Thursday, February 21, 2013

How to be a failure

I’m a big, fat failure and it’s time I come clean about what’s happened, just so I can get it off my chest. I’ve been depressed and crying on and off for two days and the only way I know how to get the burden off of me is to write about.
Right. Here goes.
I failed my driving test again. Third time. I drive okay in lessons, but fail the tests. This time I colossally failed and the instructor abandoned the exam. Why? Because I didn’t understand the rules of the road. After bus in front of me signalled that it was stopping at the bus stop, I tried to pass it. The bus decided to keep going and muscled me over into the other lane. Examiner had to tell me to slow down, then I stalled once he aborted my mission. I knew I failed then and there but didn’t know that I could have abandoned the test myself. (I honestly considered that the bus driver was at fault because he did signal left.)
After I knew I failed after that awful occurrence, I turned onto the wrong side of a sectioned street. Of course there are no signs that say “DO NOT ENTER” or “WRONG WAY” the little lines on the road are just implied. For a country that houses the English language, they certainly don’t like writing any of it anywhere important.
After I sat there, crying on the phone to Steve, in my driver’s ed car while someone from the DVLA brought my instructor back, I just knew I was never going to be able to do this. I’ve been taking tests for almost a year and I don’t know to not pass a bus on a certain road. Lord knows there aren’t any lane markings or signs that tell you “no overtaking.” I don’t know for sure what signs and markings of roads mean half the time anyway. There are five or more different things to be concerned about all the time. It’s not like in the States where we just worry about other cars and drive defensively. Until you drive here as a Floridian, you just have no idea how confusing this all is. But people do it. They pass. But I can’t.
Steve thinks most of the problem is the instruction I’ve been given. Most of the time the instructor shouts at me or is says something condescending like, “If you have to ask about parking now, you shouldn’t be taking a test.” Well, maybe that’s just it. Maybe I shouldn’t have even considered taking a test so soon. I tried to get the gist of how the roads work but the instructor doesn’t understand how difficult it is for me. He’s even said things like, “You mean to tell me that roads in America are really that different?” As if I’m making an excuse for just not “paying attention” and “thinking about what I’m doing.”
I just feel so completely stupid for thinking I could do this. Steve tells me all the time that I rush things and don’t look at all the details. If that’s true, then I shouldn’t do anything. I don’t see everything that I need to know. I try. I do my best, but it just doesn’t click. And it’s dang frustrating to not have all the puzzle pieces and not even know how to get them.
It’s just like my stupid lack of a career. I wanted to be an English major, so I went to college, thinking (and being told) that I will easily be able to become an English teacher with that degree. Of course that wasn’t the case and I spent hundreds of dollars on printer ink and gas money just trying to interview for jobs I didn’t have a chance at getting. It was like that with the Master’s degrees too. I thought (and was told) that I should work at the college, so I got the degree. After I got there, I was told there was no chance of having full time work. Then I got a library degree because supposedly jobs were all over the place now that people were retiring. I don’t stand a chance at getting a library job now. I can’t just volunteer or be an intern anywhere, my resume has teaching jobs, so they think I’m not serious about wanting to be a librarian in the first place.
Basically, I’m tired of wasting time. I’m wasting Steve’s money on tests and lessons. I’ve wasted my time trying for things that were never going to happen to begin with but I never saw the whole picture. I guess naive is the word for it. Everything I do has to be done over and over until I get it right. Nothing (aside from writing, I guess) comes natural to me. The only thing good I’ve done in my life is married Steve and moved away from the insanity which is Florida. However, the rest of the things that I need to have a normal, productive life just don’t click for me like they do for other people.
But I did get a job. The morning before my driving test I got a call confirming that I am going to be teaching at the college, with a chance of getting full-time work. I’m over the moon about this, because this is the job I really wanted. Right after the call, I had the driving test fiasco, then had to go to the college to get my schedule and discuss the details. Of course this unwelcoming country has given me no tangible evidence that I am still eligible to work in the U.K. while my Indefinite Leave to Remain application is in progress, so I may only be able to work for a couple of weeks until my silly ID card gets sent in the mail.
England; the country where they make it hard for Americans to work, drive cars, or find flavoured ground coffee.
At least we have a Krispy Kreme now. Whether or not I’ll ever be able to go through a drive-thru here is probably not going to happen. The idea of driving again with another instructor seems ridiculous. I’d love to be able to drive but with crazy roads and rules I don’t comprehend after 10 months of lessons, I just don’t know anymore.


  1. Oh, this sounds familiar...I didn't have a car after I moved from the States (and remember, in the US, at least in the Midwest, it's not driving,it's just steering...) I failed my first UK test, and learing to drive here was probably the most soul-destroying and confidence-sapping thing I've ever done!) but it does sound like the problem is in the teaching. I found another teacher, one who was recommended by someone who started driving at the age of 60 and was terrified, but determined. My new teacher was patient, but firm. Made me really see and understand the road conditions rather than just push me through what I ostensibly needed to pass the test. When you find that person, and pass that test you will be a safe and confient driver and will scoff at the ineptitude of American drivers!

    Sorry you are also having "leave to remain" issues. It was much less problematic many years ago when I moved to the UK. Women were pretty much flagged through (men weren't, which underscores the sexist attitude that existed at that time, but at least it made my life easier).

    Good luck with all of this. It's a tough transition, and I hope it works out for you in all areas.

    PS...not a failure! Be proud that you are coping so well with the many challenges you are facing.

    1. Thank you so much! I was thinking that if I try out some other instructors, I'll find someone who doesn't push, as you say. It seems like these instructors have a basic set of key items to teach, then once they're done, they're done. The driving is never a black and white issue, so I think practice and a patient instructor will do me a world of good.

      I really think the whole reason I wasn't hired for any kind of full-time position was not only my lack of UK references, but that silly expiry date I have on my Visa. I'll be so happy when that Biometrics ID card comes in the mail (or, post, rather. Haha.)

      Speaking of sexist attitudes, my driving instructor would make statements like, "Steering wheels are like women; they always lie." Apparently these attitudes haven't completely left the country, huh? Insane.

      Thanks again!

  2. Oh Suzanne, I am so sorry you're having such a bad day. For what it's worth, I don't think it's even worth learning to drive in this country unless you really have to. It took me 3 goes to pass many years ago and I'm quite sure if I had to take the test now I'd fail it. Our roads are horrible, over congested, scary places, and many of the drivers on them shouldn't be allowed out of the house, let alone behind a wheel - they are aggressive, unpleasant, idiots. Although I can drive, I hate it and take every opportunity I can to walk or take public transport - which is also much more eco.

    It's fantastic news that you've got a job! That is far more important than the stupid driving test - and think of all the insurance money you're saving!

    I have many days like yours - at the moment we have just acquired a new puppy, which everyone thinks should be a time of joy, but over which I have cried many bitter tears as I feel completely trapped in the kitchen with the poor thing (still housetraining, which seems never-ending) while everyone else is at work, school, etc. As soon as the puppy arrived, my husband went off on a week's ski-ing trip! Some days I feel like all I do is mop the floor and clean up excreta - like you I am a qualified professional (lawyer) and like you I always seem to have been qualified for the wrong things - ever since I qualified (years after I finished university and realised I would need to retrain to have any hope of a proper job) law jobs have been in short supply, and even when I've had one I've hated it! Being considerably older than you, I am aware that I will now probably never have another job. I spend far too much time dwelling on all the things I've done wrong in my life, and about the choices I should have made and didn't - I know it's pointless but it's difficult not to isn't it?

    It's also very stressful moving towns, never mind countries, and that stress goes on far longer than other people realise. I moved here almost 2 years ago and I actually feel worse about it now than I did at the outset - I've met lots of lovely people, and have become involved in local things, but I so miss my old friends, and just knowing where everything is, who everyone is - feeling a part of the community. It's hard.

    All this is to say, all of your reactions are entirely normal. Forget the driving, enjoy the fact that by walking or using public transport you can see so much more. Concentrate on the lovely new job, and remember you have a happy relationship, which many people don't. Onwards and upwards, as they say!

    This is also a hard time of year, when winter seems to have gone on forever - but soon it will be summer, and you will be able to enjoy all the great things that go on on Tyneside - I would love to live down there.

    Very best wishes, and remember, you are so NOT a failure!


    1. Aww, thanks Rosemary. That's so nice of you to say.

      I have walked on the pavements and seen drivers making stupid mistakes that I know now are just all wrong. Whenever I'm on the Metro, happily reading my Nook or the newspaper, I wonder why I want to bother will the stress of driving. I hated the congestion and angry idiots on the road in Orlando, let alone a whole new country with a whole new set of rules to follow.

      My commute to work is pretty easy too and I get a nice walk in town. I know you're right. I'll just enjoy things as they are. If I feel like trying out another driving instructor (or many) then I can get my license later. There's no rush.

      I see you understand how this career thing can get us down too. It always makes me feel "lesser" to not be working because so many people don't understand why we aren't just working at McDonald's or something. (As if McD's is willing to hire someone as overqualified as an English lecturer or a lawyer, right?) It certainly isn't the way other people make it seem. "One day I decided to be a ______ and just did it." You also don't hear of people working in the same office for 20 years like I did when I was little either.

      Thanks again. I really appreciate your vote of confidence and understanding. That means a lot.

      Makes me think twice about getting a puppy now. Hhmm. ;-)