On Failing, Getting Up, Brushing Off and Trying Again

So, instead of a “What I did on the Weekend!” post, I am going to post about my failure as a driver from this morning.

I failed the driving part of the licensing test for California.

Worse – I failed it after the Boy pooh-poohed my concerns on how hard it might be by saying “The easiest part was the driving – the written test, which you passed, honey, was the hard part”.

Even worse, I failed after watching a septuagenarian in a VW beetle pass.

Okay, maybe that last one was a little agiest … Okay, maybe a lot agist. And goodness knows, I should know better – my Mother’s Mother could out race anyone in her little Toyota. Anyone. Well except for the Boy – he beat her by about ten seconds. But that doesn’t count on account of his driving skills and his propensity to race around tracks in his spare time.

Anyways, back to my failure:


So, last week, after pushing it off and procrastinating and telling myself it was stupid (because, duh, I have been driving for 12 years already – why do I need a test?), I took another step in my residency requirements for California and signed up for the driver’s test (after just passing the written test – whole other story there, the test giver and I had a philosophical discussion on commas and why the DMV needs to learn how to use them in questions). I decided the best time to do it would be early on in the day – after rush hour, before lunch, at the DMV just a couple of blocks from us in central Santa Monica.

Then I spent all weekend bothering the Boy about his test – he, of course, passed with flying colours back in September. Didn’t even bat an eyelash, that one. But then, he is a wizard with cars and mechanical things and making adults believe he, too, is an adult.

“Just drive like you do when your Mom’s in the car.” he (not so) helpfully advised.

“I deliberately speed when she’s in the car with me!” (Sorry Mom!) I pointed out.

“Exactly – lately you’ve been driving under the speed limit, so just pretend your mother is in the car.”

I grunted out something along the lines of “I have not been driving under the speed limit …” but took the advice, as well as another look at the rulebook, into consideration as I drove over to the DMV and got in line for my 9:30 am appointment.

And I waited … and waited ..

Well, everyone reading this probably has some experience with the DMV, so suffice it to say – my 9:30 am appointment began at 10:41.

The DMV tester came out of the little door labelled “Restricted Access”, told me that I should have moved up past the “stop” sign so the huge truck behind me had more room and … then it all went downwards.

Now, I really want this to be all reflective of how I took failure and made something of it – but the test itself was awful. I didn’t do anything crazy wrong – no shooting through red lights or running over pedestrians, but I was definitely a lot more tentative than I usually am, not least of which because the guy kept sighing at me.

Sighing. Seriously.

At the end of the test I asked if I had passed.

He told me that I had to be patient.

Then he told me I failed (by one mark), mostly because he didn’t like how I stopped when I was backing up whenever I turned my head to check for traffic.

I was furious.

Not the least of which was because I thought it was a very subjective test – allt he criticism was less about things I had done wrong, but things he felt I could do better – but because everyone had said it was an easy test and I somehow failed at it.

I don’t take failing particularly well. At all.

I don’t like to fail – I don’t like the veneer of perfectly driven ambition and accomplishment to fall from me before other people. It’s not just the failing itself – though that ripped a whole through my stomach and made my throat dry, but it’s the having to tell people – having to walk through the doors of the DMV and up to the desk with the kindly older lady behind it and hand her the form that says I failed and then book another appointment. Have her say “That’s alright honey, lots of people fail the first time.” and feel like an even great gap was taken out of my facade.

And it is a facade.

The whole “I am so close to perfect!” idea that is perpetuated by instagram photos with shiny-cheek flattering filters and the one-line statuses on facebook that announce to the world that I am alright. But, really, no matter how many perfect shots I see, or perfect selfies that are taken – there is always that fact that remains: I am human, so I will fail at things.

So, after the driving test bomb, I drove home – carefully, slowly – making sure I was following all the procedures, even though my eyes kept trying to tear up (a hopelessly me thing – the tearing up, I mean – I tear up at all manners of rejection), slipping on bigger sunglasses to try and hide my red-enflamed face. I had errands, so I dropped off my books at the library, grabbed the ones on hold, picked up some chicken from the butcher’s, grabbed some milk at the grocer’s – did all those things perfectly calm and composed. Then I got home, put everything away, dug out my phone from the deep dark recesses of my purse and saw the blinking red light.

How’d it go?

The Boy asked. At the time I thought I hate you. Why would you ask that? Everyone knows I am a failure at life! This is just salt in the wound this is!

I glared at the screen, unable to answer him, annoyed at him for no particular reason other than the fact that he happened to be easy to lash out at – his being here, and all. Then finally I snatched my phone from the table and punched in I failed.

I put down the phone and stared at it – daring him to answer.

Of course, he did.

That sucks. Made an another appt?

I frowned at he phone, put in Yes. Tomorrow morning.

He replied near instantly: Okay, we can practice later if you want. You’ll just pass tomorrow.

What the heck? Doesn’t he know I am a failure? I will not pass! I will sink into the despair of being a person unable to pass a routine driving test – in a county where the starlets and the celebutards regularly get their liecenses after driving into guard rails and blowing beyond-wasted after being pulled over. Seriously – people in LA are scary drivers. And I wouldn’t be among them, because I am a failure.

The red light again. Blinking.

Don’t be hard on yourself. Everyone fails sometimes.


Maybe. Maybe he’s right …

It took me another hour to figure out that failure was okay. It took another day (and another test, this time I passed) for me to figure out that it applies to me – people can fail, people should fail – it is only through our failures that we can move onwards.

It still doesn’t feel right. It feels like a little dent in the ceramics of the world I built around me. However, I am not an appraiser of antiques or a high-end dealer of beautiful things – I am just a human being, and as such, I aim to live my life – not cultivate perfection. So I have a dent in my pristine career of passing things? So what? I also have a life experience I have learned from: Because  I did fail. No matter what the DMV employee was – a bad judge of character, in a bad mood, having a bad day – I still have a paper that says  I failed, and so I know I did. But it was a blip – a tiny thing in the whole of my life, and the real failure would have come about if I hadn’t marched back into the DMV and scheduled another test. the real failure would have occurred if I had told The Boy “I am done! You do all the driving! This is too bloody hard!” and just gave up.

Of course, none of that hit me just then, as I looked at the BBM he sent me on my phone.

Nope, I was still mad. Totally allowed in the aftermath of failure, it’s fair.

So all I typed back was I want to scream.

So scream. Then get over it and move forwards.

Otherwise, you risk losing yourself in the process.

A Hard-Won Victory

A Hard-Won Victory


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