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#prayforme #newdriver.

You may have noticed my using these hashtags on twitter, usually related to my little "road trips" recently. You may also have found those updates amusing, or annoying. For me, these have not been entirely trivial, though they've almost always a bit tongue-in-cheek. Here's what they've been about.

Roughly almost exactly a year ago, my mom came to pick me up at the train station for my Thanksgiving visit. Proud of having finally gotten my license a scant few months before (though still all but entirely unpracticed at driving), I offered to drive us home. The next 20 minutes of my life were among the most terrifying of my life.

As mentioned, I'd only just gotten my license; I'd only driven for short jaunts using Zipcar to run errands. I'd hardly ever driven more than 45 mph and certainly never driven at night.

Navigating those winding country roads and hurtling on at 55 mph with cars coming at me out of the darkness--coming, it seemed, so near, with lights blazing in my eyes--and trying to finagle my own high beams--remembering when to have them on, when to have them off--and all while answering my mother's goodnatured questions and listening to her hopeful advice ("You know, the trick I found for driving on these country roads," because my mother has been a clickbaiter since before the internet, "is to stay near the middle of the road, as close to the yellow lines as you can.") was altogether beyond bewildering. All these things--overwhelming and stressful, unmitigable and wanton--assailed my thoughts and senses, and in my frazzled state, it was all I could do to survive the rest of the way unscathed.

That night, all but the worst of what I could fear about driving were rolled into one awful experience. Nothing bad happened, nor did I break down screaming or crying, yet I was stricken with the horror and embarrassment of facing personal weakness--and in a demanding, real-time situation, no less. Never again! I thought, Never again!

We made it!
And, yet, last night, I did do it again. But, as Marshmallow and I drove down those same roads, there was no fear or bewilderment; there was only me driving my car, blasting The Shins, and managing the high beams just fine.

I can see now that the problem was one of inexperience rather than one of personal failure. It shouldn't be surprising that a new, stressful situation was overwhelming.

But I'm a worrier, and it's that sort of worry--about new, stressful situations as yet unimagined--that I've been slowly facing every time I drive, that I've been dissipating through these recent "road trips" of mine, and that I've been coming to terms with through these #newdriver tweets about them.

I feel a bit silly still tooting the #newdriver horn, but I guess it's a joke, a levity that makes the worry less imposing while also issuing a challenge to be met. Because I don't want to be or feel like a #newdriver anymore; I want to be just a driver, going where he pleases. I'm sick of worrying, I'm sick of holding myself back. But every time I face one of these #newdriver situations I've worried about, I realize how silly that worry was and how far I've come.

So I hope I won't be needing to use that silly hashtag a whole lot longer.

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