During my father’s short illness many people referred to my inability to drive. I was “encouraged” by means of references to how my family needs me to drive or how much easier I could make things for my mother if I could drive.
During a time of significant change and imminent loss, I had the added burden that others tried to place on me. That of convenience to others with very little regard to my own needs or challenges.
The mere thought of getting behind a steering wheel, and physically coordinating my lefts and rights (feet, hands and eyes), whilst also moving a vehicle with many other sensory bombardments causes a neuro-traffic-jam in my head. My mind and heart, like an engine being stationery at 140RPM!
It’s been almost two decades of trying. Each attempt requiring a two-year break for me to recover from the experience.
In my late teens and early twenties, I tried, because I thought having a driver’s license was going to be my magical ticket to success. But somewhere along this journey I’ve accepted that there is no failure in trying. And life experience has taught me that a driver’s license is NOT a ticket to success – it is merely a quicker journey from A to B.
I’ve been for more than 80 driving lessons on a manual vehicle. I always passed my learner’s licence. But I always failed my driving test.
While my dad was sick I could confidently tell people that I had no desire to drive, whereas fifteen years ago I would have felt like a failure. During those moments I used to think, maybe when my dad is discharged from hospital, and now that he had an automatic car, maybe he could sit next to me in the passenger seat and help me learn to drive . . . Many years ago, he tried to teach me on his manual car, but my questions and anxiety was too much for him to handle. He said I think too much, and this is true.
If there is one person who has had the most phenomenal patience with me, and understanding, it is my son. His love for cars has meant that he enjoys teaching me and helping me feel comfortable in the driver’s seat. He held my hand when I had to start my dad’s car for the first time while my dad was in hospital. I was so afraid that the car might move, and I would not know what to do if it did!
I drove my Automatic Quirk for the first time at the end of July and have since gone for five driving lessons. It’s been an empowering experience – not having the added requirements of clutch control and gear changing. Learning to drive an automatic has meant that for the first time I could focus on my driving and NOT worry about hand-eye-feet coordination.
I am still extremely anxious before each lesson. Perseverating on the many routes, traffic, traffic lights – timing from amber to red. How many people would wait behind me at a stop street or how many cars would be at the other yield signs entering the traffic circle and calculating my actions. Spending days, and nights, going through the three-point turn in my head so that I could figure out which way to turn the steering wheel if I wanted to go left or right, and still getting confused.
Driving is an experience. One that I am finally ready to explore, because I am ready.
Sometimes we forget that it's okay to move at our own pace or we expect others to succeed or develop at a pace that is not theirs, but ours. Be open to people who require a little bit more patience, understanding & acceptance. #ActuallyAutistic #BeKind #LivingWithIntent #mylife pic.twitter.com/PrgPwnTJ38
— Chevone Petersen (@ChevsLife) August 11, 2018