I’m in the car. Somewhere between South Carolina and Alabama it strikes me that I am not alone. Yes, this whole time I have been surrounded by four friends and coworkers and teachers (each possessing a varied combination of the above) that I feel I know well, but apparently don’t know as well as I could imagine I do. Here they are, the youngest among them exactly twice my age, and they’re identifying in me the things I’ve failed to admit to myself for years.
Some time ago, two if not three years back if I can trust my safest guesses, I was in the car with my father driving home after attending an annual writing event hosted by the local writers’ guild. On the way home, I wrote what I consider my finest piece of creative nonfiction. It’s rather scathing, speaks about Boy Scouts and safe driving, manliness and being gay. If not for how openly rude I was to some individuals, I’d probably have posted it at some point. In it, I speak of self-confidence, of my reason for not driving being a lack of self-confidence. It’s a moving piece, I’ve always thought as its composer, because it’s honest and true.
Now, as every day the need I possess to become a pronounced driver grows greater (imagine: I’m SGA President, I need to drive; I’m going away to college, I need to be able to drive; I want to have a social life, I need to be able to drive), I find the mere thought of being behind the wheel cripples me. Internal gears grind and lock up. Externally I shut down and go numb.
In part it’s embarrassing. In part it’s angering. I’m a twenty-two-year-old leader, an honor student, a man with ideas and opinions that I stand behind ruthlessly, an advocate for rights and an organizer of action–and when you ask me if I drive, I say no.
There are typically three reasons I give should people ask me why I don’t drive, and although each of them are perhaps equally true, the one I provide varies depending on my company (and how comfortable I feel in their company) and my mood when I answer.
First and least personal and for some reason least used is the simplest fact that the city I lived in changed its processes and failed to inform us. See, I’ve been homeschooled my entire life till college, and both my older siblings were homeschooled too (although not as absolutely as I was, for it was troubles with their time in public school that placed the straw upon the camel’s back that caused my mother to opt for alternative education). When it was time for my sister to attend driver’s ed, the city sent us a letter saying when and how to enroll her.
When it came to be my turn, we expected the same notice to come in the mail. It never did. At the time my parents had just separated, my mom was a full-time nursing student, my sister was in college herself, and we had just finished moving and were still largely in the practice of unpacking and adjusting to the new contours of our evolving situations in life. Needless to say, when the letter didn’t come when expected, it took some time to realize it was never there at all.
When we found out that the city had changed their policies, we asked when the next class would be held: Six o’clock Saturday morning, first-come, first-served. And as it happened to play out, I was reading Torah that morning, a commitment that could not be broken. I never went to driver’s ed. And whenever it was offered again, life was somehow busier than before, and repeatedly, it never happened.
I insist, as I have stated before: I am a man of ideas. (That I am slowly also becoming a man of action is besides the point. Evolution occurs slowly, and the foundation upon which lasting change is built never wavers, so even if I do become president someday and must make choices and take action as my job description, I will still even then largely be a man of ideas.)
I’m also a man primed in planning and exclusive to education. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it right; and if I’m going to do it right, I’m going to find a teacher and get taught how to do it before I do it. And if my teacher fails my academic needs, than I will steadfastly teach myself, knowing then that I have become my own most reliable resource. It’s how I passed public speaking. It’s how my presentation ran over by ten minutes but was so good I didn’t lose a single point. My teacher failed my requirements for rigor, so I endured myself to ensure I learned every facet of what I needed to know to succeed. And I did.
So failing to take driver’s ed has left a blank page in my personal history. I feel like I lack that crucial element to have confidence in driving. I feel like I am missing that foundation upon which a lifelong love of leading at the wheel could be founded upon. I’ve looked, online and in some other venues, for ways to teach myself what I feel I need to know to keep going, but of what I seek, I’ve found nothing. And of what I seek, I don’t truly know.
The second reason I give is more general, more exclusive, more recent in its evolution: We only have one car, I say, so it wouldn’t do much good if I could drive anyways. If my mom or sister need the car, they’d still have to drop me off one way or the other. And getting dropped off can be massively beneficial when it means I don’t have to arrive on campus two to three hours early just to find parking. Not only is it practical for me, it’s practical for my family.
The last–and the most honest, and the most vulnerable response I could muster–is reserved almost exclusively to those closest to me, but in a very specific class of closeness.
Can you believe my closest friends are barely blood? Those I’ve shown the shadows of my heart are hardly even lifelong acquaintances; on the contrary, the longest-known of these has only been the past nine years. (Those subsequently, seven, six, two [twice], and one year each.)
Tangents withstanding, I’ve kept this response so tight to myself it’s hard to write these words, will be harder when I have to press that “Submit” button to publish it.
Quite simply, I’m afraid.
(Written and Forgotten :: June 25, 2011)