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Taking the wheel

Life lessons from learning how to drive

By Isabelle Laureta



Life update (for those who care): I’ve started learning how to drive! Yay! And when I say learning, I mean I still scream internally whenever my driving instructor or my dad yell, “Brake!” Why is this important for you to know? Well, it’s not. But what I’m about to share is.

When I first started my driving lessons, I thought I’m just going to learn, well, how to drive a car and not kill myself in the process. But in the middle of it all, I knew I was learning something more than putting my hands at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock of the steering wheel. I know experiences are supposed to teach us at least one life lesson, but this particular period (a milestone, perhaps?) of my 20-something life changed the way I see a lot of things. Here are the thoughts I managed to cram inside my head in the middle of all those internal screams.

1. Manage your self confidence

Have you ever been in a moment when you think you’re already good at something, and then the universe smacks you right in the face and tells you you’re not and you still have a lot to learn? I’ve been in that moment so many times over in the course of my driving lessons and practice sessions with my dad. I’d go to class full of self-confidence, thinking that I already know how to drive—or at least the basics—but then after five minutes of driving, I’d make a mistake like forget to turn on the signal light, or turn the wheel too slowly. After my last session in my driving school, my dad let me take our car to practice on (with him on the passenger seat, of course). Fresh from my lessons that morning, I was full of self-confidence. I mean, what could go wrong? After all, I was doing good already. And you know what happened? I went over the gutter.

It’s one thing to manage your self-confidence, and it’s another thing to know what to do when said self-confidence gets blown to pieces. Despite my dad’s (slight) scolding and my utter frustration, I was thankful for that incident in the gutter (though I wouldn’t want for that to happen again, thank you very much) because it put me to my place. That incident made me realize that “hey, this is where you are right now. Get your head out of the clouds because you still have a long way to go, and that’s okay.” For most of us, the easiest way to protect our ego when things like this happen is to turn an arrogant mind away from the high place we think we are in. For some, it might just be easier to give up and accept the fact that it’s all there is to it. But things that are easy to do oftentimes aren’t the right thing to do. So be humble. Don’t give up. And work harder.

2. There are things that cannot be rushed

The thought of driving a car and never having to commute again excites the bejeezus out of me, so naturally, I was itching to finally be an expert in driving and get my hands on my driver’s license. But like all things in this life that’s good and worth having, learning to drive requires a lot of patience. There are things that aren’t given to you in one snap of a finger because you’re meant to work hard for it. Because if you don’t, not only will it be not as valuable, but the quality of what you’re hoping for would be similar to that of a cup of rice that wasn’t cooked long enough. I mean, you could still eat half-cooked rice, but the well-cooked ones are the bomb diggity. A huge chunk of my patience, I think I got from learning how to drive. But then again, maybe it’s only a preparation for when I’m stuck with traffic. Either way, I win. Patience is never a wasted virtue to have.

3. Do not be afraid to ask for help.

When I was learning how to park, I asked a ton of questions to the point where I think my instructor wondered if he was in an episode of The Buzz. Should I steer more to the right? Should I release the brake now? Where should I look? Is this right? After parking, he went out of the car to see how I did. The car was centered on the parking space and it couldn’t be any more perfect. When it was time to try parallel parking, I asked the same amount of questions (maybe even more), and I did it the first try. It’s honestly one of my proudest moments in life.

I know too many people who pretend to know what they’re doing even though they don’t. I, too, am guilty of that sometimes especially when a lot of people are watching. We often let our pride or shyness get the best of us. We think we’re doing ourselves a favor by saving face, but what we are really doing is closing the doors of learning and curiosity. The Socratic paradox says “I know that I know nothing,” and it’s one of the most difficult but wisest thing one can admit to oneself.

4. You can’t control everything that happens around you

We should always be on the look out to potential hazards that are developing around us—not only in driving, but also in life in general. When we see possible danger earlier, it’s easier to analyze and come up with a plan of action to deal with it. I’ve passed by a lot of drivers who counter flow on the road when it’s clearly never cool to do that. Of course, I have the right of way in that situation, but if I don’t adjust, it’s not gonna look good. Sometimes, it’s better to be the one to have to adjust to the situation, even when you know you’re on the right side of things.

You can do everything right, be the kindest person who ever lived on the planet, but some people will still find a way to hurt you. You cannot control it. Life is cruel that way. One thing you can control, though, is how you react to it. Do you fight fire with fire, or do you kill them with kindness?

5. When you don’t know what to do, hit brake

It’s what my dad told me on one of our practice sessions around the subdivision. “Mag-preno ka nalang kung nahihirapan ka,” he said when I was having a hard time turning to a sharp curve. This didn’t mean I was giving up and leaving the car out there by the road. It meant I wasallowing myself to take things slow and think things through. It means I’m carefully planning what I’m going to do next.

Life will throw us a lot of lemons, sometimes even more than one at a time. When this happens, we get rattled and worse, implode even before we get the chance to figure things out. Take a break. Watch hilarious cat videos. Eat your favorite comfort food. Allow yourself a little rest so you can be more equipped to tackle what supposed to be tackled with a right mindset.

6. It always seems impossible until you try

When I enrolled at a driving school, my mom asked me if I wasn’t scared. I said, “Of course not!” but at the back of my mind there was a tiny voice that said, “Maybe I can’t do it. What if I can’t do it?” I heard that voice even when I first sat on the driver’s seat on my first day at driving school. “What if I die?” I jokingly said to my instructor. “You won’t,” my instructor laughed.

And I didn’t! 2016 started with my mind not even remotely close to thinking I could drive, not because I don’t want to learn how to, but because there’s this lingering feeling that maybe I’m not capable of doing so. When you’re faced with a huge mountain of challenge, it’s always hard to think of yourself having made it to the other side. But with patience, hard work, and faith in yourself, you might just. You don’t necessarily have to know everything for you to start, you just have to dip your toes in the water and see yourself try.

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