In high school your driver’s licence is one of the most sought after things. The first day of driving training class buzzes with excitement, we are actually getting close to freedom! It seems exciting, until everyone realizes it is still a class. Oh well, it’s worth staying after school, because at the end of it all…we’re going to drive.
I was extremely impatient for my ticket to freedom. My ability to run quickly wherever I wanted or escape my small town and head to the city was intensely desired. I had waited fifteen long, agonizing years, and I was now so close.
I passed all my written driving tests with flying colours. My driver instructor encouraged me that I was doing well. I practiced with any family and friends that would let me. Finally, I turned sixteen.
I can’t remember the exact date of my first road test, but I know it was in January after my birthday. The day came, and I was extremely confident. I told my sisters that after school we’d go for a drive – all by ourselves. I could taste the freedom. My stomach was nearly exploding from butterflies.
Everyone at school knew that I was going for my road test. The guy who did the tests only came to town once a week, and since I had just turned sixteen, it was pretty obvious, and hard to conceal. Everyone wished me luck as I left school at lunch and my mom drove with me down to SGI. My mom was excited too, looking forward to the prospect of having someone to help her out with the shuffling of kids back and forth to various activities.
I don’t exactly remember what happened that day driving. I know I felt like I was so sick with nerves suddenly that I could hardly see straight. I made a couple little errors, but hoped I was still ok.
Then came parallel parking. I had been extremely confident in my parallel parking, but this time as we pulled outside of the local hotel and restaurant, I could feel everyone watching me.
I parked, and the guy got out and looked. I was about four feet from the curb!
I knew by now that there was probably no rescuing this test. My eyes started to cloud up with tears. He told me to try again, and I did, executing it more crooked and even further away from the curb than before.
I managed to drive back to SGI and park. I was so embarrassed. I had failed. I knew I had failed. Everyone would know that Monica Levey failed her driver’s test.
Everyone at school would laugh at me, my mom would be disappointed, my sisters would be heartbroken and…I had failed a test for the very first time.
I still had to come in and sit in the office and receive the evaluation and find out, yes I indeed did fail. I walked out of the room and saw my mom standing there holding some flowers. It felt like knives went through my heart.
She could tell instantly from the look in my eyes that it didn’t go well and she handed me the flowers and said “these we just to say I’m proud of you no matter what the outcome.” I nodded, swallowed and went and sat in the passenger seat of the van. I couldn’t drive now. I didn’t deserve it.
Going home, I went into my room and cried my eyes out. This failure dove so deep into the core of who I was. I didn’t know how I was going to face my friends and family, especially my friends who never failed. They wouldn’t understand, and I would seem stupid.
I went back to school that afternoon, got through the questions and eventually, within a couple of days got over the whole thing. I had a deeper resolve to work harder. I had failed once, but I wasn’t going to fail again. Or if I did fail, it certainly was not going to be for a lack of working on handling my nerves and mastering my parallel park.
When I graduated and came to take the Master’s Commission Program I learned about a concept called “failing forward”. John Maxwell has this amazing quote from his book called “Failing Forward – Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones For Success”. I hope it opens your eyes, as much as it opens mine.
“…[people] allow failure to get the better of them emotionally, and it stops them from achieving their dreams. Failure can be very painful–sometimes physically and more often emotionally. Seeing part of your vision fall flat really hurts. And if people heap ridicule on top of your hurt feelings, you feel even worse. The first important step in weathering failure is learning not to personalize it — making sure you know that your failure does not make you a failure. For many people the pain of failure leads to fear of failure. That’s when many people get stuck in the fear cycle. And if fear overcomes you, it’s almost impossible to fail forward.”
This story of me failing my driver’s licence test has become one of the most wonderful lessons for me to look back on. I would not change failing for the world! My determination to not let failure overtake me again, motivated me to work harder, and overcome my fear.
I knew when I was taking the test for the first time that I had allowed a fear of failure to hit me in the vehicle. This situation reflected more upon who I believed I was, and where my worth was found, than it reflected my driving.
Eventually I did get my licence. The next time I was booked to take it there was blizzard so it got cancelled. Finally on March eighth I took to the streets of my hometown again and owned my drivers test.
Oh the sweet taste of victory.
How do you cope with failure in your life? Thanks to this huge life lesson, and the phrase “fail forward” I feel like I’m on a journey of learning from my mistakes.
With the Lord at our side we can overcome all mountains. I leave you with this verse.
For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.