I was eight or nine when I had my first stress dream about driving. I still remember it in detail: someone had broken into my grandparents' home and I had to sneak out and drive the car to get help. I woke up shaking and vowed that I would never get behind the wheel of a car.
For years, I told people that I wasn't going to get my drivers' license. Instead, I would have a chauffeured limousine.
Everyone laughed politely. What a precocious little girl.
But I was serious.
The thought of operating a vehicle so large, heavy, and dangerous completely paralyzed me.
As my friends started driving, flashing brand new learner's permits and acquiring cars from the 1970s, I thought about space and movement. For instance, how would a person maneuver a car into a left turn lane? This puzzled me to no end, it seemed such a tricky thing, knowing just when to break away from the main stream of traffic, guiding the car so that it didn't run into the median.
I started taking drivers ed, slightly comforted by the presence of an instructor with a functional brake. I almost never went above 25 miles per hour. This became a problem the first time I drove on the freeway.
I will never forget the first time I drove to work after getting my license. I was shaking hard and I felt sick. That seven minute drive was harrowing, if uneventful, but I emerged from the car and went to work. At the end of the day, I drove home.
Believe it or not, I find joy in cranking up the music and taking a curve quickly, these days. I am no longer afraid of turning left, going the speed limit or being mocked as I parallel park.
All this took time, and a lot of practice.
Lately, I've been practicing being brave. I've been saying true things out loud that I've barely even whispered inside my own head before. I've been shaking, quite literally, I've had a few stress dreams.
I wrote recently about how I'm finding connection in the broken places. Now that I've said it, I can't stop thinking about it. It feels like every meaningful conversation lately is accompanied by a little voice in my ear: tell that story, share that dream, be honest about this. I'm driving the car all over again, wondering how I'm ever going to turn left, and then, somehow, I do. I sigh heavily in relief.
It feels like I'm being renewed, finally relaxing into myself: the real me.
Little by little, I'm realizing that who I am doesn't scare people away. If anything, I am a lot more relatable than the image I've crouched behind. I've noticed a change in the way others interact with me: they are more relaxed, more at ease. So am I.
In the not so distant future, I hope that it will be second nature to revel in the person God created me to be, in all of my glory, my mess, my pain, and process. I hope that one day, I'll be able to smile, turn up the music and lean into the curve.