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Getting back on the horse vs waiting to be ready

So, I bought a thing.

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The thing is a car.

Now, I’m 26 and this is my first car…but it’s also really my first time as a full time driver. Let me explain.

So, story time.  In Canada, you can get a learner’s permit to drive at the age of 16, and then get a license that has a grading system at 18 and move into an unrestricted license a year or so after (it depends on what province you are in).  Now, while all of my classmates and friends got theirs as soon as they could, I didn’t get my learners at 16, but instead 18.  I think this was probably based on a couple of factors, but mostly that I was – and still am – an incredibly cerebral person.  My friends wanted a car for the freedom it brought, but in my mind if I could pick up a book off a shelf and obtain more freedom than I ever could getting into a car and driving to the next town to hit up a McDonald’s, then where was the great appeal of driving? I didn’t need to drive, my mother did the errands, so what was the big deal?

Then, I went to Dalhousie, and I continued to not need to drive. I lived in residence for the 4 years of my undergraduate degree – which I certainly don’t recommend to everyone – because it worked for my schedule of traveling to work for the summers.  Now, Halifax isn’t a booming metropolis by my Toronto standards, but it’s a city with a decent bus system (as long as you are in the metro proper) and the buses and walking worked perfectly for me.  I continued to not need to drive and thus, I didn’t drive.

My accident, then, was definitely understandable.  I think it was in my first year of university, when I was home for a break.  University ends earlier than school, and so I volunteered to pick up my sister from school so that my mother wouldn’t have to.  Now, I hadn’t driven in a while but I wasn’t a totally unexperienced driver. I’d driven one of my dad’s cars up from rural Ontario when we moved into the city, a two hour drive, and I figured I would be fine with some small town driving.  However, what I’ve now realized is the down side of small town driving is, in many ways it’s tougher than city driving. Cities have street lights and properly marked four way crossings; small towns have stupid four ways that have no rhyme or reason to them, matching busy ‘highways’ with busy crossroads and no lights.

Like say, the one beside my mother’s office where I got t-boned.  I had seen the van that hit me, but I’d misjudged its speed and I’d pulled out too slowly (and it was speeding), and that was all she wrote.  The passenger door buckled, and I was pushed gently into a car waiting to turn on the other side of the highway.  All in all, I was incredibly lucky. The car was a write off, but I was unhurt and the other driver was unhurt.  There’s a lot of things I don’t think about when it comes to that accident, mostly, if I hadn’t been on my way to pick up my sister and rather she had been in the passenger seat, because I can’t think about that.  But the things that stayed with me for a while was the shock of the impact; the “crunch”of the car as the plastic shattered and the metal rended, and I knew I wasn’t going to drive for a little while.

Now, again, I didn’t need to drive, and that definitely gave me a crutch. I went back to university and got around just fine without a car and thought ‘well, I could just live in a city like this and not need a car ever.’

My mother was pretty supportive of my ‘maybe when I’m ready/never approach;’ my dad less so.  My dad is solely of the ‘get right back on the horse’ mindset, and so when I was with my dad in the summer, he wanted me to drive with him.  My dad, as it should be reminded, lives in Toronto, which although it has the benefit of being a city, also has a reputation for…city drivers, lets say.  But I did go driving with him, and although it went well, I didn’t really feel ready (the fact that my dad – whom I love eternally and who is an amazing guy – and the phrase ‘non stressful driving’ don’t go together probably didn’t help).

And then I got into MUN, and while St. John’s is great, and I really love it here, the public transportation is…not quite at the level it needs to be.  I managed through my first two years, but there were things that were becoming more difficult. I could take a bus to the grocery store, but I’d have to take a cab back, a 14 dollar fare each time.  Going to my Remicade appointments was a 40 dollar round trip in a cab.  I could take a bus downtown, but not say to Signal Hill or Cape Spear or any of the other cool landmarks of Newfoundland I wanted to see.  I could take a bus to school, but the times either meant I was there 30 min early or 5 min late.  Then there was everyone who kept saying that a car was a necessity in 3rd year, as in the run of a day you could be expected to be at a variety of sites around the city, which I have seen to be true.

So, for about the last year I’d been considering a car. The costs, the benefits, and most importantly, was I ready to drive again.  My mother, unaware of my thoughts but blessed with the good luck of working at a car dealership, saw a used car come into the dealership and sent me pics just out of the blue with the question ‘are you interested in a car?’  My answer was, ‘yes, I am.’ And although I didn’t end up getting the car she first sent me, I did end up, with my mom’s help, getting the car in the picture, which was driven over to the island on the ferry (my mom lives in NS) by a friend of ours, and arrived a couple of weeks ago.

And yet, even though I’d gone though everything up to then – my mom reporting on test drives, worked out the payment plan, got insurance, bought snow tires, bought the ferry ticket and plane ticket for our friend – I still found myself procrastinating getting into the car and actually driving it.  What if I’d done all this and I still wasn’t ready?

And then I just said ‘screw it’ and got in the car, and did it. I started slow for a day, driving in the back roads around my apartment in the day and night, and then the next day added driving to the hospital and the grocery store, then the mall, downtown, the highway, etc.

And I love it.

I love my car. I love driving my car.  I love getting groceries and not needing a cab,

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Whee, trunk space 😉

I love driving to work/school,

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No, it’s never sunny in NL.

I love stupid stuff like how pretty this foam is in the car wash,

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Looks like modern art, right?

And I also just love the car.

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It’s all so sleek 😉

And honestly, I think part of the reason I feel this way is because I waited until I was ready.  Now, of course I don’t have a crystal ball, I can’t compare what driving would have been like if I’d gotten back on the horse and started again 2 or 4 or 6 years ago instead of waiting until now, but I wanted to post this because I feel like we put so much emphasis on ‘getting back on the horse right away’ as the only right way to do it.  Getting back to it right away is probably a great idea, and I know it works for many people. But honestly, waiting until you are ready definitely works as well, and I don’t think we should discredit this as a valid option.  No, you cannot let your fears or one bad experience stop you forever and if you wait there certainly is a chance of that happening.  But jumping back in too soon as having another bad experience can also make you swear off something for good, and that’s just as bad I think.

All I can really say is, I waited, thought about it for a long time, and then decided I was ready and it’s worked out great for me and that, if there is something that you are waiting to try, or try again, don’t let people and their ‘get back on the horse again’ good intentions pressure you into something you aren’t ready for.

It will work out in the end. There’s nothing wrong with living life at your own pace 🙂

5 Comments »

  1. Glad you’ve gotten back into driving. I took the bus to school my first three years of medical school, and it got more and more annoying the further on it went. It was particularly awful to have to wait for the bus when I was post-call!

  2. I didn’t learn to drive until I was in my late-20s and was in medical school, and I didn’t get my full license until I had graduated. The first time I ever drove all by myself was in taking my brand new car on the highway from the dealership where I had just picked it up to my new home for residency. Very similar story, except that I was the passenger in a t-boned car. Those experiences you describe really stick with you for a long time; it seemed like years until I didn’t hear glass shattering every time I got into a car. Congrats on your new purchase, but mostly on your new freedom!

      • It definitely has passed, in the sense that I now own and regularly drive a car and usually don’t feel too scared. Every once in a while, I get a little nervous, but I’m mostly okay with driving these days.

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