Fear and failure: The drama of my driving exams

I failed my practical driving exam. Again. For the third time.

That’s on top of the seven times I failed my theory exam. This driving “ellende” (misery) has been running for three years, squeezing my bank account dry by the month.

I was very nervous but I had more self confidence that the last two. I’ve been doing really well in my driving lessons. But there were two mistakes that the examinator just couldn’t let pass. When it involves a biker and right of way, you can’t take the wrong decision. That cost me my third failure. Yet again, I went home with swollen eyes.

I took two days off to ease the pressure and concentrate on the exam and not have to deal with office stress. I ran the morning before to increase my endorphin level (to calm me down), even managed to laugh despite the nervousness, had a proper breakfast too. But the moment I got into the car for a short driving lesson before the exam proper, I started shaking. I was focusing too much on one instruction and forgetting everything that I was ever told. I was overthinking. The big rotundas were looming on me, like I would never get off the right exit. There were moments that I was blocking out. I was crying behind the wheels the day before my exam. It was the same scenario 30 minutes before.

I think they call it “falangst” in Dutch or fear of failing. But can you blame me?

I was afraid and ashamed. I’ve usually come out unscathed from difficult situations like these – from break ups, to moving abroad and being jobless. But this, this has been the only challenge that I have not been able to overcome until now. The people closest to me have seen the bucket of tears I’ve poured on this, how it has broken my spirits time and time again and how it made me soooo angry. So angry at myself for not getting it right.

Unless you’ve  failed your driving exams more than twice, you’ll never know what I am talking about. You won’t understand the pain and embarrassment of having to tell people that you’ve failed again, even to the ones that you love. Or having to explain why. Or judging yourself based from what you think they think of you because, well you failed that same exam again.

“Have you not learned enough? Have you not spent too much money already? Can you be so stupid? Why don’t you just quit and save your money?”

I fell that those who haven’t gone through what I’m going through have no business telling me what I should do. Ironically, those who have been there would only advise me not to give up.

I am avoiding well wishers as well.

“Good luck. You can do it. I’d cross my fingers for you. This time you’ll get it.”

These words are empty to me. If at all, they only increased the pressures on my shoulder. I am already struggling in my own head and I didn’t want to muddle it even more with such wishes.

Whenever I fail, I’d ask people not to give me sympathy. That doesn’t help me either. When I failed for the second time, I told my colleague not to bother me with her sympathy and just move on and pretend nothing happened when I came to the office the next day. She was rightfully offended. She wanted to offer me consolations and tell me some wisdom for the next exam. Things that were absolutely not welcome. I don’t think others could give me better advice than my instructor and my examinators.

There is also this friend who kept on telling me that she passed hers in one try and shame on me because her daughter already passed hers (I started my driving lessons before her) and maybe her son would get his driver’s license before I get mine. It is horrifying how people could still kick you when you’re already on the ground.

I know that it is human reaction, to offer consolation whenever you see that a person is down. Like how Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory) is “obligated” to offer warm drinks whenever he sees that someone is unhappy. And Leonard has to tell him he doesn’t want the warm drinks and would just rather be alone and curl into fetal position.

I don’t want that warm tea and have deprived some people the reaction that they were expecting. I have offended quite a few this way, when I don’t run to their arms with great appreciation and gratefulness for their sympathy. A pat in the back and a simple “it’s ok” were actually all that I needed. Or what my mother would say everytime, “Ok lang yan anak, next time uli.” (It’s ok child, try again next time.) I think I am perfectly capable of bouncing back because that’s really the only option I’ve got.

I know some people who failed their driving exams, six times, one, even eight times. I read on the internet that there were some who failed 11 times. I know that I am not the only one struggling with it. I might be good in a lot of things but apparently, I am not in this one. It’s a bitter fact to swallow. But one day I would be sitting behind the wheels all on my own. But now, if the examinator thinks that I am not yet ready to do that, then probably I am not ready yet.

To get a Dutch driver’s license is way more difficult that to get a Dutch passport. Here we have one thing that not a lot of countries have – bikers, lots of them. Some of them are too arrogant and too stupid to follow the rules but when you are driving a car, the responsibility rests on your shoulders because you can kill somebody. The Dutch driving exams are designed to take all that in consideration – being able to drive 130 km/hr if the speed limit is 130km/hr, anticipating the movements of the weaker traffic participants (BIKERS, pedestrians, KIDS, STUPID PEOPLE), and knowing the rules of traffic, ALL of them. Those are the reasons why the Netherlands is among the countries with the lowest fatal traffic accidents.

I am not giving up. It’s not in my nature to give up. I will cry, I will get mad and I might have to empty my savings account. But I am not going to give up on this one. Not this time. Never. And when I finally get it, I’d treat myself to that bottle of 22 year old Macallan Private Cellar Cask.

Dutch driving exam, you can’t put me down!

I felt a bit guilty that I was so worked up about my failure. A young boy I knew from childhood went missing and was found dead yesterday. He was run over by a motorcycle and was even robbed. My misery is nothing compared to his family. And my ability to drive properly and carefully in the future will spare families like my friend’s from the ordeal of losing someone they love.