It's been quite a week since the last time we talked. Remember how I mentioned the stressful car repair situation? Well, that took a somewhat surprising turn. The past 6 days or so have been a blur of emotions and prayer, let me tell you. You got time to chat? I need it. Let's get our beverages!
So, last Thursday, right after I last posted, I got a call from my mechanic about the part my aging Honda Civic needed. I had been feeling anxious about hearing from him, because the car was really in bad shape, and I didn't feel totally safe driving it. I get a message from him, and call him back between classes. When he hears that it's me, he says:
"Oh yes. Well. This isn't going to be cheap."
This from the man whom I regularly pay $600 at a time for various and sundry car-related reasons.
I braced myself for the total, now that he had the part actually lined up: $1700.
My car is nearly 18 years old. Now that the number was concrete, Mike and I agreed that it just wasn't worth it to get it fixed. We fretted about coming up with the money for the down payment, but we have savings for this very reason. We'd look for a lease we could afford and hope for the best.
I suppose that's where the worrying process began, but ironically, money turned out not to be the main concern at all. :0
I had my heart set on a Honda Fit. When I bought my Civic back in 2000, they didn't yet have the Fit in their fleet. The Fit is the perfect size for me, and I ADORE hatchbacks. I had one in my very first car, a Nissan Sentra from the 80's, and the thought of having one again really appealed to me. I can put the seats down, get my dance paraphernalia in there, giant Scentsy boxes, the Christmas tree... ;-) They also get great fuel mileage, and are incredibly adorable. Plus, they're less expensive than Civic. Win/win, right?
Well. It's the end of the model year. The great leasing deals are on the 2017 vehicles, not the new 2018 ones. There aren't many 2017 Fits left to be had anywhere, and throughout Central and Western New York, all the way down to Erie, the only vehicles remaining all had manual transmissions.
"Do you know how to drive a manual, Tiffany?" you reasonably ask. Not exactly. But yet, what is sitting in my driveway at home right now?
YEAH. What can I say? I had a bold moment. I suppose some people would just say that I've lost my mind.
In fact, at this moment, *I* think that I have lost my mind. But Mike drives a manual and loves it, and is SO EXCITED to teach me. I suppose true love made me do it?
"Hon. This bold side of you is really...NICE."
Is this a guy thing? 😳
Pretty sure it is, but right now, I have LOTS of other things occupying my little brain.
I have been driving for 25 years. Until Saturday, I had never driven a car with a manual transmission. But guess what? I now have no choice. This not-quite-middle-aged mom, librarian and belly dancer has to learn how to drive a stick shift. And let's just say that it's going a tad rough:
"OK, what the *%;#! with this clutch/acceleration thing to get started?! How did cars even evolve like this? WHO ever thought this was a feasible long term model?!"
"All right. I got it that time. I'm doing better, right? Now...Wait, what just happened? CRAP!!"
"I'm not going to stall this time. I'm determined not to. We'll just give it a little more gas..."
*SCREECH SQUEAL JERK!*
*delicate clearing of throat*
"See? That was...'better.'"
"Look! It's moving! Oh God. There's another car! I don't want him to come near me!!"
My poor, poor husband. But he, and everyone else who drives a stick shift, tell me that I'm:
"...already 80% of the way there since you already know how to drive!"
Um, NO. I don't feel like I'm 80% of the way there. In fact, I feel like I'm 16 years old and that I'm learning how to drive all over again. I am here to tell you, good and gentle readers, that this is NOT a very pleasant feeling.
Sunday night, after an outing with more stalls and jerks back to a start than I could possibly count, I was in tears. Mike keept reassuring me that I'm coming along fine, that it takes WEEKS to get comfortable with a stick shift, and that this is all a very normal part of the learning process. But I tell you, dear readers...this is HARD. I mean, I'm certain not everyone finds it all that difficult to learn how to drive a stick shift, but this is hard *emotionally*. It is a humbling, humbling experience to take something for granted, something that you've been able to do for decades, and suddenly be thrust back into Beginner Land, complete with honking horns, angry faces, and overall truculent nostril flares by others who do not realize what you are going through.
I haven't been able to sleep, and in the evenings, I cannot knit or otherwise relax the way that I used to. My mind is constantly racing with my fears that I will never master this skill, that I will continue to embarrass myself in public, that I made a huge mistake which I will regret every single day for the next 3 years, and that I'll never regain the independence I once enjoyed when I felt comfortable driving.
Monday morning I woke up emotionally fragile. I felt like a loser, a Manual Transmission School Drop Out. I drove my in-laws' automatic to work, fearful that I wasn't ready yet for longer journeys. I felt shaky and apprehensive about everything I was going to face that day. I had moved office spaces on Friday, and so Monday morning before my 9 am class I opened the door to my new office for the very first time, feeling a surge of hope that the clean, refreshed space would lift my spirits.
There was a man standing in my window.
People, I could not make this stuff up. :0
While I watched incredulously, he schlacked some goo from the metal tool he was holding onto the bricks on the outside of the library. This was actually happening. I had a brick mason over my shoulder, in my window, for the entire day. While I lesson planned. Ate lunch. Graded student work. My buddy was there. A guardian angel of sorts? Likely not, the entire thing felt incredibly awkward. An omen of things to come?
Even worse, I knew that I had to get back on the horse. The paperwork is signed, the deal is done. I'm stuck with the car. I love her, she's adorable and precious, she just scares the s*%! out of me right now.
I left for the day braced for my evening practice session.
I did not want to get back in that car. But I knew that I had to. The fear was only going to fester the longer I let it go.
After dinner, Mike and I headed out. I was still stalling the car, but somewhat less often. Unfortunately, this meant that I was overcompensating on the gas pedal and jerking the car forward with a squeal quite a bit. But not stalling boosted my confidence, and I needed that VERY badly. We made it out onto slightly busier roads than the side streets we had stuck to before, and I managed all right. I kept it together and didn't stall. Mike said that I was ready to drive myself to my fitness class later that evening.
I want my Mommy.
I didn't want to, but I knew that I had to. Fit and I headed out to the dance studio.
I stalled backing out onto the street. But I got her restarted like a champ, and bumped my way along. The rest of the way there, I did some jerking and squealing, but I did not stall. I made it to the studio alive, and I call that a huge win given the circumstances. The way home was even better. I was freaking out because the house I parked in front of had people outside, and I knew that if I stalled or squealed my tires they would see me. But I didn't. I got it going well and even eased into a left turn in 2nd gear with no problems. No stalls at all on that trip. Things were still fragile, but they were improving.
Yesterday, I had my best trip yet (relatively speaking :0). We went out on busier roads, and I didn't stall AT ALL. Well, unless you count that crazy situation with the Bobcat digger thing pulling unexpectedly out into traffic, which I do NOT. 😎And my jerking starts are getting decidedly less bad. Suddenly, I can feel a difference on the pedals. I've realized a few things about how to let up on the clutch and depress the gas pedal, and it's showing. It's still not anywhere near 100% smooth starts, but I've clearly improved. For the first time, I feel hope that I actually will learn how to drive this car.
I'm still not driving it to work yet. Yes, I know that I need to just do this and that's how my learning process will reach it's zenith, but I'm being kind to myself. I'm getting there, I really am. I want to nurture my confidence for a few more days. We're going to do a practice run tonight.
I know that I may experience a setback at some point. After steadily improving, you may stall again at a very inopportune time. It happens. But my motivation and determination are high. I want to learn this. I can do this.
Jesus, please take the wheel. :0
This has all reminded me of something very important. When I was in library school, I had an instructor for my Reference and User Services course who was very serious about professional librarianship. She did not like shortcuts and lazy librarians. I remember very clearly her saying to us once:
"Always bear in mind that not all answers can be found THE EASY WAY."
Sometimes, challenges are good for us. Granted, learning to drive a stick shift is hardly some important act of public service, or a larger spiritual goal. But allowing ourselves to be lifelong learners, and not always making the comfortable choice, makes us better people beneath the surface. This can then lead us to step forward in situations that DO have a larger spiritual or charitable component.
I was listening to a podcast yesterday morning, in which Fr. Roderick mentioned that:
"Fear stifles exploration. And exploration is a GOOD."
It is, it really is! I certainly have moments when I wish I had just gotten a different car, so that I could have just gotten an automatic transmission, and I wouldn't be going through this stress right now. But this has been good for me. It has made me realize that I'm not too old to try new things, to have confidence that I can master an unfamiliar skill. I still have a long way to go, but I have faith that it's going to work out just fine.
All right. Let me hear from you. Who thinks I have lost my mind?! :0 More importantly, who here drives a stick shift?! I need some words of commiseration!