Do you know how to drive a stick – a standard?
I learned in my 30s. In my 30s!
We bought a standard truck, that Garry drove, and I stuck with the car we already had, thank you very much, which made it easy to make excuses not to learn how to drive a stick.
Quickly after that purchase, Garry got a job that supplied a company car and we made the decision to sell our car – BAM! – suddenly, it was learn how to drive the beast or be stranded all day (pre-Uber, y’all!).
I decided I’d take my maiden voyage in a mall parking lot early on a Sunday afternoon. Traffic would be light and I could send Garry and Boy into the arcade with a roll of quarters (man, I’m dating myself here).
After last minute instructions from Garry, I slid into the driver’s seat, watched them head into the mall, prayed for my safety and those around me, then started the truck, with the clutch firmly in place.
Prior to that afternoon, Garry and I had gone over all the basics, but I was too scared to take the truck out into actual traffic. The mostly deserted parking lot turned out to be a great alternative.
I gave myself a quick pep talk, “Gonna be fine. Everything is fine.”
And it was, until I goosed the gas and let out the clutch.
~ JERKITTY JERK JERK FORWARD STOP ~
I laughed the laugh of the terrified.
I let up on the accelerator and pushed the clutch back to the floorboard.
What was I thinking? How in the holy hell was I going to teach myself how to master a stick, when my first try gave me a brain bruise?
The truck was still running – A WIN! – so, I tried again.
~ JERKITTY JERK JERK FORWARD STOP~
This time I didn’t get the clutch to the floorboard fast enough and stalled out.
I beat on the steering wheel and cussed – I was pissed in my inability to drive the truck. I was a grown woman, for goodness sake. I had listened to everything Garry had taught me. We had practiced on the safety of our street. Yet, the endless voice zipping between my ears: I know how to do this, but I’m not doing it, so maybe I can’t do it.
Any of this sounding familiar?
Life is like learning how to drive a stick.
You have read books, taken classes, watched videos, listened to podcasts, talked with folks who know more than you, gleaned knowledge, made a plan – made a damned good plan – started – only to jerk forward and stall out.
~ jerk forward – stall out – cuss – restart – jerk forward ~
Yeah, pretty much just like that.
I could have stopped there. I could have waited for my family to rejoin me and tell them I had failed, to tell them I had tried, but just couldn’t get the hang of it.
I restarted that truck a hundred times. I jerked it all over the parking lot, for hours. I practiced stopping at the top of the hills, rolling backwards, slamming on the brakes, then cautiously moving forward. Like a jerk.
I stalled out, hundreds of times. I cussed, hundreds of time. I beat the steering wheel with my hands, hundreds of times.
I smack-talked the truck: you will NOT win, mofo! NOT TODAY!
At one point, mall security shadowed me, not quite sure if I needed help or if it was just a fun way to pass the time – watching this woman beat the hell outta her truck. (It was a different time, my babies. A gal jerking a standard truck all over a mall parking lot was nothing of concern – only amusement.)
After a couple of hours, I could drive my truck (that’s right, now it was mine) without stalling out…much.
I learned from my repeated miscues and false starts. I learned from doing – where I needed to ease the clutch and where I needed to goose the accelerator. I also learned the importance of STANDING on the brake, when needed.
It was exhausting.
When Garry and Boy emerged quarter-less, I officially could drive a stick. Ugly drive that badboy, nevertheless, I could do it.
Much of what we learn in this life is the same. It takes a mixture of knowledge, concerted effort and the sheer will to keep jerking forward to produce results.
In whatever you learn, in whatever endeavor or dream you embrace, know there will be days when you want to kick the tires and move on to an automatic. Life is easy there, in your comfort zone, right? There’s no jerking forward, stalling out, cussing, or restarting.
The problem with that scenario is you don’t get anywhere new. You’re stuck in automation.
If you want to grow, to expand, to enjoy success on your own terms, to experience freedom, you’ll need to learn how to drive a stick and live.
Even if a mall cop is following you and having a good laugh.
You may be stalling out and wondering what the hell you’re doing, but with enough restarts, one day you’ll be stopped at the precipice of the biggest hill you’ve ever traveled and KNOW you’ve got this.
After all, you’ve put in the work and all you gotta do is release the clutch slowly while pressing on the accelerator, allowing for smooth forward motion.
Overcoming is a glorious thing.
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