Diary of a “Mature” Student

“No, don’t do it like that,” the instructor said.

“Like what?”

“Crossing over your hands like that when you turn. You gotta feed the wheel.”

“What do you mean feed the wheel?” I asked, confused and a little annoyed. I’d been driving for 20 years and I was pretty sure feeding the wheel was the least safe way to turn.

“You can’t cross over like you’re doing now. They’ll mark you off for that. You need to have kept both hands under and feed the wheel like so,” he reiterated, miming the motions for me. “Shimmy your hands… Feed it.”

I laughed a bit uncomfortably. This was not at all how my police officer father taught me to drive in a Walmart parking lot, but okay. I fed the wheel.

“Grand, now see, you can’t bump the curb there.”

So went my third (and last) driving lesson. I didn’t fail so much as give up. After living in Ireland for 4ish years, I’d already put off getting a driver’s license way too long, and well… it was going to have to wait a bit more.

I keep this story of failure-to-learn hidden in my back pocket. For someone who prides herself on being an avid student of Irish culture and praxis, this is one story I don’t relish telling.

Please don’t alert the authorities.

//

Living overseas is an education unto itself, and having re-entered our country twice in two different cities, I have a front-row seat. Studying the culture, learning from our friends and neighbors, investigating the nuances and the unspokens are all a scholastic rush to my thirsty mind and soul. 

Of course, it’s not all easy to digest. With every passing year, every growth spurt in our kids, every milestone, a new language is to be learned (yes, even in English!). Just when I feel like I have mastered one level, I graduate to the next. And I wait… for the Lord to give me permission, to tell me that I know enough. 

Friends, that day never came. In fact, I don’t think it will ever come. 

A wise woman who had gone down this road before told me that we are never not learners in this new culture, even especially when it is no longer new. We are constantly tweaking our defaults, adjusting our hidden agendas, and adapting to a world and language and culture that is not our own. 

We are learning to learn.

Even with a passport stamped with a new nationality, I’m a Kansas girl behind the wheel of her dad’s Ford Taurus, following his directions. I learned what he learned and what his dad learned before him. It’s so ingrained in my psyche and in my genes that I can’t wash it out, no matter how long I live here.

Inwardly I may cringe with every “feed the wheel” motion. But I am learning to be wrong, learning to try again, learning to wait, learning to fail. Contracting the muscles between my heart and mind is a painful exercise, but the willingness to learn is just one more intentional act of growing Christ in me.

//

That same failure-to-learn feeling snuck up on me this week as I registered for the second year of my Master’s program in a local Irish university.

Getting a Master’s had been a dream of mine since high school. A dream, yes, but not a reality. It felt like a feat only the best and brightest can achieve. Even as I finished my B.A. in Communications with a longing to keep going, the notion felt above my station in life. And as tends to happen, love entered the picture. Then work, then kids, then ministry, and the can got kicked further down the road.

After seeing my kids all into school, building them up for more independence and responsibility, and encouraging my husband to go back to seminary, I began a Master’s of my own as a… (ahem…) mature student. That first year was bliss and I humbly and hungrily lapped it all up. (For instance: did you know “planting” is a leftover colonial term for penetrating with foreign seed and claiming ownership of a land or “wasteland” that is not your own? I am learning that the words we use to frame our work deeply matter to those around us.) 

But oh this year… this year… there’s so much stuff in the way. AGAIN. And I am learning again that there will never not be something to keep us from moving forward, from saying yes, from trying once more. This year it’s money and anxiety and a lot of discouragement I can’t seem to shake. Next year it will be something else, too. 

But I am learning. Still learning. And for me, to learn has always been to risk. I can’t help but keep going, no matter where it takes me… even if it’s right back to driving lessons.

What’s a lesson you feel like you’re constantly re-learning over and over? How have other women on the field walked you through it; or are you the woman whose turn it is now to lead the way?

Photo by Jordan Harrison on Unsplash

2 Comments

  1. Debbie October 1, 2019

    I loved this. As soon as I read about not crossing your hands and feeding the wheel, I knew that you were in the UK. I have lived in England for 26 years. I have taken the driving test twice. And passed it both times. So my twice? The first time was in an automatic, meaning I could only drive automatic cars. When our oldest got to the age of learning to drive, 17, my husband said that she had to learn in a stick shift, so of course I had to take the test in it as well, so I could drive our car! I grew up driving a stick shift, but it took many many lessons to get me up to UK test standard. I remember being frustrated many times. For example, the instructor would tell me I shouldn’t have signalled because there was no one to see it. I said “what does it matter if someone sees it or not? In America, they teach us to signal any time we change lanes or turn, even if there is no one around. That way you don’t have to think about signalling, it’s just an unconscious act”. But she said no, I must decide if i it as well, so I can drive our car! I drop driving stick chefs, but it took many many lessons to get me up to UK test standard. I remember being frustrated many times. Example, the instructor would tell me I shouldn’t have signal because there was no went to see it. I said what does it matter if someone sees it or not?” But she said no, I must decide if the signal is needed, i.e. is there anyone to see it? If not, you don’t signal. I didn’t like that, but I did follow their rules for the test. I’m back to signalling whenever I turn or change lanes now 🙂 my instructor accused me of being argumentative. I honestly didn’t mean to be, I was just trying to explain to her the reasoning behind what I did and why I did it. She didn’t buy it at all. Anyway, you have my complete and utter sympathy. I thought it was crazy to feed the wheel. An instructor told me it’s because one time someone in Britain crossed their arms as they were turning the wheel and the chain on their watch caught on the sleeve on their other arm and caused an accident and that is why the “no crossing arms” rule. Honestly. Tradition. Kind of crazy, but that’s the way it is. We could share lots of UK stories 🙂 I’m assuming you are a British citizen now. We are as well. We love it here but miss our kids, who all live in the United States now as adults. Anyway, I loved your article. Keep going on that Masters 🙂 well done for even attempting it.
    And when you have the time and energy and money, keep going on the driving test. I would guess it would take between 15 and 25 lessons on average. And you might need to take the test several times, as it has gotten harder over the years. But you can do it 🙂

    1. Debbie October 1, 2019

      Sorry, I don’t know why my device duplicated some of what I wrote.

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