On being a beginner

I had my third driving lesson this morning. Well, when I say third, I mean from this time around. This is my third attempt at learning to drive. The first time I was 19 or 20, eager to pass my test as quickly as possible, managing to fail my test equally fast. A lack of funds ended that particular attempt.

Living in London — and living with a partner who could drive — meant I didn’t get around to trying again until 2004. I was zipping around north London and practicing my three-point turns, and everything seemed to be going great. And then the lack of funds thing happened again… and other bad stuff happened too. You know that story already.

So here I am, hoping it’ll be third time lucky. Because this time I have a more concrete reason for wanting a driver’s license. I want to move out of Bath and into the Cotswolds. I want to be nearer my nephew, and I want more space. And a cat. Maybe even a dog.

I want to start the next chapter of my life, and to do that I need to be mobile. I need to be able to drive.

Being a beginner is hard. Allowing yourself to be a beginner is even harder. I feel so accomplished in so many areas of my life, it’s frustrating not being able to just get in a car and go like everyone else. The first two lessons were hard on the nerves but today my confidence grew as we went out on country roads and I got my speed up to 60mph. Fourth gear, people! My positioning is still all over the place, but today I had moments of ‘I’m driving! and a few secret smiles as I remembered to take my foot off the gas when changing gear ;) A learner has so much to think about, but in today’s lesson I was more aware of what was happening outside the car too. This is major progress. I guess some of it must be coming back to me.

Today I’m really honouring this feeling of being a beginner. It carries so many lessons with it. Like patience. Humility. Vulnerability. Irony. There are lots of beginnings I want to draw to me this year, so it feels good to remember that with them comes the clunky lack-of-grace of being a beginner. We all have to start somewhere.

34 responses
  1. Emmy

    I love this post Susannah very recognisable too! Love Emmy

  2. lauren martin gauthier

    this is a fantastic post, susannah. it resonates with me as an entrepreneur, but also as a driver. (my husband and i are ‘inheriting’ a car this weekend that is a manual transmission, and at 32 years old, i’ve never learned to drive in a vehicle that’s not automatic, so i’ve got a major learning curve coming my way!) with you in spirit…lauren

  3. Catherine Just

    Love reading about being a beginner. I feel that way with my eCourse – having only taught 2 sessions. Still so much to learn and I feel very green! Driving will become second nature soon! And you will be toodling around with your nephew to go to the park together. How fun! xoxox

  4. Jane LaFazio

    good for you for learning to drive and for making a move…I was definitely a total beginner yesterday, too. I took a trapeze lesson!

  5. Marcela

    I can SO understand you in so many levels. This year marks new beginnings for me and I ma terrified at most of them.

    As for driving, I have always hated it and I keep avoiding it, but the time has come when I have to learn to do it because I need that independence…You have inspired me to start, sometime this year ;)

  6. Anthony

    Ah yes, the old “You should have done this ages ago” voice. Glad to hear you’re letting it be heard, but not letting it win and dictate. Good for you.

    What’s this about not moving to London? Change your mind immediately and I might consider buying you a coffee.

  7. Christianne

    Mmmm. I so love this post and say bravo to you for being brave in this. (Your word for the year — yeah!)

    And yay for the Cotswolds! I adore that little slice of English life. I secretly hope to move there someday too. :)

  8. Tina Tierson

    Congratulations, dear Susannah! Third time’s a charm you know! And it sounds like you’re driving a manual transmission, so good for you! I’ve always believed that’s the best way to learn. I know you’ll do great! Also, thank you for the beginner wisdom. Being a beginner is something that’s very hard for me. There are many things I’ve tried, but since I always expect things to be perfect immediately, and of course, it never is, I give up. Maybe I can heed your advice and get back to using up all the beads I bought! Love you, girl!! xoxo

  9. Gemma

    I had to laugh when I read this post – I am in exactly the same place! I learnt to drive when I was 18 but failed and then didn’t continue, also due to lack of funds. Then I lived in London for 6 years so never needed to drive but now I am back in Yorkshire I really do… I’m terrified but reading this post has encouraged me so thanks!

    Well done on having a good lesson today and good luck for the rest! xx

  10. Jan's camera

    Hi Susannah, so glad to hear that you are learning to drive. Yes, it is very freeing. It is scary at first, no doubt about it and it is natural to feel that way. But, the more you drive the more comfortable it will feel and then it will be like second nature to you. And of course it will be great to be near your nephew. Keep practicing.

  11. Tracy R. Nichols

    I feel you on this one. I started trying to learn to drive at 29 (so wanted to do it before I was 30). I had grown up in NYC and never had need of a car. For a number of reasons it also took me three attempts to finally learn. I got my license at 38 and have been driving ever since.

    I think it is very hard to be a beginner past a certain age but I found driving particularly hard because you don’t have the sense of invulnerability that comes with youth. It made the experience very nerve-wracking for me.

    Sounds like you’re making tremendous progress. Stick with it and you’ll be an expert in no time.

  12. Ruth

    How true — we do all have to start somewhere. Yes.

    A very big congratulations! You’ll be a seasoned driver in no time at all :)

  13. Shelley

    Congrats on letting yourself begin again! Much like you, I tried and failed to get my driver’s license on a couple of occasions, and now at 36 I have decided that this is the year I finally do it! So nice to know I’m not the only one :)

    Oh, and you’ll do great! Pretty soon you’ll be zipping around I’m sure.

  14. Trudie

    I’m so glad I’m not alone!! I’m 36, and an intelligent, capable woman, who runs a very successful business. And yet I’ve never managed to learn to drive. It’s embarrassing. When people find out, their eyebrows climb up into their hairline. My nephew, whose nappies I changed, has been driving for 4 years. I expect my niece, now 13, will beat me to it. Every year I vow that this will be The Year. I have had my provisional license, and let it expire, several times. Same with my theory test.

    I tell myself, and others, that it doesn’t hold me back – but it DOES. I am severely limited by my lack of mobility. I live in a country village, 7 miles from the nearest town. I am dependent on my husband to ferry me around. This makes me feel like a child.

    I am trying to find new photo opportunities, and to have new experiences that will give me stories to tell. This is very hard when you hardly leave the house. It’s incredibly frustrating. But at this point, it’s hard to imagine what life would be like with independence. You’ll have to let me know.

  15. Angela Vular

    You go girl! I love to drive but only automatic…I did learn years ago on a manual and constantly squeeled the tires. So manual is not my cup of tea…as a matter of fact I can’t remember how to shift gears. I guess it’s like riding a bike. My suggestion…after you learn on a manual…get an automatic…then put it in drive and gooooooo! Good luck!

  16. sonrie

    Learning to drive on narrow, windy, crowded roads will make you a wonderful driver who can handle any kind of read! Good luck!

  17. keishua

    I remember a few years back when I learned to drive. It was insanely hard but it was worth it. I just made a move to a new city and once again am a beginner. It’s hard to break habits and remember where I am but it’s worth it.

  18. kelly

    I’ve been driving since I was 16. I can’t imagine not driving. Congratulations on taking these first steps to your new beginnings!

  19. Melissa

    Good for you! I got my license when I was 27, and I thought I was going to have a breakdown. I think if I did it when I was younger, I wouldn’t have had that fear. I still don’t like driving-ever see Clueless with Alycia Silverstone? That’s me merging onto the series 400 highways. ugh.

  20. Melissa

    p.s I’m amazed that you aren’t learning to drive with an automatic! Hardly anyone doing there test here does there test with a standard.

  21. Amber Goodenough

    Good for you!! I am trying lots of new things this year; failing at some and totally kicking ass at others.

    Like you said being a beginner teaches you lots of patience. Good luck!!

  22. Kerstin

    I am currently teaching my stepson to drive and wish he had half as positive an attitude, it’s worse than pulling teeth with him because he is so unmotivated despite the fact that where we live you need a car to get pretty much anywhere (which also means that currently we are chauffeuring him around everywhere.) Ugh. Anyway, I have a feeling that you’ll end up loving it and the freedom it will give you to pursue a new dream. The Cotswolds are so beautiful and I can totally see you there in a cute cottage with your cat and dog! Good luck with it! xo

  23. Jade Sheldon

    I’m proud of you for not giving up on it! I got my license when I was 19, which is late to many people’s standards. Everyone is usually so excited to get their license but I enjoyed having my friends drive me around!

  24. Ashley

    I didn’t learn how to drive until much later than many of my peers and then after driving successfully for 4 months, I moved away to the city. I have not driven in 8 years and in one month I’m moving back to a small town and will have to drive. I’ve never liked driving, never wanted to learn to drive, and am generally a bit nervous behind the wheel, but I also don’t like walking around in -20 degrees Celsius. So, learning to drive again it is. Glad to know I’m not the only one who is a late starter at driving. :)

  25. Michele

    Such a beautifuly put post! Wonderful that you are able to step into the role of “beginner” think how exciting this time is for you-something others can never experience again! Enjoy!

  26. susannah

    Hardly anyone learns in an automatic in the UK :) If I learnt in an automatic I’d never be able to drive anyone else’s car and renting cars would be really tricky

  27. Cristina | Positively Beauty

    Susannah, I took my driving license after 30 (t-h-i-r-t-y!!!) driving lessons….that was more than 20 years ago, and I still don’t think of driving as one of my great skills (it isn’t) especially.
    I usually rely on my husband to drive, but now that we’ve moved in the Cotswolds I too feel the need to be mobile and able to move around on my own. The first time I drove here (from Chipping Norton to Witney) it felt as if I were a beginner too!
    Anyway, I’m sure you’ll make it this time, it sounds like your motivation is strong – and that’s vital.
    Best of luck, and maybe we’ll meet at some stage (what about holding a workshop in the Cotswolds??). Cristina x

  28. Paula Everts

    That’s the spirit, honor being a beginner! I think I am [and always will be] begining something new. Best of luck! Paula xox

  29. jane/faerian

    having that beginner’s mind is such a blessing – it allows us to see so many things the “seasoned” mind discards… pity there is not a road to New Zealand…

  30. Karen

    Well done Susannah! You have the motivation this time around so you’ll be able to do it. It will get easier and you’ll be so proud of yourself when you get your licence. I’m a beginner too – at swimming at the age of 43. My first lesson (the last week of September last year), the coach said “Okay, show me what you’ve got”. I had a tiny bit of breast stroke that very embarrassingly went straight to a dog paddle and then a panic attack. I used to stand in the water thinking “I hate this!” but I wanted to join the rowing club and had to be able to swim so that was my motivation. Now I actually look forward to going and challenging myself twice each week to push myself and go a bit further each time. I swam my first kilometre just before my 44th birthday in December and swam my first 50m length without stopping a few weeks ago. If I can swim you can drive! I know you can. Just keep at it and before you know it you will be actually enjoying driving.

  31. susannah

    Karen, that’s fantastic!!

  32. Rosa

    Oh, boy. I failed my driver’s test four times. Or, was it five? It’s been many, many years since then and I’m still embarrassed about it. Isn’t that ridiculous? Even though I also taught myself how to drive a standard when I lived in Japan (also years ago), where they drive on the opposite side of the road than in Canada.
    Funny how we remain embarrassed about things, and have to remind ourselves what we have accomplished since then.

  33. Brandy

    I relate so much to this post Susannah, I too am a late learner in regards to driving. My reasons stem back from being a few bad car accidents as a child and deep fear that seems embedded in me. I have tried a few times to get out there and learn, but I always get to a point where I stop and then start making excuses. I think it is harder to be older and to allow yourself to learn, I always think I should know how to do this and everyone else seems to have figured it out – why can’t I. Thanks for the post, I don’t feel so alone in this battle. xx

  34. cococita

    Thank you so much for posting this post dear Susannah! I admire your bravery to make your dreams come true. Wish you all the best and can’t wait to see a glimpse of your future life in the countryside as I love that part of the UK so much.
    Girlpower to you! I know you can do it! And maybe, it will help me to find the bravery to finally learn to drive myself … as I don’t have a licence either until now. Because of good reasons as ecological ones but also because of fear …

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