Hitting the Brakes

Hitting the Brakes

My hands lightly shook as I grasped the hot leather of the steering wheel, slowly letting my knuckles turn pale. My driving instructor had been going on for the past ten minutes about how to hold my hands when I turned, but it was like white noise to me. I could feel my ears burning with nerves as I let out a heavy sigh.

“So, are you ready to go?”

No, I thought to myself.

“Yeah, I guess.” As my foot left the brake, I was filled with horror as the car jerked forward.

As I turned out of the driveway, making full use of the brakes, I hung desperately onto the words flying out of my instructor’s mouth. Position your hands like this; no, not like that; like this; wait until the car’s straight; stop hugging the right; now stop hugging the left; STOP. I slammed on the brake and sat there shell-shocked. I might’ve said something like “bad driving runs in the family” if my parents hadn’t preached how easy it was to learn. So why couldn’t I stop myself from hitting the curb every five minutes? I hung my head in defeat as my teacher said we should take a break.

He stepped out of the car, but I couldn’t get my legs to move. I was stuck wondering how I could ever do this. Driving was so much more than turning a wheel and hitting the accelerator, but I had always expected it to be so easy and natural. Now, I didn’t know what to think.

As I sat in my seat, letting the soft noises of the aux wash over me, I silently wondered what to do. I let my hands hover above the wheel, mimicking the motions of turning the wheel and took some deep breaths. I shook my knee rapidly, as I watched him get back in the car.

“Round two, Anoushka!”

I let out a nervous laugh, trying to let his optimistic tone calm my anxiety, although it didn’t work well. As I slowly took my foot off the brake once more, my nerves were fully fledged once again.

I could feel myself holding back throughout the whole drive. Not turning fast enough, stopping at stop signs for too long, perpetually riding at below 20 mph. I could slowly sense my instructor losing patience with me, and my hands were starting to hurt from my nervousness.

By the time I pulled back into my driveway, I felt completely defeated. I wondered why I was letting a setback as small as this affect me so much. I barely heard my dad ask, “How was it?” as I tried to make a quick escape.

“It went alright,” I lied.

For the whole night, I dreaded having to get up the next morning and face the same torturous situation. I found myself searching for driving instruction videos and fell asleep listening to the monotonous voice of another driving instructor repeating the same things I had heard all day.

The next morning, I woke up with a knot in my stomach, dreading the thought of another fruitless lesson. But as much as I wanted to avoid it, I knew I couldn’t let my fears hold me back. So, with a deep breath, I forced myself out of bed and into the car.

When I sat down behind the wheel, instead of letting my self-doubt take over, I made a conscious effort to push it aside, and rather, focus on my improvement. My instructor’s words of encouragement from the previous day echoed in my head, and spurred me forward, despite my setbacks.

With each turn of the wheel and push of the pedal, I felt myself gaining more confidence. Slowly but surely, I began to notice improvements. My turns were smoother, my stops more precise, and I started to feel less tense behind the wheel. My instructor’s words felt less like attacks and more like constructive criticism, and eventually, I corrected almost all of my mistakes.

By the end of the lesson, I felt a sense of accomplishment wash over me. Even though I had gotten off to a shaky start, I couldn’t help but smile at how far I had come.

Walking back into the house, I was greeted by my dad’s curious gaze. “How was it this time?” he asked, noticing the hint of confidence in my demeanor.

“It was better,” I replied, this time with genuine sincerity.

That night, instead of dreading the next day, I was met with a newfound excitement. Even though I knew that becoming an even better driver would require perseverance and lots of patience, I also knew that I would be able to meet these challenges head-on, instead of hitting the brakes.

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About the Contributor
Anoushka Chakrabarti
Anoushka Chakrabarti, Senior Staff Writer
Anoushka Chakrabarti (’25) is a Senior Staff Writer for The Echo. Aside from writing about current events, she enjoys, reading, listening to music and spending time with friends and family.