The first week of term, we went out to celebrate surviving the re-introduction of students into our milieu by hitting up the on-campus watering hole. At the door, I was asked for ID. I will admit, I kind of snarked at the guy as I presented my license. Upon examining my date of birth, his eyes widened and he responded: "Oh WWOOWW!" in reaction to the fact that I have been of legal drinking age for over a decade. Add to that the moment when I was stopped in the hallway on campus and informed of a student rally happening to protest the high wages of faculty and staff. I had no choice to inform him that I was, indeed, one of those "high paid staff member" and not the student for whom he had mistaken me. Needless to say, I revamped my image that week to appear a little more age-appropriate.
Late 20s are that time when you finally feel the confidence you lacked as a teenager, the direction you lacked in your early 20s, and have not yet had the paralyzing fear of age that I hear comes with the 30s. I certainly feel no need to re-live or appear to re-live the days of my early youth.
And then we got a new car.
No, I didn't go through a midlife (or quarter life) crisis that involved going out and buying a fancy sports cars in a vain attempt to recapture my youth. I went through a late night quasi-emergency in which our definitely-not-a-sports-car failed to show any signs of youth and just barely chugged its way into starting with some not so subtle persuasion from me. And then we got a not-so-fancy let-pretend-to-call-it-a-sports-car.
While I have found it a little difficult to form any kind of bond with Scott's middle brother, and he and Scott aren't the closest of siblings, he gained major points with both of us when he offered us his old car, including registration and insurance. There was only one catch: it's a standard.
I assured my husband's family it wasn't a big deal, I'd driven standard before. I even managed to go through the 5 minute test drive with my brother-in-law only stalling once. Fortunately, he chalked the jerking and the grinding to not having driven a standard in about 10 years. The real reason? Not only had it been 10 years, but I'd only driven standard, twice, briefly both times, and one of those times may have been a tractor.
While the oversight in mentioning that did mean that we were handed the keys, I failed to see the downfall. I would have a very steep learning curve to overcome on my own.
Remember learning to drive at 16, with a frazzled parent in a passenger seat, and inevitably one of you would bolt into the house in tears after a lesson? Now imagine all that same anxiety, but without the support that you knew - but denied - was lurking under the surface from your cautious co-pilot.
What you're left with is the exact same feeling I have now, as I accidentally peel out of my parking spot, as I lurch into first, and unexpectedly rev my engine at stop signs. Certain, at every intersection, I'm going to stall; at every merge that I'm going to kill some one, and with every turn I'm going to embarrass myself, I force myself into the driver's seat every second night and make myself drive a little further out of my comfort zone. But as the weeks wear on, there are fewer and fewer nights I bolt into the apartment in tears.
I'm sure in a few weeks, I will feel a little less like my 16 year old novice driving self, and that in a few years, I will look more fondly on my youth. But in the meantime, I will be very appreciative of having supportive co-pilots my first time through gaining my fledgling wings, and, above all, to appreciate the age that I am at now, where I have the confidence I need to face the ghosts of my 16 year old self, only this time to face them alone.