After a year disqualified from driving on account of my habitual falling unconscious and weeing myself, a year spent only being able to buy the amount of shopping I could carry, only being able to walk the dog from my doorstep, only being able to visit people when I was rich enough to be able to afford a train, a year spent spending three times as much time as I needed to travel on a sweaty, pissy, pukey bus, I was delighted to find a letter from the DVLA. There is nothing quite like feeling as if you are getting the keys to your freedom and opening the letter and holding the driving licence in your hands, only to find that it’s not in your name. Thank you, DVLA. Really. Thank you.
The acquisition of knowledge is meant to be something magnificent. The very fact that our brains are able to learn is something which sets us apart from the multitude of creatures which we share this planet with. Despite this very fact, learning can be terrifically stressful and damn right painful for some.
Learning as an adult male can be impossible for some, as it requires the learner to leave their own sense of self-importance at the door and put their complete faith in an entrusted stranger. Having been that stranger for so many years, it feels peculiar to find myself on the other side of the fence.
The reason for these thoughts is the fact that I am learning to drive at the age of thirty-one. I have never been interested in cars or driving. To be honest, I am still indifferent to all cars except the one I am in. What does interest me is human experience and so far this experience has been fun.
Believe it or not; learning does not have to be dull. Between the inevitable stalling the car and the numerous other traffic violations that I have already committed, I have nearly convinced my instructor to grow a moustache, that old people have no purpose and that I nearly know how to drive. I have learned that driving instructors do not like it when you scream ‘we are going to die’ when entering a roundabout, that when you are instructed to depress the clutch it doesn’t require demoralising words directed at the pedal and that when you are instructed to go straight on, it requires a road underneath your wheels.
Trusting a complete stranger is so much easier when you have absolutely no idea what you are doing. Initially it was a terrifying ordeal. I was so stressed behind the wheel that my instructor was convinced that I was suffering from rigor mortis. I needed to find a way to calm myself down. After some thinking I realised that I hadn’t just left my self-importance by the door but that I had also left my self. At the moment I was at a crossroads, literally. I was sitting in the driver’s seat, before a pedestrian crossing. I snapped out of my daydream and saw what I could only perceive as a sign from God. A nun was crossing the road. Before you ask, I didn’t gun the engine as I am a mature adult man. Instead I beeped the horn, leaned out of the window and shouted ‘Penguin’ and instantaneously the tension was gone.
I learned something valuable that day. Stress, tension, fear or whatever you wish to call it can appear when you try too hard and that it is possible to put your faith in someone else as long as it doesn’t change you. Now I am calmer on the road I feel happy when I drive. In other words I am learning and enjoying every minute of it. And that, in my opinion, is the key to self-improvement.