Being An Anxious Driver & Learning In Your 20's
On Wednesday I finally passed my driving test and I wanted to scream it from the rooftops as well as finally sitting down to write a post about the entire thing. I've wanted to write about my time learning to drive because I know it's something that other people really struggle with but it's not something that people love to talk about it because it's seen as an embarrassment. So many people go through driving lessons like they're the easiest thing in the world but so many of us don't. As well as being an incredibly anxious driver I've also waited until I was a little bit older to learn which isn't that common as most people get it done in their teens.
DO YOU NEED TO DRIVE?
I'm sure like many of us I felt the pressure to drive as soon as I turned 17 and I was so desperate to learn. All I wanted to do was pass my test and I even bought a car and insured myself on it [which was the worst mistake I ever made] I could never get through my test as nerves and confidence made it absolutely impossible. It's become a standard for people to learn at a young age and whilst there are a lot of benefits to having it done and out of the way I think it's really important to ask yourself 'do I really need my license right now?'. Learning to drive is very expensive and owning a car is astronomical and unless you're going to be getting some financial support with it then it makes the decision very hard. Whilst it might be rough that all your friends are getting their license and you're not it's such a personal choice and no-one should feel like they have to learn.
PICKING AN INSTRUCTOR
The first time I learnt to drive I was lucky that my parents helped me pick an instructor but I had a really bad run with the ones I was working with. They all left or retired and were never able to get me through a test which had a huge effect on my confidence. For me, it's never been an issue of which sex I've learnt to drive with although some people feel more confident with a lady instructor over a man and that's fine. As you're going to be spending a lot of one on one time with that person it's so important to feel confident and comfortable with who you choose. I feel driving instructors mostly come from personal recommendation which is great because it can give you more of an insight to what that person might be like.
REVISING FOR YOUR THEORY
The theory side of driving was generally not something that I struggled with too much but I know some people find that part difficult and the physical test really easy. For me, I downloaded a programme to my laptop that had every single question that could come up on the test, hazard perception practice as well as a highway code that you could look through. A week before my test I did a set amount of questions each day, some reading as well as practising the hazard perception. I think the app cost me around £5 but it was incredibly helpful and well worth the money even though there are awesome free test websites this was one of the most thorough that I found.
THE FINANCIAL ASPECT OF IT
Learning to drive is incredibly expensive and there is no getting around it. I probably spent around £1000 getting through my test this time and that was with having a solid knowledge of driving before hand so that figure would probably double if I had no idea how to drive. Like I said, more often than not people get a little bit of financial help throughout from their parents etc but if you are paying for it yourself then it's just all about budgeting for it. You obviously don't have to pay that figure all at once but lessons soon add up and that might mean pinching the pennies in other areas of life. A lot of people feel the strain of learning to drive because it's so expensive. On the day of your test, for example, you're paying over £100 and when it doesn't go to plan it's so difficult to deal with mentally but also financially which puts, even more, pressure on the day.
HAVING CONFIDENCE IN YOURSELF & BEING AN ANXIOUS DRIVER
If there is one thing that has plagued my entire driving experience it's my self-doubt. And not to be arrogant I know I'm a good driver, I can do everything I'm supposed to but I completely psych myself out every time I get in the car and convince myself that I don't Know how to drive and that I'm not good enough to do it. Not only was the self-doubt a killer it was the anxious thoughts that haunted me and every time I had a driving lesson I could barely move beforehand because I was so anxious.
Driving and dealing with other road users is quite difficult when you're a learner because like the majority of us know other drivers can be incredibly aggressive and unkind. Which when you're learning and already taking on a huge amount of knowledge and having to practice it dealing with other people who are trying to constantly rush you, push you off the road [seriously will people ever learn how to merge into one lane properly?] and just generally want you out of their way can make it incredibly hard. By the end when I was approaching my test I had to stop caring about people who wanted to rush me because each one of us has to learn at some point and unless you're an ambulance then waiting 30 seconds extra is not the end of the world. Learners have as much right to be on the road as everyone else and it's not an inconvenience no matter how much people might like to make you feel that way.
Having the faith in yourself when learning is so hard but that's why you're paying an instructor, don't feel bad if you're asking a million questions or if they might seem like an obvious thing. A lot of people worry that they're going to be a terrible driver but we all have to start somewhere and you're never going to be a risk to anyone else because the instructor has a set of peddles. When you begin you're mostly taken around small roads with minimal traffic to build up your confidence and then move onto larger areas to deal with different road aspects.
HOW I GOT THROUGH MY TEST & THE THINGS I FOUND TO REALLY HELP
So you might have figured that this wasn't my first time learning to drive and even though it took me a long time to accept that I hadn't passed when I wanted to now I know that it was for the best. I was such a nervous driver when I was 17 and that's not going to make for a safe driver, having some sort of confidence to hold your own on the road is something I've found to be an integral part of learning. It took me around 8 months [taking out the time of waiting for a test] to feel confident enough in myself to feel like I was really ready to drive by myself and I'm so glad I took it slow and steady. I put no pressure on myself because there is nothing in my life that actually requires me to drive but it was just something that I wanted to get done and out of the way. Having your license isn't an integral part of life, especially if you live in a city but it makes things generally a lot easier. Taking that pressure off passing was something I needed and a large part of this was keeping my learning experience very much to myself, I didn't want other people to know and I definitely didn't want to share it online. Here are the things that I found incredibly helpful to getting myself through my test;
- I stopped worrying so much about other people being impatient on the road, they can wait as much as they might not like it.
- You have to pay as much attention to other people's driving as well as your own.
- Don't broadcast that you have your test, no-one needs the extra pressure.
- Take your time, it doesn't matter how long it takes you to learn.
- On the day of your test try and just treat it like a normal day, my brain wanted to make into the biggest deal but talking myself down and just doing everything that I normally would really helped.
- Practising with someone else might seem like a great idea but in general it really hindered me because it's so easy to form bad habits that you wouldn't with your instructor. For some people it works wonderfully but from my own experience it was a terrible expensive idea.
- Try and have a couple more lessons than you usually would the week before your test.
- Not everyone learns when they're 17, seriously, my instructor had one pupil in her 50's.
- Have faith in yourself, don't tell yourself you can't because you'll more than likely get in your own head too much and self sabotage.
AND ONE LAST NOTE FROM ME
I was so fortunate that I had no pressure from anyone else to get my license but it was something I really wanted to have for my own personal achievement bank. It might not seem like a big deal as people pass their tests every day but for me, it was a huge thing, I never believed I ever going to hear the words 'congratulations you've passed' and that piece of blue paper in my hands. And when I did I really awkwardly sort of screamed at the examiner and then immediately burst into tears, I've never quite known a relief like that in my life. Having failed tests before I knew exactly what it was like and if you're someone who is struggling to get through driving, please know you're not as alone as you think you are and a number of tests you take really doesn't matter in the long run. There is a lot of pressure put on those 45 minutes and anything can happen and there are so many extenuating circumstances that go into it. Yes, it's expensive and can feel crushingly low but you can take away from those failures even though it might not feel like it at the time.
You got this!
I'd love to know what it was like for you learning to drive or what your thoughts on the whole thing