What Failing My Road Test 3 Times Taught Me About Being A Grown-Up

“If I don’t pass my road test this weekend I’m going to sit on a Xerox machine, photocopy my butt, and slip a copy into every single locker in school.”

This was the announcement I made to my friends on the eve of my fourth road test. I figured it was pretty good motivation for me to pass this time around.

In my defense, I wasn’t the worst driver in the world. I had memorized all the rules of the road, I was cautious and technical, and my specialty was something that makes most other kids fail their road test — parallel parking.

But I was terrible at 2 very important things:

  • getting onto the highway without truckers honking and cursing at me
  • making a left turn at a busy intersection without making my driver’s ed teacher soil his pants

In short, I was good at following guidelines and using formulas, but bad at making decisions at critical moments.

But you need good technical skills AND decision-making skills in order to arrive at your destination without harming yourself or others.

Sounds a lot like life, doesn’t it?

We tend to assume that we’ve arrived at adulthood once we’ve followed the guidelines and reached certain milestones. These milestones include:

  • Your bedroom no longer has posters on the walls.
  • You eat sushi, Indian food, smoked salmon, and other things that you wouldn’t find on the kids’ menu.
  • You own a set of matching luggage.
  • You have a job, an apartment, and maybe someone sleeping on the other side of our bed whose first and last name you know by heart.

But being a grown-up is more than just about being responsible, independent, and accomplished. It’s about making good decisions when the road of life is slippery, when others selfishly break the rules and put you in danger, or when you’re driving alone in the dark, afraid.

And how do we improve our decision-making skills? Practice. And I don’t just mean practicing on a sunny day when the road is clear, either. I mean practicing at night on a busy road during a rain storm.

I know that the painful loss of my “almost-fiance” in my 20′s is not the only personal sh*t storm I’ll ever face. But I am comforted in knowing that my depression showed me who I am at my worst, what I’ll be able to survive when the next storm blows through, and who I can grow to be if I’m brave enough to push forward.

It’s been 14 years since I passed my fourth road test, and 7 years since I survived my first personal sh*t storm. Here’s a photo of me driving a huge 17′ truck, with my husband (the man who was my second chance at love), sitting in the passenger’s seat:

I’ve come a long way. And something tells me you have too.

The only guarantee in life is that things will change, and the road will be bumpy. But if you’ve bravely pushed through change and survived the bumps in the past– if you’ve practiced the art of navigation and decision-making during hard times– you can do it again.

Your Turn: What incident in your life demonstrates your grown-up decision-making skills?


Photo source

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15 Responses to What Failing My Road Test 3 Times Taught Me About Being A Grown-Up

  1. Pingback: How to NOT Rip Someone’s Head Off During a Fit of Rage | a brave life

  2. Pingback: ABL’s Origin Story: The Sh*t Storm That Saved My Life | a brave life

  3. Martin says:

    Hei…think dis info. Iz wt U jus needed to see..coz its vry helpful..to me en dis lady am training on weekds to gain confidence en b a brave driver…plus interm of life..dis infor has help me realise life iz like navigatin a car…tnx Kim.

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      Hi Martin. Glad you found this helpful. Good luck training that woman to be a more confident driver — when I was over there I noticed that there seems to be fewer “rules of the road” (and fewer drivers who follow them) than here in the US, which I can imagine would make many people nervous behind the wheel!

      • Martin says:

        Kim..true dt..drivers here ,ve nah courtesy at all especially public service vehicle..nah camera to mammd traffic..evrythin about traffic iz crazi..bt again from yesterdei my student iz drivin on her own..ope she gain..her confidence…tnx tho for the gd wak

  4. You Know Me says:

    Good analogy here for “navigating life.” Let me offer one definition of a good driver. It came to me as I was driving and contemplating “driving” as a sermon illustration. We navigate life like we drive a car. At any moment we are using our vision, particularly our peripheral vision, to make dozens of instantaneous calculations and decisions based not only on our own desire to get from point A to point B but also on our desire to A: stay alive and B: not kill or maim anyone, many of whom are not paying nearly the attention we are to the rules of the road or the rules for living in community with our fellow human beings (as we rampage through life at speeds that more often than not that are foolhardy for even the best navigators). Point is, the speed of life demands that we pay close attention, that we become attuned to our environment and the movement of that environment around us, and that we develop almost a “sixth sense” of “anticipation” for the many possible implications of those movements. Being a “grown-up” for me, means “not being so self-absorbed as to be oblivious to the movements and needs of the world around us so that we “and the world around us” may move about in harmony.

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      Ooh, I like your analogy too! In light of my last blog on community, your comment reminds me that even if you yourself are a very responsible driver, all it takes to cause huge accidents each year (and take people’s lives in the process) is a few irresponsible drivers who are less passionate and disciplined about harmony on the road.

      We could take this one step further and say the same about those in privileged positions in our society who don’t feel a sense of responsibility to the harmony of mankind, or to the planet, and as a result create so much suffering. So I guess the question is…what can all of us do to inspire (coerce? haha) people to be better “drivers” — both on and off the road?

  5. Sheryl says:

    I think I just got a kick in the pants about my drivers license there. It’s exactly the making critical decisions in a split second that freaks me out.

    Right now I’m going through a bit of a sh*t storm myself and I’m really shocking myself with how I’m dealing with it. Because I’m doing alright. I have my days, and I have my moments, and certainly I would say that this year has been the hardest of my life so far … but somehow I’m managing to work my way through it with some sense of dignity and patience and I seem to be learning that lesson of “god grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change” which I’ve always had a hard time with. That last one, more than anything, is convincing me that I actually am able to handle upheavals as a grown up.

    Also, does the fact that I don’t own luggage mean I’m not an official adult?

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      In terms of making scary split second decisions, I’ve found that you naturally improve with experience. (See my reply to Steph’s comment. If I can improve my decision making skills behind the wheel, ANYONE can.)

      Good for you for navigating through your sh*t storm with a sense of dignity, patience, and lessons learned. Back when I had my Worst Year Ever, I was in such profound despair, and this despair was peppered with bouts of rage, longing, self-pity, and helplessness…but the challenge of living with integrity despite it all was what kept me afloat. It was something to focus on other than my pain. I know your pain won’t magically go away (and it shouldn’t — you’re human, and you love deeply and hurt deeply). But it sounds like day by day, you’re making the best of what you’ve been given. This ability is priceless and awesome and kick-ass. It’s also a skill like bike riding or swimming — you never forget how to do it. So go you. And…Internet hug.

      Yes, you’re an adult despite not having matching luggage. But when you do get some, I swear you’ll feel like you’ve officially arrived. ;)

  6. Steph says:

    Dude! You totally put into words in a way I’ve never been able to before exactly WHY I’m such a nervous driver. I also really like the connections you drew between driving and adulthood. Hadn’t thought of it that way before :)

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      Ahh, so that’s why The Amish One is your all terrain chauffeur! In case he ever needs a driving sabbatical (you know, like if we ever needed to rotate drivers during our 4-person RV trip across the country or something!!), know that even the most nervous drivers (and the most anxious decision makers) improve simply from experience. My driver’s ed teacher would NEVER have predicted this, but these days I’m very calm and confident in dangerous, high-stress driving situations that require good judgment. How did this happen? Experience — experience that came from a pattern of me dating guys who lived an average of 1-3 hours away from me, and who didn’t own a car. ;)

      • Steph says:

        I definitely find that to be true with both life and driving. I’m still VERY nervous and still avoid driving in certain circumstances that most other ppl view as no big deal (dark roads at night, most highways) but I do notice some improvement over the past two years since a change in jobs has required me to drive to and from work each day. I’ll never be one of those “driving relaxes me!” people, but my overall competence has improved.
        The funny thing is that I passed my drivers test on my first try and was a far more fearless driver at 17 than I am now. I’m pretty sure it’s because I 1) stopped driving when I went away to college thus getting out of practice and 2) had several close calls involving heavy rain and a flat tire at night in the rain on a borrowed car that got me more scared (sigh!) It’s one of the reasons I’m looking forward to the RV trip. If I’m gonna conquer a fear, might as well kick the ever lovin crap out of it ;)

        • Kimberly Eclipse says:

          Cool, glad you’ve seen some improvement and that the RV trip is your inspiration to “kick the ever lovin crap” out of your fear. :)

          I can see how being out of practice and having some close calls on the road would affect you. I once skidded on a rainy wet road into oncoming traffic, and collided head-on with this poor old man who had just gotten his beautiful car fixed. Ever since then I make sure to be more cautious in bad weather. So fortunately the incident made me a wiser driver, not a more fearful one…and I think that’s the ongoing challenge all of us must struggle with as we encounter bumps in the metaphoric road of life.

          Here’s to your epic ball-growing RV adventure!!

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