The 18 Emotional Stages Of Driving Again After Living In New York For Awhile

Driving, unfortunately, proves itself completely vital in most American cities. Plenty of metropolitan areas offer public transit, but few can compete with the efficiency and omnipresence of the MTA. Thus, New Yorkers have it pretty easy being able to dodge driving culture almost entirely (save the one friend with a car who is always getting roped into IKEA trips). So when Big Apple dreams begin to rot and one leaves the city, that changes. There's a special series of emotions when one has to readjust to driving after living in New York.

I spent a good number of years with a Brooklyn mailing address. Prior to the move, I was more than happy to auction off my car in Florida and leave it far, far behind. As a teen and young adult in the south, driving was a skill I had to learn and practice regularly, despite the huge anxiety it often summoned. I relished the idea of getting around by foot, bike, bus, train — anything but me behind the wheel. And when someone stole my wallet, my old Georgia driver's license went with it. I wasn't hugely upset visits home didn't necessitate me driving since I was without license.

But! After those years enjoying the stellar public transit, I moved to Atlanta. Atlanta, if you didn't know, does have a train system — but it's hardly exhaustive. I had to learn to drive again (along with learning to parallel park for the first time, but that's a different story). It was...emotional. Anyone who's done a New York stint only to have to readjust to driving culture will understand the gamut of feels:

Dread

I know many people in Atlanta use a bicycle as their main means of transit, but the idea intimidates me. First off, there's many hills. Secondly, it's not quite mainstream enough for me to feel drivers are always aware to share the road. Anyway, I wrote off this option early on, recognizing driving and cars as my only way to tote myself around. I very much did not look forward to renewing my license. The roads were too narrow, traffic too crazy, my skills too dusty.

Intense anxiety

OK, once finally behind the wheel again, how does one feel? LIKE A FRENZIED TANGLE OF NERVES. Signals? Lanes? WINDSHIELD WIPERS? I've been in Atlanta for almost a year now and I'm still not entirely sure how cruise control works (a thing I try not to meditate on while driving because, you know, the anxiety returns).

Doubt

What if you just plain forgot? Can these skills atrophy? Maybe. PROBABLY.

Serious fear

Changing lanes is the absolute worst, and when readjusting to it, you may trigger your blinker early and slowly drift into the other lane—convinced there's someone in your blind spot who might honk you out of making the move. You feel convinced you're going to screw up in some grand way.

Shame

You're an adult person allowed to make decisions such as moving. Why should this be such a huge endeavor? It's pretty embarrassing feeling, even if no one else actually judges you about it. (Spoiler: probably no one cares.)

Avoidance

If you can ever score a ride from a friend, you do. Same with dreaming up excuses to call an Uber instead. You absolutely never let anyone ride with you.

Breathlessness

Please. Remember. To. Breathe!

Nerves

Those come back, too. Often in waves. Recall that breathing thing we just discussed, bb.

False sense of progress

Fake it until you make it, right? Actually, that's pretty scary when applied to driving. Next thing you know—

Relapse

HOW DO SO MANY IDIOTS OUT THERE DO THIS? I MUST BE AN IDIOT-er IDIOT. EVERYTHING IS SO SCARY!

Paranoid

...when will you get pulled over? It surely must happen. Soon.

Real sense of progress

Actually, yeah. Everything is so scary until it's not. It takes a lot of patience, practice, humility, pep talks, maybe a podcast or two. Before too long—

Slight relaxation

Hands might even slack from 10 and two. That's not a bad thing.

Panic!!

Someone honked!!

Real relaxation

...and it probably had nothing to do with you. Road rage is real and you likely did nothing wrong to warrant it. Whatev. What's on the radio?

Ease

*car dancing at red lights and also sometimes while actually driving*

Absolute comfort

How did you ever think this was such an impossible task? Pssh...wait, was that a no turn on red sign? Whoops.

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