I Failed My Driving Test

I failed my driving test.

The road test in Michigan today is nothing like it was when I was sixteen years old. Today, it is expensive to get your license under the age of eighteen. Therefore, I was relieved when both of my children decided to wait.

On the day of my son’s road test, we pulled into the parking lot and I noticed the conspicuously placed orange traffic cones. It had not occurred to me – even once – that my son would be tested on parallel parking and backing into a parking space. I panicked.

I panicked for him. My empathy antenna reaches far. It is hyper-sensitive, especially for my children. Some days it seems I can feel their energy even 100 miles away. Okay, maybe I’m slightly exaggerating, but my mother’s instinct went into high gear. I gave him all the advice I could regarding parallel parking. This advice would fit in a thimble since I basically know zero things about it.

In the 80s, a long, long time ago before the internet, I took my road test. Parallel parking consisted of pulling up along side the curb in front of someone’s house. This was essentially the sum total of my experience with parallel parking over the course of my driving career.

I was so nervous on the day of my test that my knuckles were white as I gripped the steering wheel. I was focused on every word the instructor gave me because I did not want to make a mistake. My tunnel vision locked into every right and left command given. I was focused so intensely on the instructor that I failed to stop for the stop sign. Not once, but twice. It just so happens that road test instructors prefer drivers to stop for stop signs. Thus, I was invited to return and try again another day.

As my son and I sat in the car, I felt like a failure all over again. How do you forget to prepare your children for their driving test? Then I remembered that failure is part of life. He would be fine if he needed to re-test. Life would go on and he would learn from it.

I am pleased to tell you that he passed the road test on the first attempt. My mother’s guilt was relieved, and I properly prepared my daughter when it was her turn.

We all hate to fail. It is embarrassing and humiliating. Sometimes I tell myself that failure is just a reminder to stay humble. And then I ask God why I need so many reminders. I’m on the back half of this thing called life. It seems failure should be easier. I mean I’ve had plenty of practice. But it’s not. The ego always has something to say even though I keep telling her to shut up.

Yet, failure is our friend. It teaches us what is important and what is not. It shows us what we didn’t know and what we don’t want. It shifts our perspective and highlights our priorities. Most of all, it reminds us that we are human and we all have this in common. The only ones who never fail are those who never try.

I plan to fail a lot this year because I plan to try many new things. My ego is so pumped about it! Not really. Rather, some days she is screaming at me to stop. She reminds me of all the past failures and the pain it caused me. Today, as I was working on something new, my ego was working overtime reminding me of failures both recent and long ago. It was then that I put down my pen and thanked her.

My ego has been faithful. She has protected me from danger both real and imagined. My ego was simply doing her job. So I thanked her and reminded her that it will be okay. We have survived failure in the past and we will be alright in the future. We might even be better because of it.

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