If you follow me on Twitter (which you totally should), you will have seen that last Thursday I passed my driving test! At the age of 25, and having had my provisional for eight years, I passed on my first attempt with 5 minors. Yes mate.
I first started learning to drive when I was 17 and I was incredibly anxious. My instructor was a nice but very strict man who was a stickler for doing things exactly – something that I properly suck at. He took me driving down by the river and as someone who is terrified by water, this wasn’t my favourite experience and after ending up in tears after driving down a horrifically busy and complicated road, I was kinda done with driving. I had also ended up with no money so driving ended up at the bottom of my list.
In third year of Uni, I started learning again. I found a nice instructor who was pretty patient and got my sense of humour (“So Codie, how could we have done that differently?” Well, I could have, like, not almost killed us. “Yes, that might have helped”) but I didn’t really get why I was doing things. I knew that I had to change gear but I wasn’t sure why and I didn’t really understand the signs or road markings. Again, I ran out of money and time and postponed it all, again.
I decided to be brave and go for an unfortunately named “crash course” where they promised to teach me to drive in a week. It was bloody expensive and I was given a female instructor which I was excited about as I had only ever had men before.
This was not a good thing, as I thought it would be.
This instructor shouted at me a lot. I am not about that life. I’m a delicate flower and spent a lot of the time crying or having a panic attack. Not ideal. She also told me I would have to have extra lessons after the week, on my first day (before I’d even driven the car…) so my confidence was knocked and after one yelling fit too many I quit. I never quit things. Never. But it got too much as I was deeply unhappy.
I don’t regret doing it. It got me back into the swing of things as I did 4 full days of driving which got me a few weeks worth of lessons ahead. I do regret not reporting her though. She was a dick. I hope she spills red wine down her nicest white blouse.
My confidence was really screwed at this point but everyone was urging me to try a different instructor as soon as possible – get back on the horse if you will. I asked on Facebook for recommendations of anyone who would be good with someone very anxious and two friends recommended the same man, Cliff. I text him and he was really kind on the phone and I already felt better.
I was really honest with Cliff from the start, explaining that I’d had my licence for several years but I am super anxious in a car. I really think that helped. He also had a great sense of humour and put up with my frustration.
Side note: I was such a boff at school (remember that term? Oh, lol!) and I’m just not used to not understanding something. That’s not to sound big headed. Physical things, I know I suck at. Sports and coordination (although I do have a degree in dance…!), but I couldn’t understand why things just were not clicking for me with driving. (I just proof read and realised I wrote “drinking”. Oops! Drinking is something I am defy good at!)
During this time, we bought a new car. Steven’s old car was amazing, but we had really put it through its paces and it was started to get knackered. And who could blame it?! We drive a lot! So I bought us a new car, and this was the push I needed to book my test. Annoyingly, the wait time in Southport is in three months(!) so I figured if I booked it, I would have a time limit to work to, and I paid for learners insurance (£130 a month – vom!), so I could practice in our car.
A real turning point for me, was going out in the car with Katherine. She’s a very chilled passenger and together we managed to drive to Manchester using just the Apple car play sat nav (avoiding motorways of course) and the Hamilton soundtrack. Being able to do that was a pretty cool boost and made me realise how much I wanted to drive for myself and Katherine was always so supportive and encouraging without being patronising (my number one pet hate!) (I wrote “pet hat” the first time and laughed so much. What is wrong with me?!) and I really felt like I could do it.
I feel so lucky that I had a car to use and I feel like, now I can drive, I’m more confident because I’m used to driving with people in the car/music on/following a satnav.
When it came to my test I was terrified. When doing my manoeuvre (parallel park – gross) my leg was shaking so much I have no idea how I didn’t stall. By the end of the test I was exhausted and emotional and almost a week on I can’t believe I really passed – nor can other drivers on the road judging by their angry glares and beeping horns…!
So I guess my point is, it doesn’t matter how old you are, or how many times you’ve been knocked back, I believe in you!
It’s okay (in fact, I would encourage it!) to be picky with an instructor. If they don’t feel right, they might not be for you. Look around until you find the one that’s going to help you – don’t just settle.
Remember why you want to drive. Keep focussed on the freedom you’ll have and the fun times it will open up, so you don’t give up!
If you’re lucky enough to have a car to practise in, and people kind enough to sit with you while you practise, make the most of it!
Remember that no one else wants to have an accident either (although it may seem like they don’t care sometimes…!) and as long as you are alert, you will be okay.
And finally, if you need a lift, hit me up!
Ps – Check out this awful (but hilarious) old video of my attempting to drive.