I was a child obsessed with cars in the 90s. My love for cars was so obvious that in most pictures of me from my family’s old photo album, I’m holding a miniature toy car. But now I’m terrified of cars these days, especially when it comes to driving them.
I looked forward to the day I could finally drive. So when I turned 16, I started classes with vim and practised in an open field close to where I lived. My driving instructor and I did this for a while, and after some time, I had to test myself on an actual road. That’s where shit got real.
I and my instructor set out that morning to take over the streets, and everything was going fine until I saw a truck the size of a petrol tanker, and at that moment, I froze. I can’t remember exactly what I was thinking, but I had this feeling I was about to die and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I had just finished secondary school and here I was about to peace out on a random street? I know it sounds dramatic when people say it, but, omo, my whole life flashed right in front me, and all I did was stare back at it in shock. Luckily for us, my instructor grabbed the steering wheel and drove us off the road. We survived, but I walked away and never touched a steering wheel since then.
My whole life flashed in front of me, and all I did was stare back at it in shock.
Not knowing how to drive quickly became my personality trait. I joked about it and used it as a way to escape random errands like picking up family members from the airport or rushing to the market to get something. And with ride-hailing apps everywhere, did I really need to learn how to drive?
While not knowing how to drive has saved me from running a shit load of errands, I can’t deny how helpless it makes me sometimes. A prime example of this was on a night out with a friend back in 2019. We’d hung out with other friends, and since this was my pre-alcohol era, I didn’t take a sip of anything crazy that night. But he did. Against our better judgement, we hopped into the car and decided to head back home. Halfway into our ride, he stopped at a traffic light, looked at me and said, “I’m wasted. I don’t think I can drive without us getting into an accident.”
For the first time in my life, I desperately wished I could get over my fear of the steering wheel and actually drive. Here we were, in the middle of the road, helpless in a time and a country where trigger-happy policemen could easily walk up to us and turn us into hashtags. I just couldn’t bring myself to get in the driver’s seat.
We scoured our contacts for someone who lived close by. I eventually remembered a mutual friend who I rarely spoke to lived close by. After an awkward call filled with the “That’s how you forgot me” back and forth, we convinced him to get a cab to where we were, drive us to our house and then make his way back home. It worked.
I still think about that night. What if it had ended differently? One would think this would help me get over my fear of driving, but no, I’m still stuck.
Driving is not the only thing I’m scared of. There’s the swimming thing which I lowkey believe traces back to my dad’s death (he didn’t drown; he just died). The thing is, my dad was a pilot and was rarely around. However, every time this man came home, he made sure my life was filled with more activities than actual people. There were four things my dad believed I needed to succeed in life: swimming classes, video games, a billion toys and an annoying older brother who locked me up in wardrobes for fun. He wanted me to take swimming seriously, so I started swimming classes the year I turned four.
But after years of learning the breaststroke and every other stroke in the world, my father died when I was eight and for the first time since I could remember, I didn’t go to swimming class for two weeks straight. Two weeks quickly became one month and one month turned into a year. Before I knew it, the thought of water just irritated me. I mean, what was the point? The man I was doing it for was gone. I didn’t step into a pool again until I was 22 years old.
My return back to the pool was uneventful, unfortunately. I went to a pool party and peer pressure won, so I got into the pool. There was a major difference this time though. While my earlier instinct had always been to step into the pool and show off tricks for my dad, this time, I stepped in and felt a weird sense of calm. I stood in the pool and felt the water, no serenre at all.
I haven’t swam since then. I just go into the pool, stand or submerge myself in the water and leave it at that. I lie and tell people I can’t swim, but the truth is, with my dad not watching, I don’t see the point.
Just like my failed swimming career, my inability to ride a bicycle can also be traced to my dad. No, he didn’t go hard on me for this one too. It’s just that bicycles were our thing. Teaching me how to ride a bicycle was the only part of fatherhood he didn’t outsource, and in those moments, I felt connected to him. Since he passed, I haven’t been on a bicycle. He stopped his lessons on the bicycles with four wheels, so unless someone has a version of that for adults, I don’t see myself on a bicycle anytime soon.
Do I need to know how to do these things? Yes. Do I want to know? Not really — at least, not all of them. Driving is something I have to learn. But the other two? They’re tied to my daddy issues, and I’m not really bothered about trying anymore. To this day, I don’t know why I froze in front of that truck, and not knowing has kept me trapped in time.
I really want to move past my fear of driving, I just don’t know how.