I’m 26 and I can’t drive

I’m terrified of driving.

I’ve never driven a car by myself. I’ve never owned a car. I’m a grown adult and I live in America.

I’m scared of sitting in the driver’s seat. Just the thought of putting my hands on the leathery steering wheel makes my palms sweat.

I’m scared of fulfilling the stereotype that Asian women are terrible drivers.

I’m scared of trying to change lanes, while I twist my neck around to try and see the cars behind me whizzing by at a gajillion miles an hour.

I’m scared of getting into a car accident. Especially one that leaves me paralyzed for life.

I couldn’t drive in high school, so I didn’t have a social life.

I couldn’t drive to my first job after college, so I lived near bus stops instead.

I can’t drive today, so when I go grocery shopping, I can only get what I can carry on the bus. I love Costco but I can’t go there because I can’t drive.

I can’t just go wherever I want to go. Instead I look up bus directions first and hope the bus goes there. Because if it doesn’t, then I can’t go.

I’m 26 and I can’t drive. I can dance, I can juggle, I can even ride the unicycle. But I can’t drive.

I decided to move to LA because there’s a lot of opportunity there. To become a better dancer, to take film classes, to start my company. But you can’t get by without a car in LA, as I’ve been told by pretty much everyone.

So I thought, maybe I should just not go to LA.

Yeah. I almost didn’t move to a city full of opportunity, because I can’t drive and I’m too scared to learn.

Sad, huh?

This is getting ridiculous. This stops now.

Time to grow up and be an adult. Time to face the day I’ve dreaded all my life. I’m terrified, but also excited about the freedom I’ll have once I have my new driving superpowers.

I start driving lessons today.

I’m 26, and I’m learning to drive!

——

If you’re ready to conquer your fear (of anything, not just driving), you might be interested in a motivational experiment I’m running called 100.

Say hi @karenxcheng

Thanks to my friends and family who have given me many lifts over the years. Thanks to Nikita Fallon, Lynn Tao, Mary Tao, Amy Lin, and my parents for relentlessly pushing me to learn to drive, despite my stubborn protests.

14 Comments

14 Responses to “I’m 26 and I can’t drive”

  1. Is Ma September 6, 2013 at 11:29 am #

    Driving superpowers! Great way to name it. You’ll be driving alone in less than a month.

  2. Jeff Nagata September 6, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    You should make a sequel to the dancing progression video. “Girl Learns to Drive in a [insert time]“

  3. Jeff Nagata September 6, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

    It it’s anything like the last video you’ll go from having a driving instructor in the passenger seat to F1 race car driver by the end.

  4. OfcaPL September 7, 2013 at 1:03 am #

    Good luck!

  5. Lily September 7, 2013 at 7:16 am #

    I learned to drive 2 years ago, when I was 25. Just because most people learn when they are 16, it doesn’t mean that everyone should do that. I’m sure that you have great buss adventures that you would have been able to experience you got your drivers at 16.
    To give you couple of tips:
    1. Buy a Volvo. It’s apparently the safest car. Friend of mine was in a bad accident and didn’t even have a scratch.
    2. I also hated changing lanes. Here is a trick, plan your trip and if you know that you will be turning left change the lane when there is no traffic behind or slowdown little bit, so all the other cars will pass and then change lanes

  6. Adam September 10, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    Here’s another tip – once you have the ability to drive there, go to an SCCA autocross event near you. No need for a membership or anything. Bring some cash, show up and check it out. They have loaner helmets and hundreds of people who will be thrilled to help you learn advanced car control.

    Autocross is basically racing around in a parking lot full of cones against a timer. It can either be a weekend laugh or something that becomes an obsession. But either way, you gain driving skills that the 90% of folks on the freeway will never attain. You learn to look ahead and think ahead. THAT is the most important skill.

    Changing lanes? Terrifying. Planning and positioning yourself so that you can merge into an empty space 1 car ahead? Far less terrifying. When you look ahead and think ahead, you can avoid almost any accident.

    I hope this doesn’t come across as a big sell or anything. I was head novice instructor for about 5 years with my local SCCA region. Teaching people how to drive fast and have fun is one of the best natural highs. I loved it and, I think, every one of my students loved it.

    scca dot org for more info. =)

  7. Gaurav September 10, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

    Hi,

    I learned car driving in 1999 for 4 days, then I drove a car for 20-30 minutes every 4-5 years.

    And with this background I purchased a car, hired a driver to get car to my house.

    Now every night I take out my car for practice for atleast 30 minutes.

    1) gear 1, start, gear 2, stop… repeat
    2) go to accent of any bridge, stop car at climb. gear 1, start, gear 2, stop… repeat (Caution: car will roll back on pressing clutch)
    3) reverse
    4) Like one dancing student told me, practice every day… :D

    Gaurav

  8. Pierre September 24, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    I started learning when I was 18 (legal age to drive alone in France), failed the exam at 20…Then I moved to a big city where having a car isn’t necessary.

    And now I’m back in the countryside, and starting from scratch again at 36…

    Sadly, cars have become a necessary evil…

    Good luck

  9. Alphonse A. Estrada October 5, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    Yeah. I almost didn’t move to a city full of opportunity, because I can’t drive and I’m too scared to learn.

  10. searchingforsubstance October 5, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    congrats on learning to drive!

    driving can be scary but the key is to drive defensively… you might be sure of yourself when you drive but you can never be sure if the driver in the perpendicular street will stop for that light at your intersection.. i don’t mean to scare you, but it’s reality.

    driving can be really liberating, therapeutic, and fun too. have fun learning! =D

    btw i was really inspired by your danceinayear video. it makes me want to learn different styles of dance (via youtube). thanks for sharing your story!

  11. bhoomi November 13, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    I read an article about u on techcrunch (http://techcrunch.com/2013/11/13/giveit100/) -> that took me here to your blog and in past 15 minutes ! read all ur posts .. creepy !! I never leave a comment after I read a blog/article/pretty-much-anything-inspiring thinking my opinion, words won’t matter, but you have inspired me. I can relate to all your posts. You have made me feel “I’m not the only one” and I am grateful to you for that. Thank you sooo much :)

  12. Peter November 18, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    I thought this was going to be a post from a self righteous hipster who thinks cars are for rednecks who live in flyover states. I’m glad it is not.

    I’m sure you will learn quickly. My wife went from never driving to having her CA license in two weeks.

  13. TJ Hinnen November 18, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    i had been 25 when i ended up learning to drive. not everyone starts at 16 years old.

  14. Carolyn November 30, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    Karen,
    You will surprise yourself! I learned to drive at the age of 39. Yes, I lived in NYC for a decade but that doesn’t explain the rest of my non driving time. It was mortifying. Three years ago I got a job where I commute 18 miles each way and although it is a pain, my driving improved immensely. This last summer, just to prove I could I drove the California coast all by myself. I was one of the most victorious things I’ve ever done. It still feel like it’s a big deal.

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