Well, the time has come and I have to face up to things now. I need to let go of the demons I've been holding on to for so many years. I have to face my fears and stop ignoring them in the hope that they will disappear and that their damaging and restricting results will never affect me or my family ...
Many of you reading this may laugh as you consider this to be something so minor, or smile as you tell me that driving is the easiest thing in the world and the convenience it brings is an amazing thing. I know all this. I've heard all the lines ...
You will have so much more freedom!
It will be so much easier to pop the kids in the car when you want to take them out for the day.
It will change your life for the better ... Forever ...
I know, I know, I KNOW!!!!
But it's not that easy for everyone. However, this week I decided, enough is enough. I need to do this! And this is where I would like to keep a record of my progress. I hope that with my lovely readers behind me, I might find the encouragement I feel I need in order to see the whole
ordeal process through to the end.
I wanted to share my story with you all, and I want to start with this post that I hope will explain a little of the background behind the fears, untangle a bit of the mess of emotions that I feel when I think about driving and put a bit of order in whatever madness that always stops me from doing this one thing that, for millions of people, is an essential part of everyday life.
Summer, 2000. I lived a pretty carefree life. I was a student at University in London and was really enjoying it. I had made some amazing friends through my course, but I commuted home each weekend so I could see the friends I had left back at home. I was drawing quite close to the end of my 4 year course and was looking for a small place to rent near my family. My best friends, D & L were a couple, and I spent every single weekend with them and the guy I was in a relationship with at the time. We were pretty inseparable. They lived in a small studio flat within the same road as my parents and were moving out. D made sure I was the next to move into their flat. Knowing how much I wanted to find a place, he spoke to the landlord who agreed to let the property to me.
Life was good!
Autumn, 2000 ... D & L separated. It was a messy break-up. I had also had my relationship break down so it seemed only natural that D and I be each other's support through the emotions. We were fine, and saw each other most days.
Winter, 2000, and everything was set to change. I was sitting at home, working my way through an English assignment for Uni when I received the call. The call was from L, D's ex girlfriend. She started with the small talk, but I knew something was wrong. She was stalling. And then the words spilled out. I'll never forget it. As she spoke, I was listening hard, but the words she was saying to me stopped at my ears. I could not digest the things she was saying. I dropped the phone and just sobbed.
"D is dead", these words kept ringing in my ears, but that was just it. The words stopped at my ears. I could not process the information. The moment was so surreal, and the next hour is very much a confused blur. He had been driving. He had picked up one of our other friends from work as his car was temporarily off the road. They were probably going too fast. They were probably talking, laughing, fooling around. They probably had the music on loud. D probably wasn't concentrating. The car collided with a tree. It had then spun on impact and met another tree, and another. They say D was dead at the scene. They couldn't even try to save him. G, his passenger, survived with serious injuries and was taken to hospital. We never saw G again. Unable to deal with what had happened, he discharged himself from hospital and disappeared. He couldn't provide the answers to the questions that so many people were asking him. He couldn't decipher the mess of events for himself, let alone anyone else. I like to think he is out there somewhere, happy, with a beautiful family of his own. I'll never know. I attended D's funeral on 27th December, 2000. A day I'll never forget. He was 25 years old and had everything to live for.
From this day, the thought of driving terrified me!
2002, and as I had moved and now lived 30 miles away from my family, I decided I needed to get over this fear of driving. I needed to be mobile as I was slowly falling out of the family loop. I was in another relationship, and it wasn't a nice one. He was the reason I moved away from my home town, exciting me with the idea of living next to the beach and amongst the nightlife. The relationship soon turned ugly. He worked as a nightclub/pub doorman, and was a complete control freak. This was one of the forces behind me wanting to learn to drive. Without being mobile, I seemed to have no freedom. I had to work where he said, when he said and he wasn't keen on me having a relationship with my family. If I made new friends, they quickly became a 'bad influence' on me and I wasn't to spend time with them any more. He made my work life difficult, he made my social life impossible. I felt trapped and was convinced I couldn't leave. I decided to try some driving lessons. Of course, he had to choose the instructor.
He chose an independent teacher - a man in his late 60s. Now, all would have been great, but he seemed more nervous than I was! He avoided roundabouts, he stayed away from dual carriageways, he wasn't much help. If I screwed up, he would avoid repeating that exercise instead of practising it until I had perfected it.
This wasn't working.
After 10 weeks of perseverance, I didn't book any more lessons with him. I was getting nowhere, and let's face it, I didn't need much of an excuse to give up! I left it a year and then started looking again. And once again, the instructor was selected for me.
This time, I was to learn with a 'friend of a friend' (a friend of HIS friend, naturally!) He was an ex driving instructor. He was still in the profession, but now taught at an advanced level as he was an instructor for those training to be instructors. I felt much safer with him. He was a wonderful teacher. He made me feel both at ease and confident on the road. My lessons were progressing really really well. I was excited. He started to discuss my theory with me and we discussed how many more lessons he predicted I would need before finally taking my test. After learning with him, weekly, for nearly 5 months, I was bubbling at the thought of getting close to test level. I was then faced with a break in my lessons. My teacher, C, was going abroad for a month. He was getting married in Cyprus and Honeymooning there too. He promised me we would pick up our lessons on his return. However, someone didn't want this to happen. Someone could obviously see how close I was getting to taking my test and winning back some of my independence. He would tell me daily that I would be slowly forgetting everything I was taught in my lessons, that C was a bad teacher for going away and that I shouldn't trust him any more.
I never had another lesson with C.
In fact, it was 2007 before I took another lesson. By this time, I had managed to escape the life I had been living and had since met The Man. A loosely attached and since estranged family member had trained to become a driving instructor and had agreed to teach me in his spare time. 2 hours a week I paid for, and all was good for the first few weeks. But then I found he started to snap if I did something wrong and his once calm exterior was becoming more stressed and uneasy. Maybe the job was beginning to get to him, maybe I was, I don't know. But I didn't feel comfortable in the driving seat of the car with him there any more. He and his wife had a baby, and whilst he was on paternity leave, I made the decision not to continue my lessons with him any longer.
Since then, a number of factors have stopped me from starting up my lessons again. Financial hardship, work strain, having the children, but now, one of these very reasons is now the main reason for me wanting to do this again. The children spend the majority of their time with me. Especially until Munch starts full time school. All of their time is spent with me. They rely on me to do the fun things with them, to take them to exciting places, to fill their days with memories. Which is fine, but without driving, I have my limits! I don't want limits any more. The Man is so supportive of me learning to drive. He has promised I will have free access to a car once I have my licence and I know, where possible, he will take me out in between lessons to practise, as he did before.
So this is where it will all change. I need to conquer the fears of the road that have held me back for so many years. I have to turn the things that frighten me to push me forward to do this once and for all, and focus on how different life will be if I can succeed in this and I must be stronger and stop allowing small set backs to act as excuses for me to give up. I need to stop letting what happened to D all those years ago affect me today. He wouldn't want it, and my babies don't deserve it!
You're support throughout my journey will be one thing that keeps me going, so any advice you have ... I'm listening!