"I'll be living in London, I really don't need to worry about it."
Flashback to a seventeen year old me responding to my parents frequent suggestions that I should learn to drive. Eight years later and how I wish I'd listened.
That's not to say I didn't try. Although I can hear my Mother tutting at she reads this.
I'd just finished my first year in London, returning back home to rural County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland when I had my first experience of realising how stranded I suddenly felt. So I agreed. It was time to get behind the wheel. It did not end well.
Out of nowhere I had an intense fear of being in total control of this four-wheeled box. I couldn't get to grips with handling the steering wheel, co-ordinating the pedals or whatever the hell I was meant to be doing with the gear stick. What a palaver. I'd never imagined having such bother with the whole thing. I'd always taken it for granted that one day I would simply drive and hopefully own a nice car. Yet there I was, the butt of the family jokes as I would dramatically conk out seconds after failing to successfully take my foot off of the throttle.
So what did I do with this new found sense of mortification? Like any self-respecting teenager I called it a day and blamed the car. It clearly didn't like me, obviously.
That was it for me and driving. A return to London was on the cards. No need to panic; I'll have a city's worth of tubes, trains, buses and cabs at my disposal. Look at all the money I'll save as the cost of petrol increases!
Fast forward four years and I'm once again waving goodbye to London.
So here I am, 25 and without my driving licence. For the first time I'm actually embarrassed about it. I had never considered that there would be a day when I'd feel judged for not having accomplished what my sister achieved six weeks after turning seventeen, or what my parents have been doing for a combined 70 years. It feels completely illogical. I have no reason to fear it so much. I've never as much as experienced a bump in the car as a passenger.
Am I alone in feeling that half-smug, half-pitying look that comes from a driver as they learn the truth? It may not even be intentional but, oh boy, it hurts. Are we now to be split into two groups of Adults: Drivers and Adults: Non-Drivers? I've taken a look online at various message boards where I quickly discovered that I was not alone. Adults around the world are there, anonymously sharing their feelings of shame, regret and fear. When did a person not driving become an issue that left people in desperate need of seeking reassurance that they are worthy adults from strangers? I can't let it become that for me. Their stories have inspired me to do something about it. Maybe I'm not a natural born driver, but that won't stop me trying to the best of my ability.
I'm in the passenger seat of my sister's car and make an observation (Oh no, I'm suddenly one of those people that drivers just love to complain about). A sharp comeback puts me in my place. No licence, no opinion. Well that's it. No more of the dreaded "I don't drive.", "Don't... or can't?" exchange. It's time to deal with whatever fears I have. I'm setting myself a target; by the end of 2014 I will have passed my driving test. Writing this is serving as a contract with myself of sorts.
Now, I just need to deal with having those awful passport-sized photographs taken for my licence...