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I drive to work every day. Although it's only three miles, it ends up taking about 25 minutes; the GPS initially tells me that I'll arrive by 8:13, but I almost always end up arriving at the parking garage by 8:16. I end up having to wait for the shuttle, which comes every 15 minutes. On good days, I arrive at work by 8:30. On bad days, usually 8:45.
Driving in LA was one of the things I was most afraid of. I felt like I was being thrown into the lions' den, except the lions are aggressive LA drivers, and the den is the LA traffic. I was scared, because I knew that I didn't have enough experience driving. I got my license in Michigan after about 12 hours of coaching from different friends—I borrowed my friends' cars, and only drove around Ann Arbor. I still remember the day of the driving exam, particularly because I initially didn't think I was going to pass the exam. My friend Matt and I drove to the testing location. We were planning on using his car, but because his car registration, and his insurance had expired, we ended up having to rent one on the spot. I had technically failed the test even before we had left the testing location; the lady had to get out of the car to help me parallel park. When we got on the highway, she was full on screaming at me. She held on to her seats, clinging tightly to her handle bar. When we returned to the testing location, however, she still signed the paperwork. She stared into my eyes and said, "You need more practice driving. Under supervision."
In New York, I didn't think much of driving. Who cares? The driver's license had now just become a convenient tool for me to bring when I need to prove that I'm of age. Besides, driving in New York seemed terrible. Narrow streets and overcharged parking fee? No thank you. I even considered not getting a car in LA; some people seemed to be okay with that. But after a week in LA, I went to a car dealership, financed a car with trillion safety options, paid extra money that I didn't need to (so I found out later, anyway), and left the dealership nervous as hell. I've always had a fear of driving, especially next to big trucks and buses. This was not going to go well.
Or so I thought. I can't say I'm perfect, but I haven't gotten into a single accident (knock on wood!) yet, even in the midst of busy Koreatown's traffic. I am 200 percent sure that it's because of the aforementioned safety options, like my rear-view camera and side beepers, but it also doesn't matter, because I'm fine and my car is fine. The longest drive I've had so far was two and a half hours long, driving 85 mph at two in the morning. I think I did pretty okay.
The drive to work, in particular, has been a truly strange opportunity for me to sing songs, think passively about my life, and test my patience. I often find myself trying to make all the green lights, or getting incredibly annoyed when someone else cuts in front of me. There is an elementary school pretty close to where I live, and they hold up the traffic every morning, which drives me crazy. When I'm stuck in the traffic, I sometimes even checking my phone, especially if there is a text message I've been waiting for. The worst part is how I keep always trying to beat the GPS—I get annoyed arriving at the parking structure at time points that does not give me enough time to catch the shuttle. So, if the GPS says I will arrive at 8:13, that means I will be done with parking my car at 8:15, and that means I will miss the shuttle. I need to arrive by 8:10 in order to be in the office by 8:30, or I'll end up having to take the 8:30 shuttle, and arrive at work at 8:45.
I mean, it makes sense. No one likes to miss their transportation by one or two minutes and have to wait an extra 15 minutes. But also, there's absolutely no reason for me to be so anxious about waiting. Normally, there's no problem, as long as I get into work by nine AM. Things can wait. No one will scrutinize my work ethic if I don't get into work by 8:30—a lot of the time my boss isn't even in before nine anyway. Or, if anything, I can walk. Yeah, the walk takes about 20 minutes, but there really isn't anything stopping me, besides my mental barrier of, "How dare you miss the shuttle? You're always running late." Walking is fine. I'm usually only carrying my bag and my lunch anyway. So really, what am I even worried about?
Driving, in a way, has been an unexpected reminder that I need to let things be, and if that means that time has to pass, then I have to let it pass. I can't just keep chasing things, because I feel the need to, or because I'm impatient. Sometimes slowing down is okay. Sometimes resting is okay. If I keep chasing what I want to chase without thinking about what's around me, I could end up hurting myself, figuratively, and literally. As long as I'm prepared to get to the destination, then being careful never hurt anyone. And at the same time, it's also dangerous to full on stop out of nowhere; dropping everything just because you've come across a difficulty can result in more harm than good. I can only continuously work at it, even if that means I have to start pressing my breaks eight seconds before the STOP sign.
My hope is that I don't get into a car accident, at least until I become 25 (and hopefully beyond). And when I do experience my first accident, my hope is that I somewhat know how to deal with it, having learned all this. Driving, as much as it is still nerve wracking, has given me a sense of independence, and a moment to think about myself. Maybe driving will become second nature to me one day, and hopefully patience will too.