Today I drove my daughters to Elliot Bay in Seattle, put them on a sailboat with my parents, and am trusting that I will pick them up in two days on Orcas Island. The difficult part isn’t trusting them on a boat in the Puget Sound. The difficult part was driving them there.
We moved to the Seattle area in the fall of 2004. Throughout our years here, I have actually driven in the city very few times before today, probably around 3.
Once was to bring my cousins from my apartment in Kent to the University of Washington, where their mother worked. After a few wrong turns and an embarrassing trip into and back out of the wrong parking garage, I managed to get them to the right place.
The second and third times involved either driving to or driving home from my sister’s apartment in Ballard. After I drove on the trip to her apartment and cried several times, my husband drove us home. (And bless my dear husband, because he does ALL of the difficult driving that we travel together.) The later trip AWAY from my sister’s apartment was because I had driven to see her race in a triathlon in Sammamish and met up with her boyfriend, who was also there to cheer for my sister. He drove her car back into the city. She drove me in MY car to her apartment, and then I drove my car home again. I don’t remember anything traumatic happening on my way home that day, but it was a straight shot to the interstate, and as long as traffic isn’t too heavy, I feel pretty comfortable from there.
I don’t know WHY driving in the city, or to big events like concerts, or if there’s a difficult unprotected left turn to take, gives me anxiety, I just know that it does. I’m not sure that it keeps me from doing anything, specifically, but I have definitely had to work around it. My husband drives us to any events that we occasionally attend in Seattle or Tacoma. When the graduation ceremony for the school where I teach moved to an outdoor amphitheater this year, I didn’t know how I was going to deal with it until a co-worker said that I could ride with her.
Then this summer, the opportunity came up for my children to do something special, spend a few days on a sailboat with their grandparents and see the San Juan Islands. All I had to do was GET THEM TO SEATTLE. I understand that for most people, this is simple. It is a couple hours of driving during non-peak traffic times. But I was incredibly nervous.
Regardless, I didn’t want my anxiety to make my kids miss this opportunity. So this morning we headed out, armed with the GPS on my phone and my very loose sense of geography. We need to head north. The Sound is to the west.
Without GPS, it wouldn’t have been possible. Having that voice telling me “Stay in the center lane,” was very reassuring. It was also crucial when I missed the turn into the marina and suddenly realized I was headed back out the way I had come. In my head I was thinking, “That’s it. No sailing trip for you, Kids. We’re headed back home, and we’ll never figure out how to get back here again.” Fortunately GPS recalculated, took me in a slightly different way, and the second time I saw that sneaky turn that I had missed the first time.
So I did it! I managed to successfully drive INTO Seattle, get my children to my parents, and then make it home again. And it was relatively undramatic.
Does this mean I’m reformed and will feel confident driving into the city now? NO!! Driving is stressful to me, and no amount of experience seems to take that stress away. After all, I have been driving for over twenty years now. I still dread having to attend trainings or workshops in the city. I fear future trips to soccer tournaments with vague directions in heavy commuter traffic. (My children haven’t played any soccer tournaments yet, but maybe they will someday, and this is what I always hear other parents complain about.) But I’m glad I can function if I absolutely have to. Maybe I’ll be ready to give it another try in another four years or so.