Friday, November 20, 2009

No shame.

It's time I admit something.

I just got my driver's license on November 5th. I'm 23 years old. I took the test many times and failed it many times. But it doesn't matter now. I have it, and a terrible chapter of my life is closed.

I was incredibly good at hiding this fact. I pretended to be way more into taking walks than I really was, I subsisted on rides from friends, I used the half-truth "I don't have a car," and I was far more of a hermit than I needed to be because I was too ashamed to ask for a ride. For 7 years, I just dealt with it. I had two close friends who didn't have theirs either. Unfortunately, then they got it. Suddenly, no one could sympathize with my struggle. Suddenly, I was alone. Suddenly, I was the weird one. WTF was wrong with me? Why wasn't I meant to drive?

I am an extremely nervous person. Shy, socially awkward, wracked by anxiety disorders. I know, it doesn't come over well on the internet. On the forum I'm most active in, I'm a sardonic, sassy, sarcastic, superstar. And the last few years, I've made huge strides that have made me into a much happier, healthier person. But for years, it was just as easy for me to avoid confrontation with my mother by not even trying to practice driving. When she'd chide me with ever-so-helpful advice like "you're going to kill children!" or threatening to leave me in a parking lot, you ungrateful little bitch, when I didn't pull into a space fast enough, I would completely break down. That would be the end of practicing for a long time. Then I'd take the test. We'd "practice" right before it, which was mostly just going around the route and being screamed at. I'd fail. We'd schedule a new test. We would not practice again. I'd fail. So I failed a serious amount of driving tests, but how could I not, if I didn't work on a damn thing between them?

This was tolerable in college. It was too expensive to have a car on campus, and we had a great free bus system. For a time, my boyfriend-at-the-time even had his pimpin' mint green Dodge Caravan (yeah, I didn't have to worry about him being a chick magnet with that thing) on campus and we were able to take that out. Then the moron went home to play D&D on a day the whole campus had shut down thanks to a snow storm and crashed it. So ends the car. As far as I know, he still doesn't have a replacement.

Friends and their parents offered me help, but I'd become so wrapped up in the idea that I was a horrible driver that I refused it. I thought they'd think less of me if they saw just how bad I "really" am at driving and then I wouldn't have friends, either. So I just wallowed in self pity.

I've been totally unable to get a job in Maine, where public transportation just doesn't exist. I was getting by on rides from my grandmother, but then she insisted on getting a job with weird hours that pays shit money, which meant there was no way I could work. We would make so much more money if I could be the one working and have a full time job, but there was no convincing her of this. I got back to subbing, and walked 45 minutes home each day (I was able to get rides in the morning). I was pretty good at working "yeah, it's a pretty bad day to walk home" into conversation at lunch so another sub would take pity on me and bring me home. But there was no guarantee this was going to work in the ridiculously long Maine winter. I was not looking forward to walking home in February/dying of frostbite. Finally, it was time to get fucking SERIOUS.

I threw myself at the two friends who had always offered. We had some practice sessions, which was mostly me driving all over creation to get used to their cars, coming up with my own practice ideas, working up the chutzpah to parallel park in a friend's car. I paid them for their time by paying for dinner out. I got some kickass empanadas out of the deal, but shit, it would have been so much cheaper to just get more lessons.

I took the test at the beginning of October. I aced the shit out of parallel parking, mostly thanks to practicing with my grandmother the day before, while she screamed at me while I devolved into hysterical sobbing. For once, this tactic actually worked. I can parallel park like it's my fucking job. The examiner I had was fantastic. He had given me permit #4 a month or two before. We got on great, but, of course, I still fucking failed. I didn't do my straight backing well and I didn't look over my shoulder when merging once. THAT'S IT. WHAT THE FUCK. He seemed to feel genuinely bad about failing me, though, and insisted that I put the form for a retest in the mail that very day. I did.

A month later, I was back there. I was so resigned to failure that I didn't really want to go, but I figured what the hell, why not. Jeremy and I had gone out the night before, despite the fact that I was horribly sick from some antibiotics, it was pitch black, and we hadn't really achieved much. I'm not sure if he caught on about why we had to go TONIGHT AND NOT TOMORROW, GOTTA GO RIGHT NOW. In October, I spent the night before my test crying and asking the internet for spiritual guidance without explaining why I was so miserable. This time, I spent the night before flirting via text message for 3 hours with a guy I had hooked up with the weekend before. I never let my mind go to the unpleasantness that was going to follow the next day, so I never got worked up with nerves and went to the test totally emotionally flat instead of a wreck. I later found out the dude lied to me and totally has a girlfriend, but, you know what? I think, to some degree, I have my license because of him, so I have no regrets.

When they called for the 1:00 road tests, I saw the man I had last time. I smiled at him and hoped so hard I'd get him again. I'd never had the same examiner twice, so I thought there might be some policy preventing that. Imagine my surprise (and glee) when he showed up at my car.

When I saw Albert, I knew I was going to pass. This guy was so gunning for me last time that I really believe that when he saw me back there, he insisted that he be my examiner. The test itself is kind of a half hour blur, but I actually had a nice time having a conversation with this guy. The first thing you do on the test is parallel park. I guess they like to have you fail right off the bat and then prolong your suffering a half hour. You get 3 tries to parallel park. Like I said, last time, I nailed it on the first try. This time, I did not. Awesome. Just. Fucking. Awesome. Apparently my grandmother was in the DMV window the whole time screaming at me to cut it harder. But my second try, I got it.

I think there was a shitload that I just didn't get right on the test, but, since I got all the big stuff (including, for the very first time in 7 years, straight fuckin' backing), Albert gave in. He may also be extremely sick of me. Imagine my astonishment when we came back from the test and he started filling out a much different form than the one I've always seen for "why your ass just failed yet again." I was silent; all I could do was smile. I was just too stunned to even react. Honestly, my first thought wasn't even "I have a license," it was "I never have to do this again." As soon as he was done writing it all out, he got out of the car and went to start his next exam. I squeaked out a "thank you" as he was asking the next scared teen to demonstrate their headlights. I'm almost a little sad I won't be seeing Albert any more; he's a good man.

After the test, I ran at full speed back into the building, told my grandmother, and we both jumped up and down and screamed a lot. The whole DMV was looking at me, but who the hell cares. I called my mom, screamed a lot more, and set up a time to meet her to pick up my birth certificate so I could come back and get my picture license. Then I called my aunt, who wasn't there. I left a message telling her to call me back because "I have news." My grandmother and I, at my insistence, went into Portland for ice cream. She drove, believe it or not. I was a little too shaky. As it was, she was near vomiting with glee (what the hell kind of reaction is that?) but it was probably still better for her to be the one behind the wheel. I did get to talk to my aunt later, and she asked when I wanted to go car shopping. omg.

As soon as I got home, I sent a message to all of my friends. The subject line was "Guess what we all have in common?" and the body was simply "Driver's licenses :)" - none of them knew I had the test that day. Much rejoicing ensued when everyone checked their e-mail. I was even invited out that night, but by no means ready to drive into Portland, let alone this crazy area with one way cobblestone streets.

That first afternoon, I went by myself to the library, post office, and bank. It was absolutely exhilarating. I had the radio up and Kelly Clarkson and I were screaming "My Life Would Suck Without You." How appropriate. I also enjoyed when I told someone "I just got my license an hour and a half ago!" and they asked if I had a car. Yes, they just give them out when you pass the test.

I didn't get my car until 6 days later ;)

That's a whole other story, but thanks to the kindness of my aunt's assistance and financial help, I am the proud owner of a 2008 Hyundai Accent GLS. Her name is Betty. I talk to her every time I walk by the window or get in/out of her. We had an extended conversation yesterday about our impending trip to Cumberland and North Yarmouth to look for some schools I'm going to sub in - now that I can get there any day of the week and by myself, I'm going to be able to work a lot more. While this isn't my actual car, here's just what she looks like:

She is a beauty. Massive trunk, CD player, AC, anti-lock brakes at my unyielding insistence, tan interior, 6 air bags, everything you could ever want. I never knew a material object could change my life so much, but the simple ability to go to the store in 5 minutes, not 90, and to not have to constantly keep my eye on the sky and wonder if I should duck in a building or not has been an immediate life changer.

So, why am I finally talking about it, aside from GRATUITOUS CAR BRAGGING? For so many years, I was ashamed to admit that I was "different." I made a lot of friends online that were older than me, had kids, had jobs, had husbands, and they had made due without a license, too. It made me realize I wasn't actually a freak and I didn't have anything to be ashamed of. I don't want anyone to feel like I did - I want people to take the bull by the horns and try to get what they want. And if they don't on the first, second, sixth try, no big deal. Shit happens. When the time is right, it'll happen. You just have to keep trying.

I'm so glad I did.


Goes by the name of Anna said...

Awesome story! As someone who has their own, um, issues with driving, I am mega-proud of you!

awkwardly said...

i had no idea that that is what it was like for you. i'm really proud of you! :D

and now, two fingers up to your current shitty-when-they-feel-like-it "job".