From the time I was a little kid, I wanted to drive. Growing up I remember wanting to drive my Barbie doll’s car, and later I would dream of driving a Lamborghini. I even went through a phase where I wanted to drive a Volkswagon Beetle. Now that I am driving, I really enjoy it, and my usual vehicle is a great big, blue, 2001 Ford Excursion that my family has dubbed “Bubbie.” I should probably add that Bubbie, with her giant size and blue color, is a whale of a car, so we named her after a whale from the cartoon, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack.

The day I decided that driving was an achievable goal occurred when I was six years old. My little brother was just born, and in between visiting times with my mom, my dad would let my older brother and I take turns steering our car around the hospital parking lot. At the time I thought I was actually driving; I hadn’t yet realized that steering is a very small part of being a driver. By the end of that day I had made up my mind, I was going to learn to drive one day.

As I got older, I became more eager to start driving. I was about fourteen when I started to practice driving my parents’ green 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan. We live on a Native American Reservation and the rules aren’t the same as a regular neighborhood, so I could drive without a license quite legally. While the reservation allowed me to practice to a certain extent, I was still not prepared to even have a driver’s permit. I had to wait because I was too young to have one. When I was old enough, I had to consider the fact that to get the driver’s permit, not only would I have to reach the age requirement of fifteen and a half, but I also had to take the test. In order to qualify for the test, I had to study the driver’s manual as if it were a sacred manuscript. For a few weeks, I read that tiny book over and over. Then, when I had practically memorized the entire book, I was finally ready to take that test and get that permit. The test was a piece of cake, and by the end of the day, I had earned my driving permit. I had taken my first step toward getting my driver’s license.

I was now allowed to drive outside of the reservation, which was a scary thought for me and for my parents as well. In all honesty, I was an awful driver. I often practiced driving with my parents, but it took me a long time to progress. This was the most difficult time of my training as a driver. Every time I made a mistake, I felt terrible. I felt I was putting whoever I was driving with in danger. I would drive too slow and hesitate when it wasn’t necessary, or I would make a decision hastily and end up doing something reckless. I was simply a beginner, and I’m sure now that it is normal to make mistakes while just starting to drive. At the time, though, I was discouraged. Every time I drove, I would make a mistake. This made me want to give up. I told my parents, “Maybe I will just be someone who doesn’t drive.” They wouldn’t let me give up though, so I learned to make less mistakes. There was a whole other area that I had to cover as well to get my driver’s license, driver’s training classes.

070328_jbean_mp_environment_traffic_0152“You just ran a red light, remember red means stop,” I recall my driving teacher, a blonde woman who liked to talk about The Walking Dead, telling me after I carelessly drove across an intersection. It was early in my driver’s training, and I had never run a red light in my life. I was surprised at myself and disappointed that I had done that simply because I was nervous.  This basically sums up my driver’s training, being nervous while driving with a new person and making really stupid mistakes. My teacher wasn’t angry when I ran the red light, only flustered. She told me this, “If you were taking the driving test, that dangerous maneuver would have been an automatic fail.” As aforementioned my main obstacle in learning to drive was my annoying tendency to either be too cautious or to be just downright careless. On this occasion, I was guilty of doing both. I looked both ways while crossing the intersection, but I didn’t care to check whether the light was green or not. Something else happened on this occasion though; I decided that day that I would never be so careless while driving again, and that I would work harder to become a safe driver.

I can’t go around saying that getting my driver’s license was my doing only. Had it not been for my parents, I would have given up on driving shortly after I got my permit. I don’t like doing things wrong, and every mistake I made was like a punch to the face. My parents went about this in different ways, of course. My mom, who looks like an Irish princess but curses like an Irish sailor, is the positive reinforcement type and would say, “You are just a beginner,” and that my older brother was “just as bad” when he first started driving. My dad, a long haired Native American man who is always wearing 49ers football shirts, had a more honest approach. I recall an occasion in which I didn’t move out of the way in time when there were debris on the freeway. He told me, “That is just bad driving.” He was right, I had run over a part of a bicycle on the freeway. When he told me that, I felt bad, but it also made me want to conduct myself better behind the wheel so that I wouldn’t feel so sheepish while driving.

I eventually finished my driver’s training and was able to take my driving test. I remember the anticipation of the week before the test, I was so scared. I was too close to give up now though, and the worst that could have happened was failing and just trying again another day. I did not want to fail though, so I did what I do best; study. I read the driver’s manual again and I drove around the reservation a lot by myself, being sure to stop at every stop sign and to use my turn signals. I memorized where every little button was in the Excursion (Bubbie) in case I was asked to point them out at the beginning of the test. I practiced pulling up to the curb with my tires perfectly aligned with the sidewalk. I practiced, and when I was done practicing one thing, I practiced doing a completely different thing. I wasn’t going to fail that test, I was going to try to pass it with the best score a person could get driving an Excursion. After taking the test, I found out that the only checks the test giver had to make on his sheet were that I turned too wide and too narrow at times. I was fine with that because I passed the test and I was officially a licensed driver. Though I finally have my driver’s license, my driving still isn’t perfect, and my parents continue to help me try harder to become a good driver. I wouldn’t be the driver I am today without them.  My parents taught me the real lesson in learning to drive which is that it isn’t easy, and that you can’t just give up when it gets frustrating. I started my journey to becoming a driver thinking it was going to be piece of cake, but it was one of the most difficult things that I have ever learned to do. As I mentioned before, I often felt like giving up while learning to drive, but I kept practicing, and now I get to enjoy being a licensed driver.