Sixteen

Earlier this month, I turned 32.

I’m still kind of coping with the number. I don’t FEEL 32. Thirty-two year-olds are supposed to have a few things figured out, aren’t they?

Sixteen years ago, I turned 16 and the only thing I could eat, sleep, and breathe was taking my driver’s test. Since the age of nine, I counted down the years until I could drive. I just knew at that young an age that I was destined to love driving.

Obtaining my driver’s license was one of the biggest thrills of my entire existence, no exaggeration. Getting that little laminated card sent to me in the mail felt like a bucket of freedom pouring all over me. No more would I have to solely rely on anyone else to pick me up and take me places. I could just get there myself and derive every drop of pleasure from driving.

Some people hate driving. My best friend is one of them. She still can’t drive and until some life event forces her to have to get a license, she will remain a chauffeured passenger. While I may not understand it, I am fully supportive of her if that makes her happy. (And I think we’re all a little safer with those who can’t stand driving not being on the road.)

The sensation of driving is a therapeutic one for me with the road under my tires and the steering wheel in my hands. Driving also satisfies my intense need to control. I fully admit I am a control freak. I don’t like to think of it as negative but there are several people who have told me – Kevin included – that I am bossy. I don’t have an answer for that except for a shrug and a, “Yeah, so?” I’m also one of those people who thinks my ideas and the way I do them are ideal.

You might think I’d be a manager of some kind by now but I’m not. Not even close. Despite my being utterly confident in carrying things out a certain way (and usually being disappointed when others don’t hold themselves up to the same high standards of execution), I am extremely non-confrontational. Having a subordinate or a team of them would be an incredible challenge for me. Though, having had some less-than-terrific superiors in my work history, I can say I would sincerely strive to avoid doing the things that have really aggravated me or been my own undoing. It has never ceased to astound me who makes it to a managerial level–anywhere. It could be Pizza Hut. When I run into inefficiency or sheer incompetence, I think, how am I not at the top again? But I don’t make it my life’s mission to choose a different path that might get me there. I stay put. I ruminate. I dwell on the what-ifs.

That’s the bite of irony, there. I feel mostly out of control when it comes to my situation in life, so I clamp down to control what I can. I’m not in the career I thought I’d be in by the age of 32, I’m not yet married, I don’t own my own home, I don’t have children, and for the most part, I feel very in limbo. (I do have a steady rock of a partner for whom I am grateful every single day. So I appease my litany of complaints with that solace.)

The number one thing I struggle with is self-discipline.

Mostly, that applies to exercise and other self-care choices. When I was much younger, maybe 12 or so, I thought to myself, “When I’m older and on my own [say, 25], I’m really going to have it all figured out. I’m going to be successful and physically fit because I’ll be making ALL my own decisions and doing what I want when I want.”

If only! I think back to that long ago thought and wish I could hug my younger self. I so wish it were that easy.

I am an absolute perfectionist and if I can’t have exactly what I want, when and how I want it, I give up quite easily (or take no action). My modus operandi is that something just won’t happen if it can’t be done in a manner matching whatever idea of perfection I’ve dreamed up in my mind.

A perfect example of this is with our vacuum cleaner.

When Kevin and I began our cohabitation adventure, he brought to the household a vacuum cleaner – one he had thoroughly researched that would really clean up pet hair. While we were still living in New York City, I determined that I hated this vacuum. It smelled bad when you turned it on (which was half the reason I hated it) it clogged easily, and the pet attachment only feebly worked.

Due to our budget constraints, this thing had to stick with us for a while longer. Fast forward to 2012 when I received my tax refund. I made an impulse decision that this would be The Year of the Vacuum and I could fulfill a fantasy of mine and purchase a Dyson.

I know, what is this, the 1950s, where the little wife dreams of her shiny new appliance?

Nonetheless, with nothing short of pure jubilance, I took myself to a local store and purchased a Dyson Animal. Let me tell you, this thing has seriously changed how I view vacuuming. Whereas before I avoided vacuuming at all costs, I have pulled this thing out again and again and again because it works just as it should. I have never in my life enjoyed vacuuming but since I can see everything being lifted away with ease, it actually takes away the blood, sweat, and tears I previously associated with this chore. I triumphantly proved to myself that if I only had the perfect tool, the one thing I really wanted, then all would be well and I would be motivated to do something I had formerly hated. I don’t jump out of bed every day and want to vacuum, but considering I do it without having to have a pep talk AND it’s done much more regularly, I consider this an incredible achievement.

I sincerely wish this were the case with all things. I think that’s why infomercials which tout that this ONE piece of exercise equipment will change your life are so successful. It’s so easy to buy into that fantasy! I have fallen for it, as have millions of others. I have owned (and loved) a Gazelle, that non-treadmill piece of equipment that that Tony Little guy is advertising incessantly. It’s actually pretty fun but it is not a miracle machine. Then again, nothing is.

I continue to struggle with my perfectionism, trying to just relax and let things be. It is the hardest thing for me to do. Because I can’t control situations, how other people react, or even the results I get if I put effort into something (read: exercise/weight loss), I struggle every day to not become completely immobile. In one of the thousands of episodes of The Simpsons, Homer says to Lisa, “The lesson is….never try.” I can so relate, since I have gravitated towards taking the easier path more often than not.

At the same time that I have all this self-awareness about this issue, overcoming these innate urges takes the same force of will that a 500-pound man would need to climb Mount Everest with no experience. I don’t want to be the fat guy choking for air on the side of the mountain. I’d rather stay put on the ground, safe and sound, where I can complain in pure comfort.

And then the question I have to ask myself is, where does that get me? Answer: directly to where I don’t want to be.

Sixteen years ago I was a junior in high school. I hadn’t even thought about what a college career would look like or where I’d apply, much less seriously considered what I would do for a living. (I also thought I’d be married by the age of 25. Hahahahaha.)

I look back and wonder where the second set of sixteen years went. The difference is, I didn’t begin in infancy to get to where I am now. I was a young adult and now I am a fully-fledged adult who is still trying to figure out the same things. I suppose we all are, on some level.

Sixteen years from now I will be 48. Talk about scary. It’s not just a little different, it’s a completely new era of life I will be experiencing. While I am striving to enjoy the small moments, the seconds, the minutes, the hours, the days, the weeks, the months, each year as it comes….they will add up into another sixteen years, where I will look back and wonder how I got from here to there, whatever “there” looks like. I will find this post and instead of mourning the choices I did not make due to some paralyzing sense of perfection, I hope I will celebrate the risks I ended up taking instead.

Deep breath and……Ready. Set. Go.

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Driver’s Ed 101

Now that I’ve been back in the driving world for over a year, I have started to add up some observations on common driving mistakes. I don’t believe that these are inherent to just the drivers in my city but there is one in particular which I’ve noticed that really shouldn’t be a problem if you are an experienced driver.

Let’s talk about backing out of parking spaces, shall we? Take this woman, for instance:


I can’t believe that the person waiting for the woman to figure out how to park waited as long as he did. I do admire him for finally asking if he could park the woman’s car for her. I DON’T believe this woman should be a licensed driver.

What I don’t appreciate is that there seems to be this misapprehension that women are terrible drivers. There are plenty of horrible male drivers in this world, as well. For some people, driving is instinctual – you just GET it. I am one of those people. My best friend has never learned how to drive and isn’t interested at all. She placed herself in a city where she has reliable public transportation. Kudos to her!

I yearned to learn how to drive at a very early age and by the time I turned nine, I started counting the years until I turned sixteen and I would finally get my license. I’m not even kidding. The day I got my driver’s license was one of the happiest in my entire life. I remember it fondly. My mom was nervous about me “tooling around” on my own but quickly realized what a boon it was to have a daughter more than willing to run errands, just so she could drive the car all by herself.

Now that I have been a licensed driver for over half of my existence, I can safely say that it is one of the best gifts a person can have. I thought about how fortunate I am to be able to own and drive my own car the other day as I was on my way to work. I still get a kick out of driving each and every day. And I think road trips are as fun as they are therapeutic.

While there were plenty of times I liked riding the subway when I lived in New York, I have an even fuller appreciation for being able to drive to work now. It doesn’t hurt that my commute isn’t a one-hour, clogged traffic jam everyday, either. Still, until you’ve sacrificed your personal space on a crowded rush-hour train in New York City, you can’t know how freeing it feels to be able to throw your things in the passenger seat, blast heat or air conditioning as you see fit, be able to sit the whole time, and listen to music as loudly as you want (or not). It’s a serious sigh of relief.

However, I do believe that having a license is something that most people take for granted; there might be many fewer accidents otherwise. I still maintain my position on minivans, by the way, as just this morning the light turned green but we all waited for the minivan flying at 50mph to plow through the intersection on a red light. (And it was a man driving.) Driving is as much about courtesy to others as it is a convenience for us to get ourselves around.

Backing into and out of parking spaces is a necessity of a driver’s life and yet, so many people can not seem to figure this out. There is a very simple rule that has served me well since I was 15 years of age and in Driver’s Ed. The coach told us it’s a 75/25 rule: back out straight three-quarters of the way before you begin turning your wheels. You will not scrape the cars on either side of you if you stick to this rule of thumb. And it really works! I frequently see people in my office parking lot turn their wheels the moment they’ve hit reverse and I’m amazed more cars aren’t stripped lengthwise of their paint. I cringe every single time.

I could probably go on for longer than most people would prefer with driving safety tips so I’m going to leave you with the one tip for today and hope it changes your life or someone else’s you may know.

Because if you are anything like this other woman below (who requires the help of yet another woman guiding her), you need to re-evaluate whether you should be driving, stat: