“You’ll like it once you do it.”
That’s what they told me. And by “they” I mean everyone on earth when they found out that I don’t drive.
At one point, I believed it myself. I bought the driver’s handbook like any typical fifteen year old. And then when my sixteenth birthday rolled around, the department that issues licenses was on strike. Most of my peers whose birthdays were near mine were livid. Me? I was more, “Meh.” I might have even been a little relieved. I had no urge to drive, I was doing it out of a feeling of obligation to begin with, and this strike got me off the hook.
When service resumed, I did not rush to my closest DMV. I made excuses for many years instead, happy to be chauffeured around like Miss Daisy.
Then I got married. My wonderful husband didn’t drive either, but he had an excuse - He was from New Jersey. Let me explain: insurance rates in New Jersey were prohibitively high, and the bus system was fantastic. He had no need to drive there – but the second he got here, he was itching to get his wheels on.
I gave in. I believed the people who said I’d love it once I tried. I went to driver’s ed classes with my husband, I took driving lessons with my husband, I passed the driving test with my husband. We got a car. He loved it. I did not.
I loved cruising around with him, taking midnight trips to the grocery store, and jamming out to “SexyBack” before we became parents, and got old, and turned chronically uncool. But I hated every second of being in control of a vehicle.
I hesitated every move. I got honked at for holding up a left turn lane at Walmart because I was so used to judging the distance of on-coming vehicles as a pedestrian, I under-estimated how much time I had to turn. I got yelled at by a pedestrian who thought I was going to hit him with my giant boat of a car. I hit curbs. I drove as little as possible. I white-knuckled every ride.
But I gave it a full year. I believed these people whose tunes had now changed from, “You’ll love it as soon as you do it,” to “you just need to get used to it and you’ll be fine.” Wrong again.
The day I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I hung up my keys forever. Knowing that I would not only be nervously driving myself around, but also my child, was too much for me to bear mentally, and I never hit a gas pedal again.
Twelve years and two kids later, the novelty of driving has worn off for my husband. By default, he runs all errands, takes the kids to activities, takes all of us to appointments, etc., and he’s understandably tired of it. He is an understanding man, but there are days he lets slip how much easier it would be if I got my license back - it having long since expired.
I’m sympathetic. Frequently, I wish I could just get in the car and go do what I need to do – but it isn’t going to happen. The truth is, I’m a danger on the road. I gave up driving because I was unwilling to put my then unborn child at risk. Even if I didn’t drive with my own children in the car, how would it be fair to put myself in charge of a machine capable of taking lives without feeling confident in my own competence.
Accepting this limitation has been humbling, but I refuse to continue to feel like a failure because of it. I didn’t fail – I recognized a reasonable limitation within myself, I accepted it, and I respected it for the protection of myself and others. That took courage, and I’m proud of myself for it.
There is a difference between pushing past your comfort level for the sake of personal growth, and recognizing something you genuinely cannot or should not do. We all have legitimate limitations, and ignoring mine could have killed someone.
If there is something you are just not comfortable doing it – don’t. It’s okay to respect your limits. It’s okay to ask others to respect them too. And you, only you, gets to set them.