Before University I never wanted to learn to drive. The idea of getting in a car and being responsible for not only my safety, but also others on the road terrified me. All of a sudden, because I had turned 17 I was old enough to be responsible on the roads? Needless to say, I wasn’t convinced.
After a week or so of anxious waiting for my provisional licence to arrive, I couldn’t put off learning to drive any longer. A friend recommended a driving instructor to me, and a few days later I was waiting outside school for my first ever driving lesson. In retrospect, I probably should have taken up my dad’s offer of at least teaching me which pedal is which and how to start a car. I felt incredibly sorry for this driving instructor who was going to be responsible for preventing me from inflicting too much damage on myself, and those who were unlucky enough to be driving along the same route on that day. Fortunately, driving instructors seem pretty well prepared for such mentalities, and before setting off she calmed me down and then all of a sudden we were off. I was far too nervous to enjoy my first lesson. Or even my second one. But at some stage, I went from fearing being prosecuted for mass-manslaughter to actually quite enjoying the experience of getting to grips with driving. Rather than dreading my next lesson, I started to look forward to them, openly looking for opportunities to squeeze in some extra practice by asking my sister if she wanted me to drive her anywhere. Then, all too soon after, I passed my driving test.
I had a driving licence and I was well aware of the freedom and independence it brought (along with some inevitable errand runs). Despite this new capability to go where I wanted, I realised I didn’t have many places to actually go to. I still had another year at school to finish my A-levels and I would have had to get up before sunrise if I wanted to get a parking space nearer my school than my drive anyway; and as all teenagers will attain to, that was highly unlikely. On the other hand, when going out with my friends I wasn’t keen on the idea of being the designated driver. So I found myself with the ability to drive when and wherever I wanted, without an idea where or when to go.
I ended up doing very little driving in my last year at school, leading me to the conclusion once again that learning to drive had been a waste of time and money. My last year at school flew by. Exams, University Open days and personal statements, filled the last academic year for my friends and I, and I soon found myself nervously arriving at school in August to pick up my results.
Let’s just say it didn’t all go according to plan, and after a few stressful days of phoning up universities through Clearing that I had never heard of before (and in all honesty, had probably never existed before), I ended up with an offer from Kent which I quickly accepted. Within the space of a few days I had made a commitment to go and live in a place for 3 years that I had only once visited briefly the day before. I was filled with excitement but also anxiety. What if I didn’t like the town? What if I didn’t like the course? The people? You get the idea. I guess the only comfort that I could take was that I would be able to go home whenever I wanted. I remember driving down to Kent with my luggage packed in my car, with my family following behind, rather than squeezing in amongst my precariously balanced life’s belongings.
The rest went very quickly. We went for lunch, we went shopping, and then they drove back home. It was a 2 hour drive and they wanted to get back before dark. I was thrown in at the deep end in a new place, with new people and few homely comforts. Not to say that I don’t enjoy university life, I love it, but I still miss my family, my home, and my friends. That’s why I still go home as often as I can. With a basket of dirty clothes, a vegetable-starved stomach, and a half-written essay; I drive home. Even though I failed to appreciate or even take advantage of being able to drive when I first learnt, I now regard it as invaluable.
I’m so glad that I learned to drive when I had the time, and the money (albeit via a generous donation from the Bank of Mum and Dad).