Unlicensed at 20 Years Old: My Driving Journey

A look at my driving experience and its ups and downs

I’m like most 20-year-olds – I’m in my third year of college, beginning to have professional positions and responsibilities, and am on my way to figuring out who I am. What’s not so typical about me, though, is that I don’t have my driver’s license.

You heard that right folks…I’m 20 years old and unlicensed!

I acknowledge that this isn’t the norm. You’re probably thinking that most people can’t wait to get behind the wheel of a car the second they turn 16. While this may be true, it simply wasn’t the case for me.

By the time I turned 16 years old, most of my friends had their licenses or were set to get them sometime soon; meanwhile, I had never been behind the wheel and honestly didn’t have much desire to be.

It was exciting to see those around me reaching a passage of age and driving. Not to mention, it wasn’t too bad catching rides from my friends all the time, too.

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It wasn’t long before everyone began questioning me about why I didn’t have my license yet and what I was waiting for. Although I had a simple, straight-forward answer to this question, I found it hard to tell people because I didn’t think they would understand.

I just didn’t feel ready.

Around the time I was approaching 16 years old, my mom was involved in a pretty bad car accident. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and this event helped me realize just how great of a responsibility driving is.

When someone is in control of a vehicle, they are also responsible for keeping others safe and anticipating the actions of the drivers around them. I understood the gravity of driving, and I wasn’t quite confident enough to begin just yet.

My parents applauded me for knowing myself and taking my sweet time with something as serious as a license; however, not everyone was as supportive, and I know it’s because they didn’t understand where I was coming from.

While I can roll with the punches of people poking fun at me for not having my license, the truth is that some of the things they say get to me. As much as I am an adult, there are times I don’t feel like one because I don’t have a card that says I can drive.

I often feel immature for not driving because I can’t get myself from place-to-place and, instead, must rely on others to get me where I need/want to be.

Obtaining a license comes with a sense of freedom, and that’s something I haven’t experienced yet. It sometimes even makes me feel held back from accomplishing certain things.

By the time college rolled around, I was ready to welcome a new set of responsibilities into my life and really dive into adulthood. With this new wave of confidence came a desire to want to take the next step and earn my license; however, the first year of college was hectic, as one can expect, and life simply got in the way of that.

Any point after this when I thought about driving, it seemed like something else always came up. I put it on the back burner for quite some time…that is until now.

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I have officially started my driving journey this summer. I didn’t want to wait anymore and knew that the longer I let other things take priority, the longer I would go without a license.

Making the decision to learn how to drive was only the beginning of a long journey, which I didn’t realize at the time. I honestly thought I could learn to drive within a few weeks and be behind the wheel by the time school started back up.

Although I don’t have my license just yet, I’ve experienced both victories and setbacks along the way thus far. For instance, I’m the oldest student in my driving class by about four years, which often makes me feel very behind and a tad embarrassed.

I also started this journey thinking my older age would make me a better, more well-prepared driver; however, I now know that everyone learns on their own time. It’s simply about practice and experience.

Overall, I’ve felt cool, calm, and collected behind the wheel, but just like everyone else learning a new skill, I’ve made mistakes. Having close calls while driving a car is scary, but I’ve tried to quickly learn from all of my wrongdoings and not become too discouraged.

There are several takeaways I’ve gained from driving that I realized are important to implement into my life in other ways.

Decision making is one of the most important things you do as a driver. You often have to think on your feet and make critical decisions along the way. I’ve learned the importance of following my instincts and gut, rather than questioning them.

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned through this all, though, is to take life at a pace that is right for me! Although it’s important to push yourself at times, it’s okay to take your time rather than rush things simply because society tells you to. You know yourself better than anyone, and it’s essential to never forget that!

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Also published on Medium.

Journalism and Mass Communication Major, Barrett the Honors College at...