Helping you get through tough times

Driving for the first time

Car, learning to driveEventually, we all start thinking about learning to drive. For some of us, we decide preemptively that we’re never going to do it. For others, learning how to drive is something they’ve looked forward to for as long as they can remember. 

Personally, I was anxious about learning how to drive. But, a few weeks ago I had my first driving experience. Here’s how it went:

Why I’ve avoided driving

At the moment, I’m 19-years-old. I’m at the age where people ask you can you drive, I have friends that can drive, and I’ve definitely heard from my parents that I should learn. But, I’ve always been obstinately against it. I think what I’ve struggled most with is a poor sense of control. You see, I don’t have the best hand-eye coordination in the world. I’ve never been good at racing games. I just never had a reference to tell me “Okay, you can do this. You know you’re good at X, Y, and Z.”. In fact, the opposite was the case. I could tell myself, “You can’t do this. You know your eyesight is bad (glasses), you’re not good at using your hands without looking…”. So I’ve had a tremendous amount of anxiety about driving for the first time and what disaster will result from me getting behind the wheel.

Why I decided to bite the bullet

The greatest factor in my decision to learn how to drive was my yearn for autonomy. I don’t want to have to rely on other people just so I can get where I need to go. At some point, we’ve all got to make decisions to help us be independent – this was one of them for me.

Re-framing my thinking

Another thing that played into why I decided to learn how to drive was my re-conceptualisation of what learning how to drive meant. Instead of thinking, “You’re going to get in this car, mess up, crash, and die”. I started thinking about it differently. “There’s safety features in the car. You can go at your own pace. You are in control”. Re-framing how I thought about driving really helped ease the anxiety about sitting behind the wheel for the first time.

On top of that, I wanted to be able to have the “learning how to drive” experience with my dad. There’s only so much time that I can let go passed before my dad would either be unable to teach me how to drive, or I’d no longer be living at home for him to be able to do that. All of this in mind, I bit the bullet.

Being behind the wheel

Being behind the wheel was a surreal experience. It’s not as if I’ve never sat in a driver’s seat before – I think we’ve all done it when growing up. But, to sit in the driver’s seat knowing that I would be the one making this thing move, now, that was an experience. I wasn’t very nervous, but I did have a sense of wanting to get it over with. I was overthinking a lot about what if I get something wrong and so on.

Starting the car and beginning to move was something I’ll never forget. Hearing the tyres move against the tarmac, the stones cracking underneath me, is so vivid. I didn’t drive much; just around a parking lot. But it felt like I was taking a life changing journey.

Bonding experience

As mentioned before, I wanted to learn how to drive because I wanted to have that experience with my dad. I love my relationship with my dad, but we don’t have a lot in common. I thought this would be a great chance for us to create more memories together.

My assumptions were correct. It was amazing to have my dad teach me something new; that’s something that hasn’t happened in a quite a while since even before starting secondary school. It was a very pleasant experience. No shouting, no fighting, just some quality father-and-son time. I’m really grateful for that.

Misconceptions and observations

From my first driving experience, here are a few misconceptions and things of note that I picked up on.

  1. If you’re not used to stepping on pedals, your foot might get tired. Do not, under any circumstances, complain about this. Laughter will ensue.
  2. Everything to your left and right is far less distracting in the driver’s seat than when you’re in the passenger seat.
  3. The handbrake is not heavy – it just feels like it is. But trust me, it’s not.
  4. The clutch takes mastering, but when you get it right, you feel invincible.
  5. Driving comes more naturally to you than you’d think.

When it comes to driving for the first time

I certainly have a lot more to learn. I definitely do not know how to drive. But, I have driven. So that’s a box I can tick. If you’re worried about driving for the first time in the same way I was, all I can say is, it’s not as bad as you think it is. Just go for it. At the very least, you’ll have a story to tell at the end of it.

This blog was written for ReachOut.com by our Youth Editorial Board member Dean O’Reilly.

Helpful links

Learning to drive - Personal Story Anxiety Conflict with parents

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