By Gisselle Hernandez, Features Editor
“Well, you’ll have to learn.”
I looked at him as if he had lost his mind.
“Dad, I can’t possibly learn stick-shift in less than a week,” I protested.
“You can, and you have to. This was the only car I could get, plus it’d be good for you to learn to drive standard.”
This is the conversation I had with my dad in the fall of 2015, when he drove up my little Mazda from Texas for me because he didn’t like hearing I was walking home from the newsroom at 1 a.m. on production nights. When he told me he got me a car over the summer, I was excited and grateful, but I’d be lying if I said the thought of driving a manual car in the United States – where traffic is totally different from Belize – didn’t scare me a bit. I vowed to myself I would learn how to drive manual by the end of the summer, but even after Dad taught me the basics, I did not keep up on my promise. I tried practicing, but with no manual cars ourselves, it was difficult to master. When August came, I was anxiously waiting for my car to get in.
When the Mazda finally arrived, I remember my dad asking me to drive us to school. I was terrified – I thought he was going to teach me some more first. To sum it up, my first week in Murray with a manual car was complete, utter hell. If you really want to test your patience, try to learn how to drive a stick. I remember just breaking down whenever my car stalled at stop lights and a whole line of people would honk at me from behind. I remember my poor friend almost hitting her head on the dashboard a million times when I was trying to master shifting gears (yeah, it was that bad).
The ultimate test was my first ever concert (Twenty One Pilots in Nashville, Tennessee), when I had to drive in a big U.S. city for the first time. I could barely drive in a city in an automatic without having a panic attack, but I knew I had to (which shows how much I love this band). It was the most challenging thing to ever to happen to me. It sounds dramatic, but we are talking about someone who’s used to driving in only one-lane traffic her entire adult life, even on a major highway.
Belize isn’t big enough to have highways, interstates or huge overpasses, so this was new. However, I managed to get back to Murray in one piece, albeit with a huge migraine and a little nausea.
You have to go through something a little grueling to appreciate how rewarding it feels. For me, it was whenever someone was impressed by me being able to drive stick. Learning this may seem like an insignificant thing, but I never thought I would drive in the U.S. to begin with – much less in a car many people my age can’t drive. It made me believe in myself more and made me think of my favorite band’s words when they won their first Grammy this weekend: “Anyone from anywhere can do anything.”