Driving School DropoutEliza Hurwitz

Although I pretty much always feel embarrassed about something or uncool, I don’t think anything has caused me as much embarrassment than the fact that I am 23 and do not have my driver’s license.

I have always thought that if something starts off well, then it can and will, in all probability, only get worse. Perhaps this is a pessimistic way of looking at things, but it has held true for most of my life and my driver’s license test was no different. I got a 100 on the written part and I was pretty pleased with myself. Maybe my head got too big and it caused me to be unable to concentrate on the actual driving aspect of the test, which some would argue is far more important than the written. Then, perhaps I just didn’t practice enough. I’m willing to bet it was the latter.

As soon as I got in the car, I just had a bad feeling. Being only 5 ft tall at the time, I knew I needed to move my seat forward. “But how?” I asked myself, over and over again. “You’ve done this before, Eliza…” I offered myself words of encouragement as I finally located and  pulled the lever underneath my seat, moving it forward, hands trembling. I did it! My unwarranted sense of pride was short-lived; it was over as soon as I put my foot to the gas and started the car with such a jolt that it prompted the driving instructor, named Skip, to say, “Whoa, slow down.” I tried not to let this faze me, and figured he was just in a bad mood.

I was instructed to drive up a hill and around the corner. I was feeling pretty good when I went into the parking lot. I knew I was about to be tested on my parking abilities. Parking was when I felt the most confident about driving. It didn’t require you to deal with other moving vehicles too much and it didn’t require that much speed or actual driving. I was asked to back into any spot of my choosing and I did so with ease. Skip was surprised.

Next, things took a turn for the worst. As we came to an intersection with two consecutive sets of lights, I suddenly became confused about where to stop. I didn’t stop at the first set, even though the lights were blinking red. After Skip yelled at me a little, I stopped at the next set of lights. Even though I was pretty sure this was a bad sign, I somehow convinced myself I could still pass. Once the light turned green I figured I should ask Skip if I could go, just to make sure. Also maybe he was angry because I wasn’t talking to him that much. My sister, who had taken the test the previous week and had passed, had talked to Skip a lot. So, I figured now was as good a time as any to pick up the conversation. It was clear this wasn’t a good idea when Skip didn’t answer, just sort of rolled his eyes that were magnified by his gigantic glasses. Geez, I thought to myself, somebody is moody.

I made it back to the driving school, my hands tired from both gripping the wheel and holding desperately to the hope that I had passed. But as soon as Skip started talking I knew my driving dreams were about to be crushed. As soon he said, “I really hate doing this…” the tears started flowing, and I honestly cannot remember anything he said after that. All I know is, I failed and I never wanted to go back. Never. So, I didn’t.

Fast forward seven years, and I still don’t have my license. Going to college in New York City, a license wasn’t strictly necessary. I imagined I’d live there my whole life. All I needed was a Metrocard and a pathetic, throw in the towel non-drivers ID in order to get into bars. But, now living at home in Connecticut I’m realizing a license is necessary. If I want to be able to move anywhere of my choosing and not be limited by the simple fact that I can’t drive then I need my license. If I want to explore America and go on a road trip, then I need my license. If I want to go to the mall and no one is willing to drive me, then I need my license. If I want to be an independent, adult woman, then I need my license.

I’m ready to conquer my fears. Tomorrow I go to an adult driving class.

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  2. Oh emm gee, I absolutely love you for this!! I get teased and harassed by my friends and family for being 26 and license-less!! I live in Chicago so I pretty much take the el and bus everywhere, but winters are def rough!! I want to take my drivers test but in the past 3 yrs Ive been in 3 car accidents as the passenger and the last on e was really really scary, airbags came out and all!! So needless to say that has made my fear about driving increase even though I really want to be more independent and drive myself arou d!

  3. I’m turning 26 in September and I still don’t have my driver license. I live in France and it costs a lot of money (the prices may be similar in other European countries). Luckily, I use public transportation and it’s more convenient and cheaper than a car. I cannot do several things at the same time (like listening to someone and writing at the same time), so I wouldn’t be able to drive. When you’re driving, you need to have quick reflexes and I don’t have them. I need to think before I do anything. Having a car may be convenient but I also see many disadvantages. If I’m taking driving lessons, I already know I’d waste tons of money for nothing

  4. I am so glad I came upon this article! I too am 23 (today is my birthday actually!) without a license. My mother never really let me get my license in high school because she thought I was “too young and careless.” It never really bothered me though. Even in college (two+ hours away from home) I didn’t really need a license to get around because I lived on campus and ate on campus and someone always needed to go to Wal-Mart. Another good thing that I didn’t have to worry about in college was that I never had to be the designated driver! Haha But now that I have graduated and am living back at home I too feel that having a license is necessary. I hate asking my parents if they can take me to my friends’ house or anywhere, including work. Asking my friends is always hard too because they all live 20 minutes away and don’t want to pick me up because of the drive. I got my permit in May and my grandfather has paid for 6 hours of driving lessons through AAA, and I have only completed 3 because of the fact that it’s hard to find time for one of my parents to take me out (I am supposed to practice before I have another lesson), but I totally have trust issues with other drivers and am constantly panicking, which could get me killed, which scares me even more. Hopefully by September I will be able to get my license and feel more independent. It’s hard feeling this way, but we can do it! :)

  5. I read the title of this post and felt compelled to read it :) I feel like I can really relate to you – I passed my written test the first time I went for it and was so happy! Then I kept putting off actually going for my practical test for sooo long that by the time I actually plucked up the courage to do sit the test it was the day my licence was due to expire – and I failed! I was so embarrassed and pretty much didn’t drive for years. I had my learner’s licence for almost 6 years and renewed it twice in that time before I finally got my licence! I probably would have never gone for my test again if my little sister hadn’t got her licence before me and rubbed it in my face. I’m grateful to her for it in hindsight haha I passed my test with flying colours! Good luck – I’m sure when you do go for your test that you’ll do great and if you don’t it doesn’t really matter, you can always try again – don’t stop trying because when you pass it will be the best day ever! The freedom is so worth it :)

  6. sorry for my English! I am from Argentina!

  7. Is easy driver!!! nothing is more beautiful than driving! I teach you to drive for free!
    I was driving since 11 year old!
    Do not be afraid!!

  8. Hello! I can totally relate to your story… I got my license at age 17 (somehow I passed my driver’s test), but I never actually drove on my own till I was 32. I would have a panic attack any time I actually thought about driving. Even though I knew that I needed to start driving, I was just too scared to try. I used to carpool to work, but when my carpool buddy moved away, I knew that I’d have to start driving or I’d lose my job. I found a place that let me practice driving through a virtual driving program, and that really helped me. It took me a long time to become confident in my driving skills, though, and even though I don’t drive on freeways today, I can pretty much get to anywhere I need to go on my own (and that’s a great feeling). Good luck in your journey!!!!

    • Thanks so much for sharing this! It really helps to know that someone else has gone through this and has become a confident driver. I hope I can do the same.

  9. I totally get the embarrassment of it all. I’m 23 and only just passed to get my practice permit. After a traumatizing go-cart incident when I was 12, plus the fact that my eye sight sucks, it was always very difficult for me to get the ball rolling. Although I can get myself around on public transit ok, there will always be an event I can’t go to because it’s too far out of the way and I don’t want to be the jerk always bumming rides from friends. (Always offer gas money is a very good lesson for people in my shoes) My state ID expires this October, so here’s to setting my license goal for that time!

    • I think go-carting is what actually started my driving fears as well! I think it’s a great idea to have a date set in mind for your license. Good luck with your driving!

  10. Hi, I can relate to you on this one. I’m 37 and I don’t have my driver license at all and I haven’t went to take the driving part at all (I still have my permit) . My only problem is I never had no one to really really help me on getting it (I even offer people one time money to take me at least once a week). The only person did help me some was my dad but after awhile of him I get tried and nervous around him. I finally getting another car and I going to adult driving class (despite I might to cut down on a lot of stuff in my life) . I already had two cars before to try to get it and still haven’t got it but one day I will get it. Plus I’m tried of begging or asking people to take me places that I want to go too.

  11. hi, I’m 22 and today I just had my first driving lesson too! It was surprising to see this post, and I dont think you should feel embarassed because of you don’t have a license! I mean it has no age, you can have it even in your 30!
    It was pretty fun to try to drive the car around my house, and I must admit that ı was too nervous most of the time :D
    anyways, I hope it will get better for all of us!, greetings from Turkey..

  12. I feel you. I am 28 and I don’t have my license either. Now that I have a son and we live in the country, I need it desperately.

    • Thanks for sharing! I think the fact that we know we need it is a good first step in getting our license. Now we just need to practice. Good luck!

  13. I am 20, and I don’t have my license yet. I live in a (small) city, and I am close to just about every thing (school, work, beach, down town). But I am moving in a month and I now need to get my drivers license. I have been practicing driving, and I have been doing pretty well, but I am still very nervous about taking the drivers test. It is nice to know that I am not the only “20 something” who does not have their license, now my friends can stop bothering me :)

    • Thank you so much for this! I was nervous about this post, but it’s so great to know I’m not alone in this. Good luck!

  14. OHEMMGEE Im 25 without a license and I took my written YEARS ago and passed with flying colors. Being from Chicago, I took advantage of public transportation so driving wasnt that important to me. But now that Im a little bit older and living in Florida, its more crucial then ever that I need my own wheels!! The children I watched grow up are now driving to work and it depresses me. Driving scares me and people are afraid to hand over the keys and let me try it out. The last time my boyfriend did, I nearly ran into a snowbank. My mom is a screamer, so that ended before it started.
    Its a relief that you guys can relate . The swelling of humiliation has gone down and Im more then motivated to try it again.

    • I know it is so hard for me to find people to drive with too! You could always look into taking a driving class in your area. I’m so happy my story has motivated you. We can do this!

  15. My story is also the same, apart from that I live in the UK and the test is a little different. Like you I passed my theory with almost 100% percent, However my next driving test will be my 5th attempt. I am a perfect driver, but when it comes to the test, I cry, I panic and I worry.

    • Thanks so much for sharing. It helps to know I’m not alone. I know we can pass the test! It just takes practice. Good luck!

  16. Whatever feelings of embarrassment you may have should spring from giving into defeat and avoiding going back for what you wanted in the first place. But even that does not warrant embarrassment. The time is right when you are ready and obviously back then you were not ready, lacking the confidence to perform as a good driver.

  17. I’m a bit taken aback by this story. I am 28 and do not have my driver’s license. I, like you, passed my written exam with a perfect score. As I waited, I saw an absurd number of people receive failing scores, some of them for the second or third time. With permit in hand, I proceded to practice driving. I just flat out hated it–driving amidst many who probably failed their own exams a few times before barely squeezing by. I eventually made a decision to commute by bike and public transportation. I don’t consider myself pathetic because of this. I’m an independent, adult woman and I do not need to drive a car to prove this.

    • I appreciate your insight and I totally see where you are coming from. My article was never intended to offend other non-drivers. However, I never made the choice not to drive whereas you did. I have let fear hold me back and that is what inhibits me from feeling independent. I see your decision, as well as others who choose not to drive, as a step towards independence. Thanks for sharing your story and allowing me to see my own in a new light.