Lessons Learned After a Year of Driving by Myself

For those of you who do not know, before moving to New Jersey, I have never driven.  Literally never.  I may have started the car once or twice, but that’s about it.  I have owned at least four student permits back in the Philippines, but none of it was put to good use.  Think of it as my personal donation to the government agency each time I renew.  And while I did vow to learn how to drive on my father’s deathbed, I never really got around it.

It’s not just because of lack of desire; it’s lack of motivation.  If you Google right this very second the traffic situation in Manila, you would see why I didn’t bother to learn.  There are too many cars in too little of a road.  That, and the fact that my brothers take turns driving the one car we have for daily use.  Even when one of them got married, my youngest brother took the opportunity to take me to places.

The dependence come with perks.  For example, I never have to worry about drunk driving.  My brother always picked me up.  I never had to worry about parking.  I never had to worry about tired legs in traffic (our car is a stick shift).  And to be frank, I really appreciated the time my brothers took to take care of my needs.

But such is not the case in New Jersey.

While I was thoroughly amazed at NJ Transit’s bus and train schedules, which I utilized exclusively on my first year here, I was also made very aware of how dependent I was on other people, namely The Husband, my cousins, and even my father-in-law.  Although they said they didn’t mind driving me around, I was very aware of the time and effort it took to take me to places on top of the places they had to get to.  So I was left with no choice:  I had to learn to drive.

Needless to say, The Husband taught me how and it was the most challenging month of our married life so far.  My pride got in the way of his teaching, which to this day he won’t admit to not being his forte.  A part of him is eager to make me independent; the other part is fully aware that my carelessness can potentially kill me in an instant.  It wasn’t a healthy balance for us both, but we got through it, and after a month of driving through Route 22, Route 21, Garden State Parkway and NJ Turnpike, I was able to get my probationary license.  A year later, the probation was taken off, and I am a full fledged driver.

Maybe the title is a lie; it has been more than a year since I started driving.  But I have to say that it has only been a year since I was confidently driving.  That to me makes all the difference.  And that revealed to me the most valuable lessons (so far) I have learned on the road.

  1.  Blinkers are a driver’s best friend.
    The Husband was adamant in teaching me to drive defensively.  He hammered in my head to always let the other drivers know where I am headed and for that, blinkers are my best friends.  I truly loathed drivers that switched lanes so carelessly and without notice.  I can no longer count the times I had to slam my brakes a little forcefully just because this a*hole decided to change his mind without letting everyone else know.  Plus, not turning those blinkers on is an easy recipe for disaster.  So, to quote this wonderful Twitter user:
  2. If a truck driver hates your driving, your driving most likely really sucks.
    Okay, so they’re not all nice and they’re not all perfect.  But you have to admit, getting a CDL license is much more difficult than getting a regular one.  These men and women practically live on the road, so when they honked at me and The Husband was there, he was like “I told you so.”  Our office is in an industrial complex where truck drivers train to get their licenses.  They really put in the hours, so when you’re driving with or near a truck, respect their space and maybe they’ll respect yours too.

    truck driver meme Fresh Best 25 Truck humor ideas on Pinterest

  3. You can master back up parking when you devote the time to learn it.  The same goes for parallel parking.
    I know this because I did this.  The Husband was so confused why I was leaving the house so early for a 9am clock in at work.  I wanted to come in to a slightly empty parking lot so I can practice my backup parking.  And practice I did.  I left the house at 7 in the morning, got to work at 7:30 and devoted a good 30 to 45 minutes just practicing backup parking.  Then, when I get home, I practice parallel parking too.  I practiced so much that I sometimes took up to 20 minutes and going around our block three or four times to get the parking right.  Our neighbors were so supportive as well.  When they would see me come up, they try to guide me as much as they can.  Of course some were annoyed (yes lady in the office building that rolled her eyes at me because I couldn’t get my wheels straight), but most of them were encouraging.  Three months later, I’d like to think I’m better at doing both.
  4. Officers on the road are capable of being empathetic human beings.
    To this day, I have difficulties looking at the GPS and driving at the same time.  I try to do the quick look and then drive technique, but I’m not as confident as I should be.  So when I first started driving, I made sure my phone volume was all the way up and the phone was tucked away out of my line of sight.  All I need is to hear the directions.  Then, one hot afternoon, I hit a pothole that kicked my phone out of the cup holder to God knows where.For those of you who do not know, I have a very active and anxious imagination.  When I couldn’t hear the directions, I knew I had to pull over and find the phone, not because I didn’t know how to get home, but because I have this overwhelming fear of getting into a car accident and not having my phone with me.  They will have to take me to the hospital without my husband’s contact information and because The Husband can find my phone, he will be like, Oh no she’s at the impound.  He will go to the impound and not at the hospital, where his medical decision is needed to save my life.  It will take him way too long to get to the hospital and I would have died without my husband by my side.  That’s where my imagination went as I was pulled over and searching where the f my phone went.

    Not more than five minutes later, there was someone tapping my window, a state trooper.  I rolled my window down and he asks, “Is there anything the matter, ma’am?  You’re not supposed to pull over here.”  Frantically, I replied, “I just need five minutes to get myself together, okay?!”  I said it a little too loudly and I regretted it immediately, my voice breaking at the end of my sentence.  He took one long look at me and said, “Ma’am, you take all the time you need.”  He walked back to his car, and I took a moment to take a deep breath and look at myself in the mirror.  I was sweaty, my eyes were tearing up and my hair disheveled.  It took another five minutes until I was able to find my phone, which was wedged in that annoying space right under the driver’s seat, that black hole where no hand has ever fit until that moment.  I looked at my rear view mirror, waved at the officer to let him know I was okay, and prepared to merge back in traffic.  He made sure my merge was simple; he cleared a path for me and let me go my way.

    I will never forget that day.

  5. Next to a drunk driver, the most dangerous driver is the one who is running late.  Third on the list are potholes.
    I say this because people who are running late only have one goal in mind:  to get to Point B no matter the cost.  They know the rules and they are purposely breaking them.  They’re trying to beat the red light, switching lanes at the last minute, going 60mph at a residential zone.  They’re aware that they’re not obeying rules… AND THEY’RE OKAY WITH IT SO LONG AS THEY GET TO THEIR DESTINATION.  Heads up, it’s not the rest of us at fault that they woke up late or that they underestimated the travel time to their destination, yet they chose to put the rest of us at risk for their own convenience and lack of time management.  I thoroughly hate it.  I see them everyday, whether it’s a luxury sedan trying to cut the line at the EZ Pass on the way to the Holland Tunnel or an SUV riding the shoulder and then making a sharp merge to exit the Parkway.  You are careless inconsiderate effers.
    Potholes need no other explanation.

I’m sure to learn more as the years come, but looking back now, I think these five things are the ones that contributed to my driving behavior.  Of course, The Husband only compliments my driving now; he’s a truly loving man in that manner.  But I’m sure at the back of his head, he is noting the things I should improve on, like slowing down before a turn or being more mindful of my braking.  There’s so much more room for me to improve, but with just a little over a year tucked under my belt, I’m confident I’m headed in the right direction.

What about you?  What are the first lessons you learned when you first hit the road?

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FEELS FRIDAY: When it hurts

When It Hurts

Transitioning

Finally, it has happened:  I am updating my blog.
I have been MIA for a while and it is for a good reason.  Since moving to the US, the Husband and I were in agreement that I can take the opportunity to start over by taking some time not working.  It has been pretty great, in fact.  Before getting married, we didn’t really have any time to be together-together.  There hasn’t been that much room for dating in person, much more living together.  The past year has been pure bliss of getting to know the Husband better, and while it has it’s ups and downs, I would gladly go through it all over again.
But the thing is… I have not not worked.  You know what I mean?  I’ve always worked.  I am either employed (full-time or as a talent) or doing freelance.  I’ve always been occupied.  So you can only imagine how overwhelmed I was with suddenly having time.

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Employee of the year. #cats

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I tried to stick to a schedule.  Make breakfast everyday, do the laundry twice a week, read a book, catch up on a show — and for a while, I was doing really well.  That is, until I discovered Netflix.  I know that some Americans complain about the quality and speed of the Internet here, but coming from the Philippines, the fact that I can stream shows SEAMLESSLY across three different devices absolutely BLEW MY MIND.  It was the start of my crumbling schedule.
Thankfully, my sister needed help with the kids when she found a job early this year.  That became my preoccupation.  My days were suddenly filled with two girls that either adore or repel each other; there is no middle ground feeling.  It was exhilarating and at the same time, draining.  If you follow me on Instagram or Snapchat, you can see what I’m talking about.  These girls, you either love or hate, and I’m pretty sure you would lean more toward the former.  I was hooked myself.  I’m so crazy about them.

After watching Juliana’s play, Olivia joined her for her morning snack.

Until, a new friend came along.  After a quick exchange over the holidays, and I mean just one day, I must have been so blessed that when there was an opening for her company, she immediately thought of me.  Four weeks after sending my resume and three interviews later, I have a start date.  It was Monday, June 19.
I was unemployed for 1 year, 6 months, and 4 days.  It took me countless applications, MLM interviews, nine months and 12 days from the date I got my visa to find a job.  I pulled all the strings I had then; they can only do so much from afar.  Even the Husband got in the mix of finding me one.  Now, I am three days in and all I can say is this:  it came at the right time.

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First day high. #workmodeon

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Got time for a survey and some $20?

UPDATE:  16 May 2015

Just in case it’s not yet obvious, I’ve extended the promo till I complete the survey responses. :)  For those who have stayed in the Philippines, please fill out this survey here:

Thank you! <3
UPDATE:  8 May 2015
I’m at the edge of my seat and almost desperate to get respondents.  So if I left a message/comment on your blog, I would like to confirm that I am not spam. Hahaha.
I am still about 350 responses away, please please WordPress family, help me graduate? ❤️❤️❤️ 
Thank you!
Original Post:
If you travel — around the world, in Asia, in the Philippines, wherever, basically travel travel travel — please do me a solid, help me out and fill out my survey as part of my final marketing campaign for graduate school.   
I promise it will be quick, at most just five minutes of your time.

And just for kicks, I’ll throw in a reward too.  If I reach 500 responses on or before May 10, 2015 4:00PM GMT+08:00, I will raffle off a $20 Amazon Gift Card.  Just don’t forget to leave a note or comment on this post, so I can include your name in the raffle.

I know I raised the stakes with $20 and all (chuckle) but please let’s do our best to leave bogus respondents out of my research.  Data harvest clean = yay research cred. :)

You’ve been with me all this time, since I started this grad school journey.  I’d love to finish this off with you. :)

But seriously.  Thank you very very much in advance.  Sincerely thank you.  Oh and don’t forget to spread the word!

 

<3 Carla