Driving anxiety

“Unfortunately, you didn’t pass.” My driving instructor broke my heart with these words.

I wasn’t surprised. I knew I dangerously messed up when I approached that insane, confusing six-way intersection. Yes, I saw the sign that said, “No right turn on red.” Yes, I attempted a right turn on a red light, despite the sign.

The soul-crushing anxiety and pressure from the exam made me feel sick down to my bones. I couldn’t focus for the life of me, or for the life of that poor pedestrian I almost hit when I violated the sign.

The little, elegant Ford Fusion glided effortlessly down the streets. Despite the divine car, I still failed. I was demoralized and disappointed in myself. The drive home with my parents from the Oakland Claremont DMV was the worst drive in my life.

During my next test, I didn’t get to drive the nice Ford Fusion. A few weeks after the test, I got in a car accident in the Castro Village parking lot. So, the car was with the mechanic. In my defense, I had the right of way. It was a minor accident, so no one got hurt.

But for the retest, I had no choice but to take the gigantic, cumbersome, nine-seater travel van to the DMV. My friend helped me name the van Big Bertha. 

I was much more calm (thanks to the anxiety medication I had just started taking), but at the same time, I was unbelievably stressed out. It’s like that feeling you get when you have to present next in class, but 20 times worse.

I had to wait three hours at the DMV to take the exam. Three hours is plenty of time to contemplate the following topics: life, going home, every worse case scenario, death. It’s also enough time to leave to pee, about ten million times.

The expression on the driver instructor’s face was priceless when she first came up to the van. Her first words to me were, “Wow, this is a huge van!” You don’t say! 

God knows how I passed, because I sure don’t. It makes no sense why I failed in the smooth, electric car, but passed in bumbling, gas-guzzling Big Bertha with a total of ten errors.

If I could give advice to anyone who is about to take the driving test, it would be this: do what you need to do to calm down. Anxiety is a barrier stopping you from doing what you didn’t even know you were capable of. Also, try not to hit any pedestrians along the way.

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