Going 20 in a 30 Zone: How I Failed my Driver’s Test (and Learned a Great Deal)

By Sarah

“Listen, I would like to be able to pass you,” said the worn-out DMV employee, scribbling on her clipboard. “But you went ten miles per hour under the speed limit. Automatic failure. You didn’t pass.”

She stepped out of my car, leaving me with the crushing blow of a failed driver’s test. I clutched the steering wheel and crumpled into tears. Ten miles per hour under? Seriously?

Driving home from the DMV, I sunk into despondence and stared out the window, obsessing over those measly ten miles per hour. Slipping into my bed with embarrassment dripping from my face, I knew what would calm my thoughts. Computer in hand, I opened a new Google document and began to write, lulled by the methodical clicking of the keyboard. The experiences of the day poured from my mind and onto the pages until 2,000 words were written, two hours had passed, and I was laughing at the irony of my failed attempt. I glanced at the clock, unsurprised with the time that had passed. With each tear, I’d been itching to translate my sense of failure into words — something that put every experience into perspective, pushing me into a flow state that defied the laws of time until my fingers were tired of typing. 

This particular document, titled “Going 20 in a 30 Zone” (I know — I’m a far more confident driver now), was added to an ever-growing collection in my personal Google Drive, one that I’ve been cultivating since I got my first computer, a hand-me-down from a relative that only functioned when plugged in (but which was perfect to me). Within my Drive are hundreds of stories, a mix of fictional tales, personal accounts, journalistic articles, and published pieces. There’s an 80-page biography of a female politician that I, as an ambitious fifth-grader, intended to publish. There’s a story written from the perspective of a pair of jeans. Another is a modern rewrite of Little Women in which I wrote of myself through Jo March, emulating my desire to be a famous author.  

In every situation, writing is the greatest encapsulation of my thoughts and memories. Each story takes with it a piece of my soul. When I write, my experiences and interests, whether observed or lived through, are beads of stress, tears and joy that drip onto the pages of my life. These numerous drips have rendered the pages completely soaked — a muddled mix of striving to understand the world around me and the life I have lived. It is the medium for my personal self-reflection — my tool for reviewing my memories, processing my emotions, and turning them into something creative. In the darkness of a hotel room at a water polo tournament, I write. I write while waiting in line at the mall. I write when my emotions are brimming at the tip of my tongue but words are the best way to convey them. 

Six months after my first driver’s license attempt, I clutched the steering wheel at a new location, reminding myself that the passing rate is 27%. I better pull this off. Pulling into the parking lot at the end, the DMV employee nodded my way. 

“You passed,” she announced, and the tension in my chest was released in a breath of relief. “Only one mistake. Congrats. You’re a licensed driver.” 

After driving home (maybe even five over) with my license in hand, I re-read “Going 20 in a 30 Zone” again, smiling at the writing that both relayed the misery I had felt and that had helped me overcome it. I opened a new Google Drive document, hovering over the keyboard. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about; I just knew that when I started, I wouldn’t be able to stop. With ease, the words spilled out once again. 

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