Responsibility follows me like a shadow. Being the third-oldest of eight children in my family, I’m used to cycling through hand-me-down responsibilities. When my older brothers graduated from high school, I was the highest-ranking sibling in the house. I babysat, got the highest allowance, cooked more, got to stay up later.
But that’s not what I’m writing about today. You see, while I usually had help on my path to responsibility, I knew there would come a time when I would have to face the solo showdown. Kill the spider with my own shoe. The cowboy fights his fear at high noon. That kind of thing.
My first showdown was my driver’s license test.
I was never excited to drive. Be responsible for a giant, moving death machine? Nice try. But driving had always been a looming responsibility; once my older brothers were gone, I was the one who had to drive my younger siblings to school, so there wasn’t a choice.
They showed us this video called “Red Asphalt” during driver’s training class at Bellarmine Preparatory School. It opened with a teenage narrator actually saying: “It’s funny. You never hear about fear of driving.”
That was the exact moment I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like what was next, which I quickly found out included Quentin Tarantino-worthy images of teenage bodies buried in vehicular wreckage
It was like they were purposefully trying to make me associate death with driving, right before handing me my license.
I cried when I first practiced for the test with my dad. I would never parallel park! Never! I had the same reaction to learning to drive a car as I did to being forced to learn how to ride a bike without training wheels years earlier: tearful, volatile resistance.
I hit the curb. I stopped too forcefully. I was afraid of running someone over at 5 miles per hour in an empty parking lot.
“You can drive a little faster,” my dad reassured me. I was sure any faster would mean certain death for anyone in a ten-mile radius. I thought of the teenager from the video — the numbers, the responsibility — and I was afraid.
Yet the cowboy carries a pistol. He knows his enemy carries one, as well. Is the cowboy afraid at the final showdown? No; he strides into the town square, brow set, spurs jingling softly. And not only is he bold enough to fight the enemy, he shows his back to them. Counts ten steps. Turns. Blam!
Luckily for me, I was not facing an enemy in a western-style showdown— losing twice doesn’t work out so well when guns are involved. (Yeah, I failed my driver’s test twice. It wasn’t fun.)
Fear, my sworn enemy, struck quickly. Give up! You’ll never be good enough. What’s the point in practicing? You don’t want this anyway.
No — this was my responsibility. I had to do it. Also, my older brothers probably would have laughed if I’d failed a third time, and I couldn’t have that.
Once, in the practice parking lot, my dad told me the truth I’d wanted to avoid: “I know this isn’t your favorite thing to do, but sometimes you have to do your least favorite thing anyways.”
So I practiced. Again. And again.
On the day of my third showdown, the weather was signature Tacoma gray. The woman testing me seemed capable of breathing only through sighs. I wanted to run. Instead, I drew the keys out of my pocket, fixed the mirrors, started the engine. And, in the end, I passed.
Sometimes fear is like like an adversary wearing a sneer and a black hat. But when high noon calls, you have to know how to draw your weapon.
Manola Secaira of Tacoma is a journalism and English major studying at Seattle Pacific University. She is one of six reader columnists who write for this page. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.