there is traffic everywhere..but i would love to drive to spotlight all by myself ..but the fear

  28. Wow, there are so many of us! Actually I had to take three tests before I passed. When I took the first one I really wasn’t ready, but my driving teacher wanted me to have a go at it before they started requiring theory tests in Britain (this was 1996, he wanted to save me the money, instead I spent more on doing extra tests + theory, sigh). The inspector guy had to use the breaks when I was turning right in a crossing, almost ending up in front of the cars crossing from the other side… I think that’s the reason I’m still scared of driving, actually being out of control and in a dangerous situation! I still regret that I didn’t yell at my crappy teacher… He yelled at me: “MORE gas! MORE gas to climb the hill!!” Haha πŸ™‚

  29. Hello! I just wanted to say congratulations on getting out there and driving. I love to drive (I drive a stick shift and learned in Chicago, which is a crazy city for driving). If you ever want a nice hard-and-fast rule for parallel parking, my driving teacher was great and I can give you the sort of 1-2-3 of it. That might help you. If you ever want to know. πŸ™‚ Otherwise, enjoy your driving! Roll down the windows! Feel the fresh air and delight in the open road and your sleeping daughter.

  30. Yes! Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been living in New York for so long now, where driving is a non-issue. I am about to move back to a smaller town where I am going to have to get over this fear once and for all. I really appreciate this post and the little details (like eating a chocolate bar while you drive!). i hope to get to that point some day…

  31. Amen!!! For a 26, that gives me hope because I had my licence urm, 7 years ago (or was it 8) and haven’t driven an inch…

  32. And people think I was a *late bloomer* at age 20. I finally got my license at the end of my 2nd year in college. I got it in Virginia, where I didn’t have to do 3 point turns, parallel parking, or a hill stop. Then when I moved back to Vermont, I just traded it in!

  33. I’m 20, and I still don’t have my license. Driving scares me to death. My friends are always on my back about it since they are the ones who end up driving me every where. Now I have a new job, which takes 20 minutes by car to get to, but I take the bus which takes 45 minutes, I’m thinking of biting the bullet and going to get my license. Your entry just gave me the extra push, so thanks.

  34. says:

    I am so relieved to hear I am not the only drive-o-phobe! I got my licence when I was 21 after 3 attempts, one chicken out and about a gazillion driving lessons. Then I would avoid driving if I could. When I moved to Richmond I got rid of my car, and could not drive my husband’s manual car. Now after 5 years we are getting a new car on Thursday. It is an auto,(at my husbands insistence) and I will have no excuses. I am terrified. Not just of driving, but of the making stupid excuses not to go places just because I am too fearful of driving there.

  35. says:

    Ah, I see you are enjoying the independance that driving provides. My teenage daughter is now pushing for lessons. My Dad never took the time to teach us to drive,because of his paranoia regarding his car insurance rates. So among our friends, my two younger brothers and I were late bloomers. My younger brother got his license at 20, courtesy of his girlfriend who had her own car at 16. The brother under him managed through his various friends to drive at an early age 14, but did not officially have an license until 21. I also did learn to drive through various boyfriends. When I was twenty-five, my fiance (now ex-hubby) demanded that I drive and arranged for me to get my license (he was such a taskmaster!) to drive him home from the pub. I am forever grateful to him for that. I just wish that I could convince an acquaintance with four small children to learn. But I had to realize that I do not entirely know her situation, so I just encourage her when she brings the subject up.

  36. says:

    To all the driving opsimaths, especially Claire, thanks for sharing your tales. I got my license many years ago but didnt have a car of my own so didn’t drive for the next 15 years. Late last year I started with a few lessons (secret ones to avoid the pressure of questions) and now am driving Looblu-style (still thinking about routes and parking zones but not preoccupied and actually able to put on lipstick at lights and sing along to radio in highly familiar environs). Still shake at idea of freeways – my belief is that no-one in Melbourne leaves enough room for it to be safe to be zipping along at those speeds – inexperienced++ at night driving, distances over-20 minutes and the parallel park. Currently in fear that I might have to drive to Werribee tomorrow to see a client (15 min by freeway, 35 by other roads!) but will love myself if I achieve it.One thing that drives me mad is when friends say…”you can go so many places now” as I used to get around to pretty much everywhere without a car, and was completely independent. I sometimes feel more restricted now as a teetotaller driver, and less organised now too as a shopper. Without a car I planned shopping to a tea – now I cna pop into safeway or greengrocer 3 times a week I am wracked with environementla guilt.
    I am still amazed most days by other drivers behaviours but even more amazed by my driving accomplishments (backing up a lane and doing a 180 turn to let a massive truck out of site in the city without sweating last week) which others would find super-trivial.
    Oh, and I totally agree to forget family for lessons. The first time I drove my partner to the supermarket he declared it “the worst park ever” only to get out and see that I was perfectly plumb in the middle of the spot. Now whenever he parks a little crooked I tell him that is “the second worst park ever seen” and he laughs and apologises.

  37. Thanks for this entry. it is very encouraging as i am 30 now and still terrified of driving. am thinking of calling driving instructors!

  38. says:

    I don’t think that I could ever express how this post makes me feel. I’ve been a phobic driver to be since I was 17. i had an accident and never got behind the wheel again until recently with my husband.
    I’m taking lots of baby steps. Still don’t have my license at almost 35. But the last few times that I driven I’ve felt like it for me. This post gives me hope.

  39. wow, i wonder if there’s a link between not feeling confident driving and creativity! thanks for your story– i relate!

  40. ;)i still don’t drive!
    but this post has given me hope!
    hee hee.
    way to go.

  41. says:

    I really thought, at 23, that I was super old to be learning to drive. I’m about to get my learners licence for the 4th time. Its so frustrating when all my family and friends can drive perfectly, so I’m often criticised for what I think is a serious phobia. But I’ve just bought a little car (auto, thankfully) to learn in and I’m going to do it. Thanks so much for this post, it has really encouraged me to do it. I’m actually excited about driving, rather than terrified!

  42. says:

    Fantastic post Claire – you’ve opened up so many learn-to-drive stories!
    I remember you posting about getting your license just before Amelia was born, and it gave me encouragement then to go and get my learners – it’s been a while, but i have my P’s test tomorrow afternoon!

    So, if I pass (and of course I will – i might be only attempting the learning at 23 but I am confident on the road) I owe you!

  43. says:

    !!! I learned to drive when I was 26 — I was trying to beat my mom, who learned when she was 30. πŸ™‚