I'm 21 and Can't Drive: Here's How it Feels

I’m 21 years old and I still don’t have a driver’s license. Here are the reasons why I ended up in this situation and how it feels.

I Didn’t Learn in High School

I just never learned to drive while I was in high school. I went to a performing arts school so I was involved in a lot of theater productions after-school which ate up my potential driving time. I also didn’t want to learn. Driving seemed very scary (and honestly, it still does). Most of my friends didn’t drive either so I didn’t feel weird or left out by not learning.

I Got a Permit… and Let It Expire

When I was 18 I took a Driver’s Education course even though I was not legally required to anymore because of my age. Once you turn 18, you don’t have to take Driver’s Ed or get a certain number of practice hours behind the wheel with your parents. I took the class because I knew that I had to learn and I didn’t think I would study it on my own. Like most people, I disliked the course, but I did learn the rules and passed my permit test. I went driving a few times with my parents, but I hated it. I get so anxious behind the wheel and I always feel like I’m going to miss something. I could not go driving with my dad because he would get frustrated and yell at me (which is very out of character for him) and my mom rarely had the time and energy. Since I already hated driving and it was like pulling teeth to get practice time, I just stopped. Eventually my permit expired, providing a handy excuse as to why I couldn’t practice driving.

I Had Some Bad Experiences

While I was still practicing, I had some bad experiences in the car. My mom had me drive down to Chicago when my sister was going to see a show there so I could drive us at night, since her vision gets bad when it’s dark outside. Taking a brand-new driver to navigate one of the busiest cities in the country at night was a very bad idea. I nearly had a panic attack and had to pull over so my mom could switch with me. As I said before, my dad got extremely frustrated—he just didn’t understand why I was having trouble doing something I had literally never done before. My parents also had me start by going on the highway—turns out you aren’t supposed to do that! When my sister got her permit it came with an instruction booklet for parents that said you should start in parking lots and quiet roads. They apologized to me for going about it all wrong, but those experiences still really put me off the idea of driving.

Yes, It Really Sucks

I hate not being able to drive. I really truly hate it. It feels terrible and infantilizing to be in my 20s and unable to drive a car. It’s embarrassing and what’s worse is that part of me still never wants to drive again, because it scares me. My anxiety gets so much worse on the road, but I want to have a license so badly! I promised myself I wouldn’t be 21 without a license and yet here I am. It’s so easy for me to put off the unpleasant chore of practicing my driving that I haven’t driven in a couple of years.

I’m Working On It

I just renewed my permit last week during Spring Break! I did not renew my on-campus housing contract for next semester (my last one) so I’ll be a commuter. That means I absolutely have to get a license and a car. I’m determined to work on getting my license this spring and summer, no matter what. I am going to overcome my anxiety and dislike and finally learn how to drive. I feel really good about this next step in my life and I am trying not to let the late timing embarrass me. It helps to remind myself that just because it took awhile to get here, doesn’t invalidate the progress I’ve made.

While some people have summer internships or vacation plans, I am going to (finally) learn to drive. It took awhile and a few false starts, but I finally feel like this is the right time for me. My driving journey will finally get going, and I will not be 22 without a license!