Thursday, June 19, 2008

There and Back Again

Wow, I hope I'm not pushing a lot of good posts to the bottom here but I really want to write this before I lose the inspiration.

Today was a huge milestone for me. Most of you probably don't remember this because it was back when my blog was still really new. Of course, that also came before this. I think that last thing, coupled with just general lack of confidence in myself that I had been struggling to overcome even before that happened, created an intense, intense fear and anxiety about driving - especially on the highway.

So yes, I had driven on the highway before. With my dad, that is. Today was my first time ever driving on the highway by myself. And you know what? I'm not going to say that the entire time was a picnic, because there were some parts where I was scared and uncomfortable, but it really was not as bad as I had worked myself up about it being.

I left my house around ten after two. Destination - The Pond, The Fortress of Super Sketch, Home of the Blogfather, Serach and Ezzie's apartment, whatever-you-want-to-call-it.

The entrance to the highway is about two minutes from my house so I didn't have too much time to think about it in the car before I was actually on the entrance ramp. I had to forcibly will my hands to steer the wheel so that I'd have no choice but to go onto the highway. And then, before I knew it, I was on. Just like that.

I was driving on the highway.

About twenty-five minutes and three highways later, I arrived at Serandez. I even have a sign to prove it! And then I got to hang around and help rip things up, which was fun. And we even squeezed in two rounds of boggle before I had to go (Apple was there, too).

The real adventure was the trip back.

I started off okay. Both mapquest and Ezzie provided me with directions on how to get onto the highway and then how to get home from there (again - three highways). The problem was - there was a lot of traffic and I hadn't realized that if I stayed in the right lane, I would automatically end up on a highway I didn't want to be on. By the time I noticed this, it was too late. I was a little nervous because I had absolutely no idea how to get home from the highway I'd just gotten onto but I figured if I got off at the next exit, I wouldn't be too far away from getting back on track. So I got off, but then didn't really know where exactly I was. I knew sort of, but I had no idea how to get back onto the correct highway. So I pulled over and called Ezzie. He very patiently gave me directions and, even though I was still nervous (because I always get nervous when I'm driving alone and don't know exactly where I'm going and can't visualize it), I got off the phone and went the way I was told. Thankfully, I had no trouble getting back where I needed to be.

Unfortunately, I also had no idea whether I was supposed to be going north or south, so when the highway split and I had to decide between the two, I chose the wrong one. I didn't realize I'd chosen the wrong one right away, though. It was only until I saw water, signs for the Bronx, and the Throgs Neck Bridge looming up ahead that I felt my heart sinking. Actually, I felt like I was just going to hurl. I did not want to go over any bridges and I did not want to end up in the Bronx. I was very, very scared because I couldn't even see anywhere to get off. It seemed like I had no choice but to go on the bridge.

Luckily, there was a little marina on the side of the highway so I quickly pulled over and called Ezzie again, this time shaking all over and nearly in tears (and then, yeah, in tears later). But after getting directions again and being told a few times that I can do it and that I'll be fine and after calling my mom, I braved the highway again. That was the worst part of the entire trip. I was so panicked. The thing is, I don't normally panic when things go wrong. I'm usually able to keep my cool and deal with the situation. I think. Depending on the situation, anyway. But certainly about getting lost - I always know I'll end up fine in the end. But not when I'm lost while I'm driving and especially not when it's taking all my energy just to feel comfortable driving on the highway when I'm not lost. I was tired and frustrated and just wanted to go home.

I was scared to get back onto the highway. I wasn't precisely sure where I'd end up and I was very close to the bridge. If I missed the exit, I probably would have no choice but to cross the water. In my mind, I was irrationally hoping someone would just come get me. But I knew that was ridiculous. Ezzie wasn't going to drive all the way out there and neither was my mom - and anyway, even if they did, there would be two drivers and two cars so I'd still have to drive.

No, there was no choice. I had to face getting onto the highway again. I had to face finding my way when I wasn't exactly sure what to do.

And I did. I faced it. I got onto the highway (which was scary on its own because there was no entrance ramp from the marina, I just had to get on in the middle of all these cars flying by), got off at the next exit (I almost didn't because I was confused for a minute but then, noticing the looming bridge again - which was actually very pretty, only not when I wanted to get away from it - I quickly made sure to get off), followed Ezzie's directions (a bit uncertainly because I wasn't sure I'd gotten off at the right place), messed up a little but fixed myself without calling again for help, got back onto the right direction on the highway and, after a lot of traffic, ended up back home.

The trip there: 25 minutes
The trip home: two hours

But once I got onto the part of the highway I was comfortable with, I was able to think a little bit without worrying whether or not I was following the right signs. That's when I realized - I'd just gotten a real, physical lesson about dealing with problems. It's something we all know - friends can help, but you're the one who ultimately has to overcome whatever obstacle is in your way. No one can do it for you. It comes up most often when dealing with advice and emotional issues or big decisions. Here, I experienced it literally. I was the only one in the car. I had no choice. I had to drive if I wanted to get home. I had to face anything and everything in my way because if I didn't, I'd be spending forever on the side of the highway. And when I was lost on the way, I could call for help, like I called Ezzie, but he couldn't actually drive for me. He could just direct me. I had to do all the driving. No one was coming to get me. No one was coming to do anything for me. I had to do it all myself. And I did. And I'm a better person for it - or a better driver, at least. Because I'm not afraid of highways anymore. I'm really not. I'm still nervous about getting lost, but I spent so long wandering around on different highways - how can I still be afraid of them?

I'm stronger. I know I can face things and I know I can succeed. Getting lost isn't failing, it's just learning. Yes, I was shaking all over, yes, I was scared, but it's okay. I still did it. I didn't wuss out. And that is bravery. I used to think I was the biggest coward because I was so afraid of things. But now I realize - being brave isn't having no fears. It's being terrified but doing it anyway because you know you have to.

I think I definitely grew from just this one experience. I gained a bit more confidence in myself that I didn't have before. And it was hard to get there, definitely. Growing pains are real, even non-physical growing. But growth doesn't come without pain, without fear, without struggle. Then it wouldn't be worth anything - if it came easily. It wouldn't be real growth. I had to face things I was terrified of and the more I faced them, the more I believed I could do it again. The more I believed I could face other things I'm terrified of. The more I believed in myself.

This lesson for me is certainly not over. It's really only just begun. But I'm getting there - I'll get there eventually. It might require encouragement and guidance still, but that's okay. It's okay to have help.

Anyway, thank you to Ezzie and Apple for making me a "you did it!" sign - it actually made me feel really good - and thank you a hundred times over to Ezzie for being really patient with me when I was horribly lost and for basically ensuring I didn't end up in some random place somewhere. So, yes.

And, uh, here's to better driving times in the future!