On Being A Bad Driver

Last year we finally bought a car. I've always lived in cities post college, and until having a kid the Hub and I never felt we needed one -- plus of course all the environmental and cost reasons. But with caring for an elderly parent added to our lives as well as having a toddler and a global pandemic thrown in for good measure, we decided it could help make things just that bit easier.

And so, as an experiment, we bought my mother-in-law's 14-year-old car that was just sitting in her driveway. 

I got my license in the U.K. back in 2016, which was already a challenge. But becoming a driver again as a new car owner has been a whole new world. 

The last time I drove regularly was during my junior and senior years of high school - when I was 17 and 18 years old! I was honestly knee-knockingly nervous about driving again, particularly in a city like London, and on the opposite side of the road. 

Last time I was a regular driver

For months, the night before I was going to drive, whether it was the hour-long journey to my mother-in-law's house or just to one of our local parks, I would already have butterflies in my stomach. It was not just the actual driving, but the parking, and having to navigate the narrow roads with cars parked on either side, just waiting for someone to honk at my sheepish uncertain driving skills. I was a bad driver, and I knew it. 

But the Hub and I had a rule: I had to drive every weekend, no excuses. If we had nowhere to go, we'd find somewhere, even if it was just to drive to the other side of Streatham to the common - which frankly was too long of a walk anyway when you were trying to get a toddler home in time for his nap. And I kept pushing myself -- I've now done a number of long journeys, including one to Peppa Pig World and one to visit friends near Bath, both with broken air conditioning and a toddler who gets carsick. I'll never think of Winchester again without the all-too-vivid memory of stopping as we drove down the hill on the outskirts of town, stopping to clean the puke out of all the little nooks and crannies of the car seat.   

Thing is, learning how to drive -- again -- has taught me something even more valuable: you can't expect to be good at something if you're out of practice. And there are no shortcuts other than being bad at it for a while, gritting your teeth and doing it. 

This awful discomfort is why I think as people get older they avoid learning new technology, saying they're not capable. It's not that our brains start to fail or we are incapable of learning new things, it's just that the awkwardness of learning something new or re-learning in my case, can be daunting and uncomfortable and we'd just rather not. 

As the weeks and months have rolled by, I stopped feeling so anxious, and now I even barely think about the fact that I will be driving the next day. I wouldn't say I'm a great driver yet -- but I'm getting better and I expect if I keep it up I'll continue to improve (hopefully). I've even stopped using the GPS so much and have started mapping out my own routes -- preferably the straightest routes possible to avoid needing to clean up puke again (so far, so good). 

And the other good news is that for now, having a car has made our lives a lot easier, and maybe even better. During the U.K.'s third lockdown when we were sick to the back teeth of walking to the same parks all the time with the little guy (as park visits were the only thing allowed), we were able to expand our park repertoire. It's been easier to go visit friends, and of course travel to my mother-in-law's house.   

It's been a good reminder of how hard things are worth it. I recently read Glennon Doyle's new memoir Untamed, and in it she writes about her mantra of We can do hard things. I know she meant things more existential than driving, but still, it helps me. In the meantime, I would recommend exercising great caution when driving near Streatham! 


  1. Dear Taron, I am in the same exact situation as you were with driving. I never had to drive much even though I earned my license in high school. As you said, if one doesn't practice, one will not be able to do it. I did have a car for six months. During that six months, I didn't have a rule for myself so for the most of that time, the car sat at an expensive rental parking spot in Boston. So glad you enjoy driving now. I'll have to remember your lesson learned when I ever want to pick up driving again.

    1. Those of us who live in cities just don't have the same need to drive, which can be great, but it does mean there is not much time for practice! I enjoyed being a non-driver for a long time, but it is good to know we can adapt. Let me know if you ever pick it up again... thanks for reading and commenting!


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