DRIVE ON, BRAVE CHARIOT

by Angeliska on August 1, 2012

Yesterday, I crossed a milestone that has been waiting for me for half my life. At the age of 33, I passed my driving test, and at long last – got my driver’s license. It’s an odd feeling: at once elated and unbelieving – that after so long, that invisible line in the sand has been crossed. I am all grown up now, and any last vestiges of anything but a self-reliant life have fallen away. Why did it take me so long? Why indeed. There are many reasons, none of them simple, none of them satisfying. I have examined them all in detail, used many as excuses, flagellated myself with others. When I was 16, it was money. My parents had none to get me a car, so what was the point? I lived way the hell out in the boonies, so I left home at 15 to live in the city. Later, I learned to ride a bike (another complicated late-blooming story) and I would ride 6 miles to and from my one-room shack in East Austin out to Westlake, the bourgeois district where my high school was located. After that, I lived in New Orleans for seven years, where owning a car usually proved more of a hassle than a boon, due to parking hassles, tourist traffic, and car thieves. Post-Katrina, after I came back to Austin, I had a rude awakening awaiting me – in the form of hills (a rarity in flat swamp-land Louisiana) and sprawl (most of the time, there was never a reason for me to leave the twenty block radius encompassing the Bywater and French Quarter.) I wasn’t spunky and 17 anymore. The hurricane had taken the wind out of my sails, and I no longer could show up to jobs punk-sneering and sweaty, red-faced and rumpled by my ride. I bought a car, the last of a series of at least five that I bought (the others I went in on with friends and lovers) but never really drove. Weird, isn’t it? To own vehicles, but not drive them? The earlier ones were trade outs from our ancient landlord, too rickety to learn on. Then a couple of vans in New Orleans we only ever took on shopping errands to Chalmette or out to the swamp. They had names like Carmelita, Snailarella, Es-Car-Go! A special white van named Spacial. And then Goblinetta, my jet-black Jetta. She got excellent gas mileage, and had
a standard transmission. I managed to learn how to navigate the clutch more or less decently, but the stress of dealing with that learning curve, on top of trying to navigate the mysteries of the road proved to be too intimidating. I was afraid. Of other drivers, of darting animals and children, of myself. Afraid of propelling three tons of steel through space. Afraid of being distracted, of not acting quickly enough, of killing someone with my car. I’m still afraid of all that.

I let me fear keep me complacent, I let it keep me trapped. I begged rides off of friends, and constantly – from my partner. He drove me to and from work for years, drove me everywhere we went together, and eventually, his resentment towards me over that apparently drove him away from me. The pressure and stress that me not driving put on our relationship was no small thing, for either of us. How ironic and sad that now that I’ve finally figured it out, it appears to be too late. I had always imagined presenting my license to him in a little box, for his birthday, our anniversary, or Valentine’s. Those holidays came and went, and now I see that maybe it’s better this way – that I’ve done this as a gift to myself instead. A gift to everyone who knows me, as well – especially all of the countless kind people who picked my ass up and carted me around on errands, on adventures, across state lines. I am fully aware that my ride karma is maxed out, and that I could never manage to ever make a dent in that debt in one lifetime – though I will do my best to. No more of being the passenger, passive, staring out the window, noticing trees and pretty houses. It’s that last shred of non-autonomy that held a Peter Pan death-grip on me for so long. Perhaps it was a stubborn hold-out I clung to to make up for how fast I was forced to grow up, to become independent, responsible for too much, too young.

Now, in the wake of this strange victory – the enormous driving instructor with frosted hair handing me a xeroxed sheet that will serve as temporary license until the real one comes in the mail and I smile hugely, tears running down my cheeks, my head feeling like a big balloon that might float away any moment. What relief, to have passed that gauntlet. Now I just have to prove myself worthy of it by not getting into any accidents. Luckily, my chariot right now is a sturdy 1984 Volvo station wagon that I feel very safe in. It gives me license to take it slow, the witchy bumper stickers on the back alerting all to the fact that I am in no fucking hurry. I look forward to tootling along at a snail’s pace along the byways and backroads, singing at the top of my lungs, free as a bird.

I DID IT! Passed my driving test today & am finally a licensed road warrior! Onward, brave chariot - my journey truly begins today.
Onward, brave chariot – my journey truly begins today.

The Chariot is a card and concept I’ve come to love and understand better than ever before this year. It’s a symbol and guide that I fully embrace as I move forward into this next phase of true independence. The Chariot is your vehicle, your triumphal car – it represents your motivation, your will, or in other words, your DRIVE. The road is your life, your path. We don’t have a lot of choice over where or how our journeys begin, but we are fully responsible for where we end up. The Chariot is all about taking that responsibility for yourself, for your life, for your direction. You hold the reins, you steer the wheel. Indeed, fate may throw roadblocks, detours, speedbumps or potholes into your path. Sometimes there are terrible accidents, weird hitch-hikers, stretches of bad road, long boring highways, traffic jams and speeding tickets. We can’t always predict this stuff, but we can be pretty guaranteed that we’re bound to encounter at least some of it. How we deal with it, however, is our choice. That’s where the autonomy, the strength of will, the power of choice that the Chariot represents comes into play. We control how fast we go, or how slow – whether we take a meandering scenic route, or the quickest path from point A to point B. Is the journey the destination, or just a series of hassles until you get to some unknowable point up ahead? Some people will encounter a roadblock and just stop, or turn around, defeated – never considering that they might have discovered something interesting or beautiful on that out of the way detour. Some will let go of the reins for a time, or try and get someone else to hold the wheel, or maybe they’re steering with their knees while they roll a joint. That usually doesn’t work out too well – they end up stuck in a ditch or wrapped around a tree. There are those who never left their driveway: ten years later, they’re still staring at the garage door, wondering what the hell happened to their lives. You can’t relinquish your responsibility to your journey, nor can you drive another’s Chariot for them (well, you can try – but it’ll end in tears.) Only you can get yourself into gear, put your foot on the gas (or the brakes) and get moving in the direction you were meant to go. To accept that responsibility joyfully, to relish the wind in your hair, to prepare for whatever the road may bring: that is the true victory of the charioteer. Whatever lies ahead, I hope to be ready for it – my eyes on the horizon, the road rising up to meet me.

A tiny bouquet for a broken-hearted day.
A tiny bouquet for a broken-hearted day.

Next week, I embark on an epic road-trip with my dear friend Brett Caraway, to help him move from Austin to Toronto. Brett and I have been friends since I was 15 or so, and we’ve reconnected in a profound way this year, as we’ve both found ourselves in very similar devastating circumstances in our relationships. It’s an amazing gift to have a friend who knows exactly what you’re going through, and not only is there to listen and understand, but also to support and encourage. This trip is hugely symbolic for both of us, in many ways – but for me, it’s been my prime impetus to put a real deadline on getting my license, and sticking to it. This is the first road trip I’ve ever taken where I’ll be behind the wheel and not just counting cows and clouds and daydreaming.
Brett took me on daily driving lessons, and numerous trips to the Kafka-esque hell that is the DPS. He has helped me so much to believe in myself, and has patiently helped me learn how to steer my Chariot forward. This trip is going to be intense for both of us, as we leave behind pasts we have loved dearly. There is excitement and anticipation, and behind that there is regret, sadness, and a longing for lives we’ve both clung to, and can no longer have.

A reminder. There is beauty amidst the rubble & wreckage. The gifts I give myself.
A reminder. There is beauty amidst the rubble & wreckage. The gifts I give myself.

Tonight is the full moon in Aquarius, the Sturgeon Moon, or Green Corn Moon – the first of two this month. Today is also Lammas, or Lughnasad, where we honor She of the Threshing Floor and ponder what we lost in the fire, and what can now grow to nourish us. What do you reap? What do you sow? What do you give tenderly to the flames? Bread in the shape of a child, a handful of photos of me and the man I’d hoped to spend my life with: kissing, making funny faces, happy. Maybe something new can spring up from those ashes, though right now my mouth is so full of cinders that I can barely speak. I let it all go. I surrender to this turning, heavy hearted.

School of the Seasons has an excellent article on this holiday:
“Lammas is a festival of regrets and farewells, of harvest and preserves. Reflect on these topics alone in the privacy of your journal or share them with others around a fire. Lughnasad is one of the great Celtic fire-festivals, so if at all possible, have your feast around a bonfire. While you’re sitting around the fire, you might want to tell stories.”

Highlight of my day: getting a lift in Bob's magical 1935 Ford truck!
Speaking of chariots, check out my teacher Bob’s incredible 1939 Ford truck.
He rebuilt it and tricked it out himself, and it is glorious.

Edsel Bixler - 1939 Ford interior
I feel super lucky to have gotten to have a lift in this beauty.

Best car door ever.
The car door interiors are made of old Texaco signs.
The seats are upholstered with Girlscout tent canvas.

Sky Princess Tricycle!
A different kind of chariot: the Sky Princess Tricycle!

Here it comes...!
It’s been a summer of storms, which we’ve welcomed with open arms.
Dark days followed by rainbows. We can only hope.

It's hard to explain the limitless giddiness I feel in doing something as simple as driving myself to my new favorite cafe for coffee & writing. I did a damn fine parking job, also!
It’s hard to explain the limitless giddiness I feel in doing something as simple as driving myself to my new favorite cafe for coffee & writing, or the pride in doing a damn fine parking job. It’s these little freedoms, these secret joys that keep me moving forward through the sorrow.

An evolution of my journey as a burgeoning charioteer told in New Wave music:

15 comments

I am so sorry about the ashes and the cinders. But I love how you write about your agency, even in surrender to what sounds like the foundations of your life being swept away in a storm. And the driving is a part of having agency, having control–I mean, you are literally living out the metaphor of “taking the wheel”–and that is amazing.

by Nica on August 1, 2012 at 2:11 pm. #

Drive that Chariot straight to the woods and into my arms! I’m sooooo proud of you, can’t wait to hold you . bisous

by Whiskey Deer Wolf on August 1, 2012 at 2:31 pm. #

I also had a late learning bicycle adventure and got my driver license be a driver on a road trip in my early twenties. I very much understand the euphoria and elation that comes with the passing of this particular milestone. You are blessed with a friend that supported your practice. I can speak with experience that it is the driving (pun intended)force of a friend’s encouragement that helps us make the Journey (whatever that journey is…)
Your are Perfect.
Jonathan

by Jonathan on August 1, 2012 at 2:49 pm. #

What a beautiful post. And funny, as both my sister and I do not drive despite being in our 30s – for many of the reasons you mentioned above.

And yet, now, it is creating a certain amount of difficulty, notably for my sister, who, has moved back in with my parents’ in the ‘burbs following a relationship breakdown – nothing to do with not driving however, he didn’t drive either, and it’s not such a big deal in a city like London.

But I feel that now the fact she doesn’t drive has become a metaphor for her life. Simply put: someone else was in the driving seat (and without a license). And now my parents, having spent the last year or so helping her pick up the wreckage that comes from an abusive relationship are beginning to feel they’ve been taken for a ride.

Great piece.

Thank you.

by Helen on August 1, 2012 at 3:40 pm. #

i love you, sweet angel. congratulations on your new found freedom. vroom vroom zoom zip!

by lau on August 1, 2012 at 4:04 pm. #

Ooooh, I wish I had seen this post before I just sent that email off! Some strange coincidental exact, exact word choosings. But I suppose that only makes sense.

Happy Full Moon, Angel.

Safe + magic travels.
<3

by oola on August 1, 2012 at 4:05 pm. #

Yay! Glad to see a new post from you! I hope you are finding things not too excruciating, it looks like you are doing all the good things and seems you are surrounded by some good people :) Enjoy your roadtrip adventure (congrats on getting your license). Stay strong.
V <3

by Violetta Blumqvist on August 1, 2012 at 6:29 pm. #

We don’t know each other, but I love the way you write. So many congratulations for taking this giant step. I think it will be the most profound of changes. A good friend of mine didn’t learn to drive until her late 20s, because she had been told her entire life that she couldn’t, due to a mild defect in one of her eyes. She was, in fact, perfectly safe to drive, and the autonomy of that one move changed her entire life in crazy, positive ways. Go go go!

by Brittany on August 1, 2012 at 11:00 pm. #

yesterday I woke up dreaming of a teardrop trailer to nest into a New Orleans yard (in three weeks!)

but to get there, I have to drive it (I haven’t owned a car since I was sixteen). like a hermit crab I am exchanging one shell for another, at least a lighter one.

I like to think of you feeling the breeze of the road! Meet you somewhere for apple pie on the way.

by alita on August 2, 2012 at 6:44 am. #

I cant wait to see you in Montreal, kitten. So much love!

by tamerajane on August 2, 2012 at 8:18 am. #

Oh I’m so sorry you are coping with a difficult time. I hope that the driving gives you a whole new independent perspective! ♥

by Emma on August 2, 2012 at 3:45 pm. #

My fears of driving are similar to yours, but they were compounded by occasional balance conditions that are likely due to the ossification of my cochleas during childhood. Periods of dizzy spells and light-headedness would come and go over the years (I had social anxiety, too, but I won’t get into that). I have tried driving before. I was uneasy when I first started in my late teens. I drove just fine, but resistance took over and I stopped trying to make it over the learning curve. The second attempt was in my late 20′s after I had lost a job. My brother took the task of giving me driving lessons in a vibrant blue junker van. He used hand signals and poster board with commands written on them to guide me. Stop. Go. Turn left. It didn’t pan out because the lessons coincided with my worst period of balance issues that were intensified by movements in my peripheral vision. I put an end to the driving lessons after a harrowing experience of trying to keep both myself and the van steady in traffic while it started to rain. I have gotten better and I haven’t had dizzy spells in a while. Maybe living in a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood for several years and hoofing it around had desensitized me to motions in ways that countless hours of gazing out the window of the passenger side had not. I have decided it was high time to learn to ride a bicycle, after having not hopped onto one for over 20 years. I learned to ride when I was a child, but I wasn’t allowed to go beyond the driveway. Your recent accomplishment has motivated me to commit to riding again instead of mulling it over. My father is going to let me borrow his bike in a few days. I am pretty excited, actually. After I accomplish bike riding, I’m going to give driving another go.

I’m sorry you have been hurting, honey. I believe you will be going on incredible journeys in both the figurative and literal senses. I am proud of what you have accomplished. I don’t know your route, but if you happen to pass through Middle Tennessee on your way to Canada, you’ll have to hollah at me, girl!

xoxo

by April Violet on August 2, 2012 at 9:48 pm. #

Congratulations! I totally get it. I didn’t get my license until I was 25 and got left for a younger woman. My father patiently (or not so patiently) helped me master maneuverability until I could take the driving test where I passed on a pity call by the tester. Honestly, it did give me freedom.

Have a wonderful trip!

by Margaret on August 3, 2012 at 6:14 am. #

Sweet, beautiful, witchy sister. I am so proud of you. I also know how bittersweet it feels to give ourselves the gifts that we intended to share with a beloved. I have had several nightmares this year about cars and driving. I just landed in Los Angeles tonight after making the scary journey into the unknown in traffic that moves way too fast for me! I am so proud of you for feeding your own soul in this tough transition. It will be a huge time of growth for you. You are an amazing person, and please reach out whenever you need to. I will let you know my super secret blog stuff soon too. I love how you write with such honesty. Keep it coming. You help more people than you know.

by Megan Le Fey on August 4, 2012 at 10:00 pm. #

When my dad first took me out to learn to drive when I was 12, I was terrified. My older brother had taken his early driving lessons in stride, putting enormous pressure on me to perform and make my dad proud. It was not a comfortable fit right off, though I did drive from the junior high parking lot all the way home with a cop behind us without attracting attention – all the while my head was screaming because I was quietly terrified.

Drivers ed happened, I passed, and many speeding tickets later, it’s safe to assume I felt overly confident behind the wheel after initially being thrown into the deep end by my dad. Until I moved across the country, away from my dad, in my early 20′s.

He helped me move, but when it came time for him to leave I pleaded with him not to leave. What are these access road things? What happens when my car breaks down – who will help me? What do I do if I get lost (this is pre-GPS)? Are people in Texas nice? I don’t know anyone here. Will they help me? Please do not leave. Please.

Of course he left, reassuring me all the way that I would figure it out – all the while all I could focus on was that my safety net was gone. Instead of claiming my freedom, I was frightened of it. Sometimes I am still frightened of it. It’s really no small thing to claim.

It’s interesting what happens when your safety net is gone. You miss it. You think you need it. You can’t imagine coping without it. Yet somehow, you do. Unimagined confidence, unrealized skill, untapped maturity…after the safety net is gone, they make themselves known. Like they were there, invisible, the whole time. Like microbes.

A month after he left, I had a job interview in downtown San Antonio. I took myself there the day before as a practice run, to be sure I knew I could get there and not get lost. I found it, no problems. On the way home I remember listening to a song I loved before I moved to Texas. I can still recall how free, hopeful and happy I was, driving home to my new, crappy little apartment, windows down, Monica (it was the 90′s) blaring, a huge smile on my face. I remember that day 16 years later whenever I need to remind myself (or an friend I’ve never really met) that you can do this. You are doing it already. HUZZAH!

by a fan of your writing on August 6, 2012 at 10:51 am. #

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