It was a smart idea, really, when my Dad told me that before I could drive my own car at 16, I had to learn to drive a stick-shift. My older sister could drive an automatic, so I didn’t think it would be too hard. On the appointed day, we headed over to George Mason University, and my Dad found a semi-empty parking lot for us to practice, and I was completely unprepared with how hard it was. Though I had watched my sister and Dad drive with a manual engine, I never realized what went into it. The clutch. The gears. The thinking. Ugh. I hated all of it. Why would ANYONE choose this over an automatic??
The day didn’t go so well, and once my attitude got stuck in “sour,” I think my Dad tried to hurry us up to get it over with. The last thing on the agenda was supposed to be laps around University Circle, where there are stop signs on EVERY corner. Have you ever tried stopping while driving a stick? IT’S HARD. Plus, this is a college campus, so picture pedestrians threatening to walk in front of you at any moment and hasty young drivers. With attitude. (not like I know what THAT’S like) We started the drive and I’m pretty sure I stalled out on every corner. Every Freaking Corner. It was embarrassing and frustrating and panic-inducing. There were tears and yelling and finally my Dad let us go home for the day and we both pretended like I actually had the hang of it, mostly because neither one of us wanted to be in that environment again. I mean, either I was going to explode from panic and anger, my Dad would explode out of frustration, or the car would completely break down from stalling out hundreds of times.
I wasn’t expecting driving to feel SO hard that day. But here’s what I know about learning to drive stick: It gets easier. With practice. And experience. And time. I do know that had I kept it up, a lot of it would become second nature. No stress.
My friend Sandra and I were talking the other day about struggles. Because she’s getting her masters in counseling and because she has a heart of gold and because she’s super wise and approachable with just the right amounts of sass, I pretty much tell that girl everything. She’ll call after months of not talking and ask, point blank, “How are you doing with ________?” It’s awful and awesome.
Over the last two years she’s helped me process struggles with insecurity and emotions. And poor coping mechanisms. My goal secretly has always been to get to a point where she asks, “How are you doing with ______?” and I reply, “OH, TOTALLY FINE. IT’S NOT A STRUGGLE AT ALL. I CAN’T EVEN IMAGINE THAT BEING AN ISSUE ANYMORE, I’M SO OVER IT.”
That’s my goal, but so far, when she asks, I usually have to give a longer answer. “Better” is a key word – because over time, yes, it gets better. But it hasn’t gone away.
I asked her, “Sandra, realistically, do you think I will get over this completely, or is it something I know I’ll have to be careful with the rest of my life?”
Her response was perfect.
She explained that working through this is like learning to drive a stick shift. I nodded and told her I ‘knew’ how to drive one …. Hah. Yeah right. But moving on…
“When you’re learning and you are on your own, you’re going to stall out. It’s going to happen whether you’re driving around your neighborhood or on the highway and you’re going to freak out and it’s going to be a big deal. Over time though, you’ll stall out less and less. However, it will still happen. Your progress is evident when you stall out and you can switch right back into gear. You get back on track a lot faster.”
Immediately, I got what she was saying, even though I never officially mastered the manual engine.
Recently I moved into an apartment by myself. I have to tell you, I really hate living alone. This is my third time I’ve found myself with a space that feels too big for just me… However, this time things feel a little different.
In the past, when I was alone, coming home brought unsettledness. The walls seemed to stand against me, and I’d walk around my bedroom and kitchen with loneliness and edges of anxiety, which often led to solo trips for ice cream or binge watching Netflix or both. Here’s the thing, ice cream and TV don’t make me feel better. They actually make me feel worse. A post for another day. But after a week of being here, I texted my sister, “Hey, you know, this isn’t so bad this time. This living alone thing. I’m learning to rely on God and live in His peace. And I mean, I only ate half a pan of brownies by myself ONE TIME!”
We laughed about the brownies, but GOSH, something like that used to completely derail me. It would send me plummeting into a pit of self-loathing, which could keep me off track for days or weeks. This time around, I walk around this place a little more confident, a little more able to discern between how vegetables make me feel compared to brownies. But, when my emotions knock me down, I stand up a little faster. I actually enjoy the brownies I’m eating and then go ahead and run the dishwasher.
Let’s stop beating ourselves up over stalling out and instead celebrate how quickly we get back on track.
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