Overcoming fear in our life is one of the biggest obstacles that stop us doing everything we want to do. Some fears are rational and some are irrational...all need time and effort to overcome. I thought I would share my experience of learning to drive, firstly how I was able to overcome the fear and also to show that no matter what you want in life if you persevere you can obtain it.
I first started to learn to drive when I was 18 my first ever lesson being in the snow! I had probably around 10 lessons. The one evening I did my first ever reverse around the corner, unfortunately I put my foot hard on the accelerator and went straight around the corner up the kerb and into the hedge! My instructor wasn't impressed and told me I would never be a driver. So I gave up learning.
Over the next 10 years I did have another go with a couple of instructors but gave up after a few lessons thinking that I would never be able to do it. A good friend of mine bought me vouchers for BSM for my 30th birthday so I decided to try in an automatic, with less to worry about surely I could do it. Alas again after spending many hours in a car park trying to bay park I gave up.
The life changing event in my life happened when I was nearly 40, I met an instructor who asked me if I could drive. When I said no he asked me why, and my reply was that I could not do gears or reverse. His reply to this was... so what disability do you have? If you have no disability then there is no logical reason why you can't do it. So I arranged a lesson with him on the premise that I would only sit in the car on the first lesson and not actually move it. At this stage I had a fear of even turning the key in the ignition. Of course the first thing I did on my lesson was drive the car...and this was the beginning.
Over the next 6 months I had many ups and downs. Some lessons were awful and I would email my instructor and say I was giving up and that I couldn't do it anymore. He would always reply by saying see you next lesson!! At this stage I still believed that I would never pass a test. I had a year of 2 lessons a week and more or less exactly one year after starting lessons with him I had my first test. I remember it as if it was yesterday, I was taken over a big flyover which I had not driven over before, I remember looking up the ramp and thinking how the hell am I going to get up there....so I put my foot down and in doing so broke the speed limit...and failed test number one.
During the next 6 months I had another nine tests so ten in total. Seven of them I failed for reversing around the corner too wide. I remember very single test in detail and every single examiner I had. A couple of my tests were harsh and there were a couple I thought I had passed! When it got to test number eight I had enough and was prepared to give up. My instructor advised me to take a bit of a break as my tests were all so close together, probably 3-4 weeks apart. So I had a couple of months break. Came back to do test number nine, which was for me the worst of all my tests. I had so many silly mistakes. It was then that I decided I have to keep at it and put in for another test as soon as I got home. Test number ten was two weeks later.
Test number ten was no different to the previous nine. I woke up feeling sick and nervous. As test time approached I got the shakes. Through all of my previous tests I had no control of the adrenalin rush in my system and the physical effects it had on me. I could not stop my legs from shaking when reversing. Anyway I did this test, a reverse around the corner, and yet again I took it wide just like all the other tests. We get back to the test centre and the examiner says its good news you have passed...my reply was, no I haven't I reversed wide around the corner, I've failed again! I think it took a good few minutes for my brain to register I had passed.
The feeling I had when I passed was total numbness, I didn't believe it. Going to bed that night and waking up the next morning with the realization that I would never have to sit another test was one the most amazing feelings of my life.
I had put myself through torture during my tests, torture which I had no personal control over. No matter how I tried and what I did I could not stop those feelings on the day. For me taking ten tests is the best thing that could of happened to me. Every single one was a lesson. I have now been driving for four years. This year I have driven to the Lake District which is around 700 miles away and full of mountains and to Wales twice. In fact I have driven over 25,000 miles in just over a year....and love it!! To anyone who has a fear of learning to drive....you can overcome it. Determination will get you there...no matter what your fear is as long as you want it bad enough you will get there....if I can...anyone can!!
*** I wrote this article in 2012, it is now 2015, I wanted to update my situation as I am now proudly able to announce my new career as an Ambulance Driver, and have been doing this for the past year***