Taking your foot off the brakes of fear

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(Graphic by Adele Palmquist)

Since I was 16 I’ve been living with a shameful secret. It hasn’t been easy, considering the burden I carry is quite socially unacceptable. This has consequently, forced me into making excuses and lying to others in order to protect my integrity.

My name is Devon, I’m 22 years old and I don’t have my driver’s licence.

It all began when my eager classmates turned sweet 16 and rushed out to take their written tests to receive their G1s.

I just never understood the appeal. I knew I’d never have access to a car and after all, my parents drove me everywhere I needed to go.

Similarly, my parents were on this ‘teaching me the value of a dollar’ kick, which meant I had to pay the fees, cover the driving lessons; the whole shebang.

Being a self-indulgent teen that lacked confidence, I decided to spend the dwindling dollars in my pathetic bank account on make-up, clothes and clip-in hair extensions.

I thought I looked damn good, but my carefully manipulated appearance lacked a certain coolness as I stepped out of my mom’s minivan to meet my friends.

Yet, witnessing car accidents or hearing about devastating tragedies was enough to scar me for life and I wanted no part in an activity that left so many people paying for repairs and losing loved ones.

The severe anxiety disorder I struggle with on a daily basis only increased whenever I thought about the responsibility of getting behind the wheel.

After graduating university I would just live in a big city where I’d take the subway and if I needed to go elsewhere, I’d simply hire a chauffeur.

That delusion changed once I turned 19. Suddenly, I was the loser in line for the club conspicuously clutching a passport while the bouncer and his judgmental eyes left me feeling ashamed at having let my fear completely consume my life.

The exhaustion that stems from  trying to coordinate bus schedules, paying cab fares and having your punctuality be at the mercy of the bus driver made me decide it was finally time I stopped hanging from the passenger side of my best friend’s ride.

Once I’d read the driver’ s handbook I nervously sat in a crowd of gawky teens at the Drive Test Centre.

After all that worrying and six years of avoiding anything with an engine, I received the most coveted piece of plastic next to a credit card.

I finally felt like an adult no longer bound to the shame of forever sitting in the backseat.

In driver’s training I met lots of similar people who shared my story and I no longer felt completely alone to carry my carefully guarded burden.

With my impending road test just weeks away I regret not taking this leap when I was younger.

But this experience made me realize I cannot hide behind my fears about what could happen but rather, think about the possibilities and freedom that are synonymous with driving.

Maybe I’ve been selling myself short; I am more than capable of handling a task that simple-minded 16 year olds seem to be able to manage.

Before this year is up, I will have the power to go wherever my heart desires – depending on whether I get my dad’s permission to drive his car.

Passing my road test is equivalent to other people jumping out of airplanes.

This has been, perhaps, one of the greatest fears of my life and conquering it will be a long and overdue victory.

I can no longer wait for Neverland but need to take my first real step into the responsible world of being an adult and I am finally ready for the possibilities that await me.

Jesus can take the backseat; I’m taking the wheel.

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