But I’ll go a step further than that, and admit that while I never got any particular joy out of driving in my hometown of Cullman, Alabama, the prospect of driving in large cities scares me spitless. I still remember my first time driving in Mobile, which is a big city compared
to the town I grew up in. I was on Interstate 65 just getting into the city traffic when the heavens opened and the floods descended. A few months of living in Mobile would teach me that this is typical summer weather for the Gulf Coast, but at that time I didn’t know that all I had to do was pull over and wait, and it would all be gone in ten minutes. All I knew was that it was raining so hard my windshield wipers couldn’t keep up, and I couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of me. Which is why I was driving down I-65 singing “Jesus, Hold My Hand.” But I got more accustomed with time, and by the time we moved away from Mobile almost thirty years later, I was unfazed even by Airport Boulevard at rush hour.
Fast forward to May 2012, and my first solo trip to Denver. Mind you, it took nothing less than a writer’s conference--and with it the opportunity to meet other local writers--to make me set out from Loveland on the hour-long trek down I-25. I had just sighted the conference hotel and was congratulating myself on having successfully navigated the trip when my GPS guide, Carmen the Garmin, let me down. It seems the street she was telling me to turn on had a sign calling it by a completely different name, and so I didn’t recognize my turn until I was already past it. Carmen rolled her eyes, huffed "Recalculating," and proceeded to take me on a very roundabout journey back.
After I arrived at the hotel, I was fine (a little shaky, but fine) until time to go home that evening, when I found myself in the second-to-the-right lane of a highway with five lanes going in each direction. In order to make a left-hand turn onto northbound I-25, I had to position myself in the far left lane, so that I could scoot into one of the two lanes (for anyone who's counting, that would be lane number 6 or 7) that formed the ramps onto I-25. With very little room in which to get over, I put on my blinker, gritted my teeth, and swerved across three lanes of traffic. Success! One very nice man in a pickup truck even held back to let me cut in front of him. Or maybe he was just scared of me. Either way, within an hour I was home, having driven to Denver and back and lived to tell the tale.
I don’t doubt that there will be other times I’ll have to drive to Denver, and I don’t doubt that I’ll be just as terrified as I was that first time. But with each experience, I’ll get a little more confident, just as I did with driving in Cullman as a teenager and in Mobile as a young adult.
That’s the way it is with things that push you out of your comfort zone: eventually you get a bigger comfort zone.
What do you sometimes have to do that makes you uncomfortable? How do you handle it? Inquiring minds want to know!