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  • BookGirl1997

Driving for the First Time 21+

I have zero spatial awareness. Nada. Zilch. None. My family teases me for walking like a broken shopping cart, always walking diagonally into the person next to me. I had no idea this quirk would affect my driving skills. When I was in high school, I did my required six hours of driving and it was a disaster. I crashed into a Porta Potta on the side of a road, much to my instructor's chagrin. I couldn't manage to stay in one lane, and I weaved on the roads dangerously. For some reason, I could not align what I was seeing with where the car should be. I would move the car to the center of the lane from my viewpoint, and my instructor would frantically grab the wheel because the car was in the middle of the road, straddling the solid yellow lines. My instructor told my father it would be unsafe for me to be on the roads at all, ever. At the time, I breathed a sigh of relief and focused on school.


When I went to college, I was on a walking campus. No one had a car, and everything was within a mile or two. Getting my license was completely off my radar. My lack of a license was a joke among friends, and I didn't mind not being able to drive. While I was at Yale, I ended up taking a cognition assessment (a long story for another time) and one of the components tested was spatial awareness. My scores in verbal skills were drastically higher than my spatial awareness skills. I felt like I finally had an explanation for why driving was so difficult for me. However, I didn't want to use the explanation as an excuse. I need to be able to drive to the grocery store, and take my future children to and from school. The future I want requires me to be able to drive.


When I returned home for my gap year after graduation, I knew it was time to get back behind the wheel. I spent a few days memorizing the driver's manual. I even took online multiple choice practice tests (I had no desire to return to the DMV for a retake if it could be avoided). My dad and I went to the DMV at 5 am so I could be first in the (nonexistent) line to take the written driver's test. After passing, I knew I needed to actually practice driving before my license test.I reached out to the same instructor I had when I was in high school, and he was willing to work with me.


In the months between my written test and my driving test (this upcoming Friday), I had two to three lessons a week. It may sound extreme but it was actually what I needed to feel comfortable driving. To compensate for my spatial issues, I use different parts of the windshield wipers to align myself on the road. Every other day at 1:30 pm, my driving instructor rang the doorbell and another lesson commenced. I ran parallel parking drills like I was an Olympic hopeful. I drove on local roads and on the highway (the latter being terror-inducing at first). My driving instructor genuinely became a dear friend who lent me constant support. At the beginning of my first lesson, I said "Please teach me to drive a car as if I have never even seen a car before. Go through everything, no matter how basic." I was lucky that he agreed.


I guess the funniest part of my story is that my driving instructor became my temporary best friend. In all honesty, I saw him just as much as I saw my own family members! As we drove around, he regaled me with funny stories about his triplet sons and other driving students he taught over the years.


I am feeling hopeful for the test, and I feel proud of myself for tackling something that was a huge challenge for me (but is pretty easy for nearly everyone else).




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