Learning how to drive is about starting even after you stall


I’m still learning how to drive.

It seems that most teenagers anxiously waited for the birthday that let them get a learner’s permit and get on the road. I didn’t. Between carpools, public transit, and other people driving, I never needed to drive. Besides, jeepneys, buses and tricycles made driving in downtown Manila a harrowing spectacle. In Toronto, public transit can get me nearly everywhere I need to go. I’d like to stay car-free as long as possible, as I’ve seen how owning a car can be an expensive proposition.

Still, there’s no getting around the fact that driving is a useful skill, so I’m learning. It’s difficult to learn something that other people already take for granted. I feel frustrated whenever I have to do so much back and forth in parking or when I make the wrong decision when it comes to navigating. I learn so slowly!

I’m lucky that W- can put up with my mistakes patiently, and he even tells me not to be so hard on myself. It’s difficult not to berate myself for mistakes like stalling the car in the middle of the road and then grinding the starter in my panic. One of the things I’m learning from all of this is that even when I feel like a failure and all I want to do is make the stress stop, I need to relax and reset my mood if I’m going to be able to do better. I need to make an effort to switch my mental track from:

“Why can’t I get this? Teenagers pick this up quickly.”


“Everyone’s alive? Good. Anything else can be taken care of. Now, how can I do things better next time?”

If I don’t make that mental switch, I end up making more and more mistakes. If I do, then I might stand a chance of making it home without making W-‘s knuckles white.

One of the things that I’ve noticed is that I have a hard time navigating. We’ve passed through those roads countless times, but even when W- asks me what looks familiar, I find it hard to distinguish between the different reasons that different things look familiar. So after driving practice today, I finally looked up all of these places on Google Maps. I couldn’t figure out how they were related just driving along, because I couldn’t focus on anything aside from not getting into an accident. Seeing the map in my head might make navigation easier for me.

Learning how to drive is not fun, but I know I need to learn. The only thing to do whenever I stall is to start again. (Preferably without grinding the starter.)

  • Things I learned whilst learning to drive.
    + When your car stalls, take a deep breath and pretend you don’t hear the impatient beeps behind you.
    + Don’t hurry, less worry. You’ll get there eventually.
    + Sticking a big sign at the back of your car that says “I just got my license THIS MORNING” somehow makes anyone of any country wary of following your car.
    + If you intend to go through unknown territory, it’s best to do some advance reconnaissance.

    Hope this helps! :)

  • All great ideas! =) Time to make myself a sign…

  • I remember my first driving lesson when I was 16. It was also one of the heaviest rainfalls of the summer. I was white knuckling trying to maneuver the car in reverse (with very limited visibility). Fortunately no cars, pedestrians, or animals were hit.

    Taking a deep breath, relaxing, and visualizing success can go a long way to help!

  • You will learn it when you learn to enjoy learning it. Go for drive’s on a totally empty roads where you know you are driving just for the fun of it and can be sure you are not going to hurt anybody.

    Steps you can take

    1. Don’t hope to avoid the stalling sound rather enjoy the smooth transitions when it is still there
    That will give you a feel of what’s happening and you unconsciously will be a better at maintaining that smoothness
    2. And if you get lost it is ok. learning happens in isolation as much as in connection. Even if you get lost you are learning the skill of driving smoothly in isolation. The skill of navigation is easier to learn afterwards( Thought I haven’t seem to have learned it)

  • Hi Sacha,
    I agree with Antano that learning to drive is great fun, even if you have difficulties and feel panic. I think you are living an adventure right now, only you aren’t clearly aware of it yet.

    I learned to drive very late, when I was over forty, so you may imagine how it was hard. Yes, hard, but so much adventurous, thrilling and fun! A newbie astronaut in Nasa wouldn’t have such fearful and exhilarating sense of accomplishing an impossible mission.

    Antoine de la Garanderie, the French author I’ve told you about recently, has interviewed great champions of several different sports about their training habits. All agreed that they used to see themselves running, jumping, playing tennis, or whatever, while just sitting in their living room. They would relax, close their eyes and imagine in detail all that they would be doing when they would be “running in the arena”.

    That tip turned to be very useful to me: I prepared my practical driving lessons with a map and some notes about how I should move my feet and hands simultaneously, and then I would lean back, close my eyes and would go “for a race”.

    At first, I would immediately met my panic and uneasiness, and happily so, because it has been the chance to welcome it, accept it, and, slowly, let it just vanish. I believe these negative emotions stop us from spontaneously reacting, from letting our subconscious take the control and from deeply enjoying the adventure of this specific learning.
    Happy driving, Sacha!

  • Kaitlin

    I think learning to drive stick is scary at any age. Try not to stress out when you stall; it happens to us all when we’re first starting out!

    I also second Antano’s suggestion that you try to learn on an empty road (or a big empty parking lot, if you can find it). Going to a municipal building’s parking lot on a Sunday is usually a pretty safe bet.

    Good luck, Sacha! It really is fun once you get used to it. Soon enough you’ll feel like you’re a race car driver, shifting like an expert. That’s how I feel now, anyway. :)

  • Beth

    Fantastic analogy for learning anything in life! I am a high school teacher and will use this post as we start our new school year! Great example of growth mindset in action.
    LOVE IT! Thank you.