As a die-hard New Yorker, I didn’t take driver’s ed in school. I figured I’d always live in a city with buses and subways.
Then I found myself in California as an elderly twenty-one-year-old. I needed a car. I needed to drive.
Driving didn’t come naturally to me. I’d never ridden a bicycle, so steering in a straight line was something new. I couldn’t believe other cars would do what they were supposed to do, i.e., stay in their lane and let me in when I wanted to merge. Each left turn represented a moment of sheer terror.
Night driving was a special challenge. It was dark.
The driving instructor reminded me, “Don’t drive past your headlights.”
Over the years, I came to understand what he meant. I learned to look for reflectors, signs, and lights, and to drive slowly on country roads that lacked these amenities. I also learned that I could drive much faster when I had driven a road many times.
Transitions are like driving at night on an unfamiliar, winding country road…with no center line and no guardrails on the side. And signs come few and far between.
I think about night driving when people ask, “How fast should I go in a life transition?”
Counselors, consultants, and coaches often say things like, “You need confidence! Don’t hesitate!”
Your confidence, like your car’s headlights, will allow you to move forward smoothly. You know where you are going and you can handle what’s ahead.
You don’t get confidence when someone says, “You’re wonderful!” You gain confidence the way you learn to drive country roads: by going slow till you learn the way.
If you feel nervous, you can develop your skills, find another route, or even delay your trip so you can drive in daylight. You might feel better if you look at a map before you take the trip, instead of relying on GPS to guide you after you’ve started. You won’t be surprised or wonder if you’re lost when you see signs pointing to places you’ve never heard of.
Sometimes you have to tell yourself, “Look, I’ve done this before. I’ve never had an accident. The roads are dry and the sky is clear. Let’s move!”
You have to respect your own inner wisdom — and sometimes your realistic concerns can be
misinterpreted as a lack of confidence. You must go at your own pace.
However, you know you need to get to your destination, somehow. You can’t stay here forever. Once you’re on the road, often your confidence grows as you move. And next time you’ll know the way and you’ll go faster.