I’m a 25-year-old graduate student with a driving phobia. For years it was self-diagnosed, but I went to a strange little place known as the “Fear Clinic” this past summer, and after hours of psychological testing that included having really fake-looking machines attached to my head and body (something like this) to monitor my response to a range of hypothetical scenarios, the doctor told me, yep, you have a driving phobia. She said the clinic was willing to work with me on my phobia, but that they weren’t driving instructors, and since I never learned how to drive, I really just need to do a lot more of it, repetitively, until the point when it becomes boring.
A full decade after getting my learner’s permit, I’ve finally enrolled in a driving class for adults. (I’ve learned not to say “adult driving class” because apparently it’s funny to interpret that sexually.) Really I’m way too busy for this twice-a-week class, but I have no choice: I’m graduating this year and if my life after grad school revolves around avoiding driving a car, well, I don’t even want to think about that. It’s just so limiting. Sure, I’d love to live in a city with fantastic public transportation, and I wish the United States had more of them, but I can’t assume that that’s going to happen, career-wise, and even if it does, I can’t count on that 24/7 for the rest of my life.
I started this week, after missing the first lesson (the class was previously full—thankfully a spot opened up), but the coach reviewed all the material. Road signs. Rules of the road. Oh, the coach. What a guy. He looks just like what you’d expect a high school coach, which he is, to look like, and comes off as pretty intimidating at first. But he is as sweet as can be. Sensitive, self-deprecating, funny, he just does a great job easing any tension in the room.
Yesterday we just did classroom work. Even though I don’t know much about driving, I did fine, because I’m good at being a student. What I’m not good at is driving. So we’ll see how that goes when we start out on the range. I’m so curious to get to know some of the other folks in the class better, our little group of non-driving adults. Are they afraid too? Are they as afraid as I am? Did they just put off learning? Did they have parents to teach them?
A couple of the students seem very young (for an adult class), maybe 18, but they were treating it seriously, which I was glad to see. I got the heebie-jeebies walking by the high school driver’s ed students. They were so…tiny. And bored looking. And maybe they don’t take driving seriously enough. Or maybe I was just scared they would laugh at me since I’m 25 and learning how to drive. There’s a date set for when I’m supposed to get my license, in a little less than four months. I’ll have a whole bunch of sessions on the driving range first, and then several in traffic, and then we take the test with the coach. Most people pass. I finally think it’s safe to get excited about overcoming my driving phobia and becoming a driver. I know there is real work to come…I believe learning how to drive is going to be difficult for me, and I don’t think getting a license is the end of my journey, but damn will it be a great milestone.