Why does going to university suddenly render me scared silly of driving a motor vehicle?

I mean, I love driving. When I was at home, I would always be the designated driver. No, not in the sense of sitting around while all my friends get drunk and me being bored in the corner and then me having to drive them home at the risk of them vomiting all over the inside of my pristine car. I mean it in the sense that whenever we wanted to go anywhere, I was just assumed to be the responsible one who would drive us while my friends pushed my ridiculously large hazard button that glowed red and was apparently irresistible to anyone who rode in my passenger’s seat. I loved speeding down the highway with my windows down and blaring “Good Life” by OneRepublic, and got way too excited for long drives by myself. I did not for one second doubt my driving skills, and was fairly confident in my abilities, especially considering the fact that my 1990 Mazda 323 was  a stick shift. Automatics were a piece of cake.

Then I go to university. And I discover that apparently my driving skills were left behind in the states, along with my doll and beanie baby collections. I first found this out after living here a couple weeks. Kenya and I went for a Starbucks run, and before we got in the car to drive home, she asked me if I would like to drive. All of a sudden, it feels like a rock dropped into the bottom of my stomach, and I start to feel all queasy. But intellectually I knew I loved driving, and that I was a good driver. I shook off my doubt, and convinced myself that I was fine. I know how to drive, I drove all the time. No need to freak out.

So I get behind the wheel, and I can’t shake this crazy sense of horror that I have. But I drive anyway. It felt so weird. Maybe it was because Kenya’s car was so different than my little Mazda, but still. I’d driven automatics before. For some reason, I felt like I had my permit again, and I had just started driving. Like somehow all the rules had changed and driving in Canada would be way different than the states and I would screw up and kill everyone and AH! When I first started driving, I would freak out every time a car came past me in the opposite lane, every single time. “Oh shit oh shit Oh Shit OH SHIT… *car zooms past with tons of space between us and nothing bad happens* Phew.” Every time. That’s how I felt when driving in Canada, after having had my license for 2 1/2 years. It was very disconcerting.

However, I got back to Grebel without killing anyone. Which is always a success in my book. The next time I drove was a different story. Kenya was eating cotton candy, so she had me drive to her apartment. I got behind the wheel, and the sense of uneasiness started to build up again. My muscles tensed and I climbed into the driver’s seat, jaw clenched and stomach jumping around like a little kid with a brand new pogo stick.

All went fine, until I heard a siren. I didn’t know where it was coming from, and having grown up near a fire station and hearing sirens almost every day, sirens don’t alarm me nearly as much as they should. All of a sudden, I approached the intersection, and I saw the ambulance. But I saw it a little late. I slammed on my brakes, then realized that I wouldn’t stop in time and it would have be more beneficial if I sped through the intersection. But by that point, I had already slowed down to a near stop. Freaking out and thinking that I was going to ironically get killed by an ambulance, I yelled “SHIT!!!!,” slammed on the gas, and zoomed out of the intersection. I had effectively done the absolute worst driving possible in that situation, slowing down to an almost stop and then hightailing it out of there, effectively blocking the intersection. Way to go me.

And I haven’t managed to shake this feeling! Even though I know I can drive, I feel like I’m 16 again and can’t tell the clutch from the brake. Sigh. Will I ever regain my driving confidence? I sure hope so…

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