Last Thursday L and I got a day to ourselves. We hired a car, packed up and went bombing down the dual carriage way to a favourite walking spot, windows wide open, wind rushing, music blaring at top volume. Absolute perfection!
As a teenager, driving meant freedom.
From just about the moment my older sister filled out the application for her learners drivers license I was counting the days until I could get my own license. When I say days I mean days and for a maths hater like me… that’s keen! It seemed even more unfair that my older sister didn’t even want to drive and hated it for years …
I got pretty stressed in the months coming up to my 17th birthday (the age you can legally drive in the uk) because my parents were pretty short on money, not to mention a load of horrible stuff going on with the Messianic Jewish fellowship my father had been trying to run. I wasn’t sure I was going to get to learn how to drive.
I cannot begin to work out the reasoning behind my parents choices. Based on a lot of their beliefs and views, you would have thought they wouldn’t let us learn to drive, to keep us more dependent on them. But then, they were going to get a second car out of me working as a mothers help and didn’t want to have to drive 2 hours each time to make that happen… I was also basically my mother’s personal driver for years, when she was too ill to drive herself … or maybe I am being unkind and they simply wanted to make sure we all had our basic life skills.
Whatever the reasons behind it all, on the day of my 17th birthday there was a knock on the door and there was a driving instructor ready to take me out for my first lesson.
The first lesson was awful, but after that, I never looked back! I loved learning to drive, I loved practicing (kind of…most of the time…long story…) and was so smug when I passed my driving test first time with minimal faults … especially since my older sister took two tries – I never said I was perfect!!
Once I got over my first fears of driving alone I lived for it! I got space (hard to come by in a house of 6 homeschooling, work from home people with no real friends or activities) I got quiet if I wanted it and I got the a rare feeling of freedom.
In a life that was pretty much dictated by my father and the restrictions he placed on what we wore, who we saw, what we read, watched or listened to – supposedly even what we believed and how we thought and felt – the act of driving at 60 with the windows all down, the wind roaring and my own music as loud as I could take it was absolute freedom!
It doesn’t matter that the music was somehow still sanctioned (or quietly ignored) by my parents, or that I had to have their permission (and a practical reason) for driving somewhere. This helped me feel like my idea of a normal teenager. This helped me feel like I had some control. This helped me feel free.
Most of the time I’m fine with not having my own car. I know we can’t afford it right now and we’re very lucky in where we live that we can walk most places and have really good access to public transport. But the days come when my past gets really heavy and I get an itch under my skin, a longing to get in a car and go really fast. The feeling of being able to drive fast enough to be free of all those things that weigh me down – even though I know that such a thing isn’t possible.
One of my ideas of heaven is fast cars, straight roads, good sound systems and lots of summer air.