April 24, 2000
Jules de Gaultier stated, ?Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.? I think the ?war against reality? is the process of aging and imagination is our naivet? that shields us from the frightening world. By imagining that situations will never be uncomfortable; girls will never experience heartbreak; men will always have jobs to support their families; and people will never become sick, we are setting our selves up for a slap in the face when, inevitably, we are forced to notice how the real world works.
Disillusionment is the acceptance of truth and the understanding or reality. To be disillusioned, one becomes disappointed when his or her opinion or belief is found out to be false. Usually an act forces them to realize the truth when they probably would rather continue in their own beliefs.
Santa Clause, for instance, is precisely an illusion. As great and magical it is for a child to believe in the jolly, fat man with a snow white beard sliding down their chimney on Christmas to leave the ?good? kids presents, there comes a time when kids learn that Santa is only a spirit; a story told them by the same parents that actually provided the gifts. The naivet? of a child who believes this myth is also accompanied by the delight that believing in the myth brings. At some time, each child comes to the reality that there is no Santa Clause, there is only the love of the parents who were perpetuating the myth in order to increase the quality of their child?s young life. To find the myth shattered is like bursting the bubble, yet, to replace it with the understanding of the motivation is a comfort and there is joy in learning that something was done only to make one?s life better.
My naivet? in the awesome act of driving a car was somewhat like my belief in Santa. I felt confident that the task was easy, something I had the ability to do, and something that I had no reason to believe I would be anything but excellent at doing. I was so confident, in fact, that I was not even planning to read the driver?s manual prior to taking the written test in order to receive my driver?s license. It was only the threat by my mother that she would not bring me back to retake the test that convinced me to study. I was too cool to NOT be able to drive. I could drive the bumper cars at Six Flags, couldn?t I? I could drive my neighbors go-cart, couldn?t I? I was an excellent bicycle rider. What was the big deal about driving a car? I was so cocky that I did not even realize that there was anything to be afraid of. I did not even know that what I didn?t know could kill me. I had absolutely no comprehension of the terrifyingly wonderful and frightening responsibility of driving. I had no idea how car accidents happened and no plans to be involved in one. The first step to knowledge is knowing that you are naive. Unfortunately, I was too naive to even know that.
My time of crisis came not once, not twice, but three times within six months of receiving a driver?s license. When I had been driving only five days, I never questioned my capability of driving down Holcomb Bridge Road with the music playing loud and a very excitable girlfriend as my passenger. What came as a shocking surprise, was that people tend to stop quickly on that particular stretch of road and not give the driver behind them much more than a second?s notice. If the driver is a new sixteen year-old who is changing lanes and looking backward, this fact results in a crash.
That would be me.
Imagine my horror, as I realized I had allowed my car to run into the one in front of me all because I was too confident that nothing like this could happen to me. I was devastated by this turn of events. To add insult to injury, I had to pay the $250.00 deductible charge in order to have my car fixed, had to be without my car for over a month, and had to answer to my parents and friends as to how this could happen to me, a careful driver! Being responsible, broke and without a car will crush naivet?.
It was only two months later when I slammed my car between an electrical pole and the wall of a graveyard that I began to feel that perhaps I did not know as much as I thought I did about driving. Again, I was too busy with my music and my bare feet, to plan where I was going in advance. Therefore, when the road came up sooner that I expected, I did not do a very good job of making my turn. Again, there was a loss of $250.00, my car for a month of repairs, and my parents? confidence in my ability to drive.
When I lost control of my car on rain-slicked Holcomb Bridge Road and wrecked for the third time, I was ready to accept that I did not have the ability to drive that I thought I had. It takes experience, I am told, to know how to handle a car that is skidding and I believe that now.
The wisdom gained from my transition from naivet? to crisis is immeasurable. I now acutely understand how dangerous driving can be. In fact, I am actually scared to drive. I have even gone so far as to have a panic attack while driving, convinced that other drivers are going to crash into me. I feel my body tensing and my nerves going into overdrive almost every time I get behind the wheel. I know this is not the safest way to drive, but I honestly cannot help it. Now that I understand the power one has when sitting in the driver?s seat, it is almost more than I can stand. I am hoping that with time and experience, I will become a confident, safe driver once again.
The na?ve dream I once had of driving as the ultimate freedom for a sixteen year old has been replaced with the caution that my newfound wisdom has instilled in me. I know now how easy it would be to become scarred for life, killed, or even to kill someone else. I will never again take driving for granted, thinking it is a mindless way to get from one place to another. My carefree thrill of driving with no regard to consequences has forever been changed because I have painfully experienced reality. Much like my belief in Santa Clause for many wonderful years, my bubble burst when I realized that driving a real car was nothing like driving the bumper car or the go-cart. However, just as I knew my parents let me believe in Santa only as long as it was still good for me, I know that my less-than-stellar driving experience has also been good for me. If I had not had my bump-ups, even all three of them, I would not have the healthy respect and fear for driving that should always be with a person. I know that right now, I have too much fear, and I do hope to find that balance so that I am a safe, confident driver.