Thursday, July 5, 2012

Driving and Me: The REAL Story

As usual, I'll start off with a story: In February 2008, I obtained an Associate's Degree in Web Design from a local college.  There were about fifteen or twenty same-year graduates who shared my major; however, according to my graduation ceremony program, I had the highest honors of any of them.  I graduated magna cum laude, which is with medium honors, and only one other Web student graduated with honors; hers were cum laude, which are the lowest, not that having graduated cum laude is anything to sneeze at.  So, you'd probably expect that I would end up having a wonderful job designing web sites and be rolling in the dough, right? That never happened; I am now happily working at a library, and have no plans to work within my major.
Some of you may be shocked; why would anyone choose not to work within a field in which he/she has a degree? Well, I'll tell you why: Finding a job in Web design was just one dead end after another.  After one website I never got paid for making, another I was asked to make but never heard anything from the individual who asked me to make it after our initial meeting, an "internship" that was largely a complete joke, several botched interviews and rejection letters, it became obvious that it just wasn't my calling, even if I did graduate magna cum laude.  A big part of that was simply because I just didn't know how to apply what I had learned.  Sure, I knew how to do the specific tasks that our textbooks led us through step-by-step, but, when it came to putting them into practice, even a 3.88 GPA couldn't stop me from failing miserably.  Upon volunteering at my local library, I found that it was more up my alley, and couldn't be happier about currently working at one.
What does that have to do with driving? Simple: Just like with my Web classes, I probably could do at least moderately well on the driver's tests and get my license.  However, when the rubber meets the road, and I have to make my way through the busy intersections and traffic-heavy highways that dominate my area, I'd most likely croak, possibly literally.  James 1:22-24 (NIV) says, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like."  The same is true with any sort of instruction (high school class, television manual, encyclopedia, reference book, etc.): If you hear or read what it says, but don't put it into practice, then it won't do you any good.  Unfortunately, I seem to have a knack for reading or hearing words, even to the point where I can quote them back to others, without comprehending their meaning.  In the Web field, the worst thing that would have happened was me getting fired; however, failing to abide by the "rules of the road" could kill or seriously injure me or someone else.  That right there is why I'm twenty-four years old and still don't have my driver's license; me behind the wheel of a car is just an accident waiting to happen.
Unfortunately, many people, including quite a few who may be reading this, don't get that.  They seem to think that I just have a bad attitude--or that I like having my parents drive me around everywhere--and that it is indeed possible for me to be a successful driver.  I've attempted to discuss it online before, and was met with severe criticism; part of that was the way that I handled it, which was essentially telling everyone, "I know better than you; don't do this!", as if I were their parents.  So, I'm going to try to handle this admittedly controversial topic in a better way than I ever have before.  Before any of you send an angry reply, think about what I'm saying in this post; maybe you'll realize that me driving is just a lost cause.
First off: My concentration is just not good enough to drive.  I don't know if it's my disorder, the medicine I take for it, a combination of the two, or something else entirely, but I can't concentrate worth a hill of beans.  I once got lost in thought, and ended up missing part of Attack of the Clones...while watching it in IMAX! Not only that, but I was once playing a variation of dominoes known as "chicken foot," and ended up making a terrible mistake that almost led to a serious penalty within the game.  In fact, I've unknowingly taken ridiculously long showers for no other reason than getting distracted by nothing but my own thoughts.  Of course, no one is going to get hurt if someone loses concentration during a board game or space opera movie, but that's not the case with driving; one wrong move could have serious consequences.
Now, some of you might be sitting there thinking, "Well, why don't you talk with your psychiatrist about taking additional medications to help you with your concentration?" The answer? I can't, because psychological meds have led to rather traumatic instances that I hope to never repeat.  Case in point: One weekend in mid-2007, I was with my parents at Lowe's, and they were shopping for a grill.  Sounds perfectly innocent, right? Well, something about it just set me off, and I wouldn't stop ranting and raving against it no matter what they said.  My problems with them getting a grill were twofold: One, my brother-in-law was the main "griller" in the family prior to that; couldn't my folks just leave well enough alone? Two, I remembered that, sometime in the late '90's, my mom bought a grill at J. C. Penney (seriously; they had them on sale there) and I only remembered her using it once, so it must not have lasted very long; therefore, why even bother with another one? Even my mom's perfectly reasonable responses wouldn't deter me, though; it was Seroquel, a new anti-psychotic medication I was trying out, that was solely responsible.
That's not even the worst of it; my second grade year was ruined because of me trying out Prozac, which I still cringe at the thought of to this day.  The bottom line is: It just isn't worth it.  Although there may be a psychiatric pill that could help me concentrate better, it just wouldn't worth the experimentation required to find it; the wrong prescription could cause my death, and not by car accident or heart failure.
Second off: No matter how much you don't like the fact that I don't have my driver's license, nobody hates it any more than I do.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but, I think some of you believe that I like not being able to drive, because it means everyone else has to haul me everywhere.  That used to be my attitude about everything, actually; I remember saying many years ago--that is, when I was much younger and much more immature--that my oldest sister, who was severely physically disabled and unable to do hardly anything, was "the lucky one" because she never had to do any hard work.  I even would ask friends to beat my own video games for me, because I just lacked the skill, coordination, and willpower to do it myself.  However, the accomplishments that I've made recently that did require serious time and effort gave me a feeling that having someone else do tasks for me never did.
I'll be frank here: I wish I could drive.  Having my own car; being able to go where I want, when I want; not having to rely on walking, getting a lift from others, or "public transportation"; it would be fabulous.  Yet, I came to terms years ago with the fact that it just isn't for me.  I refuse to take a "behind the wheel" test because I'm afraid I'd pass it, and I don't even want to think about what would happen next.  You may call that "a bad attitude"; I call that being realistic.
To continue being honest: It stinks not being able to drive.  Between late and/or crowded city buses, missing out on certain activities due to being unable to get to them, being stuck in the house sometimes...yeah, it's not all that fun.  If things were different, then I'd definitely have my driver's license by now...but they aren't, so, I don't.
However, not having a driver's license isn't all bad.  I'm reminded of my school days; specifically, from fifth grade until the end of high school, when I was given a device by the school system to type my work on.  The main reason I had it was because my handwriting was terrible--it still is--and my teachers didn't have the time or energy to attempt to read what I had written.  Sure, it made some things more difficult: my classmates were jealous of me, some assignments had to be specially adapted just for me, I had to leave class and miss lectures in order to print my work, etc.  Still, there were some occasions where it made things easier, and the teachers probably wished that all of their students had such devices.  For example, in eighth grade, we had to do a series of writing assignments that required much revising and editing.  My classmates--aside from one who had the same device I did--had to rewrite their whole assignments, whereas I could just go into the file and change whatever needed to be changed.  Unfair? Some might say so, but I used it to my advantage.
The same is true of being unable to drive; it may have its negative aspects, but it isn't all bad.  Think about it this way: I don't have to worry about high gas prices; I'm reducing pollution and going "green" by riding the bus; and, walking places has helped me stay physically fit.  Is any of that bad? I don't think so at all.
My last point before my conclusion: No matter whoever you know that can drive, it doesn't mean that I can.  Here's a story I'll use as an example: Over a decade ago, an adolescent acquaintance of mine from church went up to an older church member and asked him about some computer games.  The older member immediately said, "No. I'm a Christian; I don't play those games," to which the young guy replied, "Well, [another adult church member] is a Christian, and he plays those games!"
Here's my point: As a Christian, I can tell you that we don't all like or do the same things.  We all have own preferences; we all have our own convictions; we are all different.  Some Christians are perfectly okay with doing some things that others will avoid like the plague.  The same is true of disabled people, or even people with my disorder: We're not all alike, and it's wrong for anyone to lump us all together.  For example, I'm a long-time fan of Disney and Nickelodeon shows such as Lizzie McGuire, Drake & Josh, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, and, obviously, VICTORiOUS.  However, when I've met other people with my condition, they usually couldn't care less about such television programming; I can't think of one person I've met with Asperger's who was a fan of even half of the things that I was.  So, just because Austin Aspie over there has his driver's license doesn't mean I should get mine; we're not all the same, and, even if whoever is a wonderful driver, that means nothing to me, because that person isn't me.
Here's my conclusion: When I was in high school, I had a teacher who was very insistent that I go to a theme park; when she found out that I didn't like it and hadn't been in years, she felt something was seriously wrong.  I tried to politely refuse, and explain to her that I just didn't care for such places, I had no interest in going, and the like, but she refused to take no for an answer.  What started out as a kind suggestion turned into an annoyance that bordered on harassment.
You probably know where this is going: When people are equally insistent with their "you can drive" messages, it's just as bad if not worse.  Seriously, people who are my friends should just respect the fact that I feel that I don't belong behind the wheel of a car, whether they like it or even understand it.  I've had to do the same thing; since joining Facebook almost six years ago, I've found out all sorts of things I didn't really want to know about my friends.  I felt it was wrong, but I knew that condemning their actions wasn't going to stop anything except for our friendship, so, I just let it go.  Do I agree with everything all my 480+ Facebook friends are doing? No. Do I feel that some of it is wrong? Yes. Am I going to badger them about it? No; what they do is their choice, and it's not for me to say whether it's wrong or right.  I know some of you think I can drive; you've been saying it since I was in high school, but, it's obvious that badgering me about it isn't going to change anything.  If I've been facing such "encouragement" for almost a decade, don't you think things would have changed if they could have?
Any comments?

P. S. Before you quote Philippians 4:13 to me, take a look at the context of that often-quoted verse, and compare what it's really saying alongside what I said in this post

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