Thoughts on...

Pedal to the Metal

imageedit_3_6722515251

Have you ever been go-karting?

Not kiddie go-karting. I mean proper go-karting with a real track, and fast karts, and onesies that smell like manliness and oil, and helmets that make your head loll they’re so heavy?

I have.

Yes, I’m a sometime speed demon, and in case you’re wondering, yes, I do rock the child-sized onesies. The combination of child-size onesie and adult helmet makes me look like a bobblehead of The Stig.

It’s a good look.

I’ve always had a great time on the track. I’m a rubbish driver – running alternately on equal parts of adrenaline and sheer terror – but I have so much fun! I put my foot to the floor with irresponsible delight and go hot all over with excitement, and then I hit the brakes hard when the fear that I’m about to flip over turns my entire body to ice. I accelerate so fast my head flies back, and I can’t see where I’m going because the gravitational force pins the top of my helmet to my headrest… and then I brake so abruptly that I slam forward against my restraints and knock the breath out of myself.

Start and stop.

Back and forth.

“WHEEEEEEEE!” and “AAAAAAAAH!!!!”

Lately I’ve been thinking that in some ways my entire existence is like that. I live my life the way I drive my go-karts; racing ahead with life and plans and ideas, and then coming to an abrupt and sometimes painful halt when fear overwhelms me.

I’ve been doing this for a long time. Probably since childhood, although it’s definitely felt more pronounced since becoming an adult. In university, I first decided to go for a broad, general Arts degree (philosophy and English lit.), only to stop dead in my tracks a few months later when I started to feel afraid that it would be of no use to me. So I decided I wanted to do animation – a huge passion of mine – but was too afraid of trying and failing, so settled on graphic design because it sounded like a safer, more practical choice. Then I panicked at the idea of not being good enough for the safer and more practical choice, and in an abrupt and inadvisable 180°, then decided to go for something intentionally difficult (Japanese Language). I quickly pivoted again when I felt myself struggling with a subject I had chosen on a whim, that I never cared for and had no real interest in.

Which, you know… BAD. *smacks hand*

Eventually I realised that I was constantly, desperately looking for escape routes at every turn, trying to avoid the difficult and unpleasant feeling of Not Feeling Good Enough. I realised that I just have this innate knack for self-sabotaging in the worst way. In trying to avoid obstacles in my path, I tend to leave the path entirely and instead end up on the bumpiest off-road tracks that are often far more complicated and impassable than the original obstacle. I just get in my own way. It’s very unhealthy.

So I went to see a counsellor.

She was very kind. She mostly stayed silent and whenever there was a long pause she would say, “…And how do you feel about that?” which always made me want to laugh. I didn’t find her hugely helpful but she was very nice, so I felt bad about ending our sessions. In the end, I waited until there was a natural break for the holidays, told her I’d reschedule in the new year, and then never did.

… Still cautiously avoiding the bumps in the road, obviously.

I went back and tried another counsellor, and he was far more helpful. Instead of “sessions,” our appointments felt like strategy meetings. It felt less feathery-strokery and more proactive. University became less about finding ways to evade my fear, and more about putting my head down and bulldozing through it. There were quite a few obstacles in my way, and they were the kind of obstacles that made people ask if I wanted to pack it in, but I knew that I needed to make it to the finish line. I wasn’t sure I would be able to look at myself in the mirror if I didn’t get out of there with a degree.

So I gritted my teeth and I lowered my head and I stuck it out and I got out of there with the piece of paper clenched tight in my fist. Nobody can take that away from me. My degree now lives in a locked drawer, safely tucked away as a reminder that I am capable.

These days I’m a bit better at catching myself when I feel the fear take over. I recognise it and know that logically, I’m being an idiot. I know not to let it rise over me like a tidal wave, because if I do it has about the same potential to smash my life to smithereens. I still struggle to work through periods of time when I’m Not Feeling Good Enough. I know now to rely on the fact that I have occasional bursts of self-confidence, and that’s really all I need to press my foot down on the accelerator and get going again. Hopefully the gap between bursts will narrow over time until I can hopscotch across my river of insecurities on self-confidence stepping stones. Maybe one day my biggest anxieties will be covered over by a sheet of self-belief that will allow me to skate right over them. I’m working on it.

I have a picture in my head of what I want my life to be, but it looks… fuzzy around the edges. It looks undefined, like I’m looking at it from a distance through a mist. I can see the hazy shape of important parts of it, but the details are missing. I know that in a lot of ways, I’m still afraid. What if – with all my speeding and stalling and stopping and starting – I never get there? What if I flip my go-kart?

For now though, I’ve learned to stay the course and ride the bumps in the road. I’ve learned to enjoy myself in the moment, rather than focus tunnel-vision style on the things that worry me. Not every pothole is a catastrophe. Not every hill is too steep to climb. Putting pedal to the metal can be as exhilarating as it can be terrifying. It doesn’t have to be a smooth, straight stretch of road; the journey doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be good.

Anyway, a bit of uneven ground keeps things interesting.

0 thoughts on “Pedal to the Metal

  1. “I live my life the way I drive my go-karts; racing ahead with life and plans and ideas, and then coming to an abrupt and sometimes painful halt when fear overwhelms me.” – Life in a sentence!

  2. Although I had become distracted with the visual of Quinn in a onesie and wearing a helmet…wait…where was I going with this? Oh yes. I loved this post and “a bit of uneven ground keeps things interesting” drives the point home.

  3. I totally understand the experience with university. I didn’t make it that far though. I started with the intention of getting my degree in Math and to go back and get a masters of teaching. When I realized that was not going to work for me I completely freaked out. How could I not do what I was so certain of? I toyed around with the idea of going into psychology and then Sign Language interpreting before finally leaving. Even now I keep flipping back and forth with what I want to do. Is it editing? Or maybe I should be an author. I could really excel in accounting, maybe that’s the right field for me? What if I fail at everything I want to do, just like the first time?

    Anyway, sorry about the essay! I totally understand how you feel!

    1. That’s exactly how I felt! The counselling really helped in teasing out what I really wanted (which was to finish). I hope we both decide for sure what we want to do soon!

  4. Great post Quinn, I can associate with what you have written. With me though it was probably the fear of failure that made me give up on things. In reality I could have succeeded and done really well because when I do anything I really do it!

    I have to be really interested in what I’m doing to forget about failure and just push through. Now carting would scare the hell out of me 😳

    1. Yes. I identify with what you’re saying. If I’m enjoying something I can forget about the fear of failure but once I start overthinking…..!

  5. I too regularly travel the road of self-doubt. Although these days I’m fairly sure that being ‘good enough’ is no guarantee of success and indeed ‘not being good enough’ has definitely not stopped some people from being outlandishly successful. So clearly it’s all about confidence. Which doesn’t really help when you don’t have any…

  6. I did History but have yet to find any actual use for it – I loved it but it’s not really that useful for adulting. And an MA in librarianship (which I fell into and don’t really like that much). Not convinced about the whole degree thing myself.

    1. I ended up doing Media, Intercultural Studies and a language. So far I haven’t put it to use but WHEN I DO…. (if I do)… watch out world!

  7. In Las Vegas, you can go on these custom made sand buggies that are literally an engine, four wheels, and a thin steel cage all welded together. Your ‘guide’ is really basically leading you on a very long and winding race through the desert. His purpose is 100% to try and lose you and force you to go as fast as you can. The limit often times isn’t the speed of the vehicle, but the bravery of the driver. There are dunes and hills of which you cannot see over the other side. You have to just take the jump, one wheel at a time, knowing only two things to comfort and encourage you. a) though you may not see him anymore, the trail and the dust tell you that someone somewhere was here before you, and they were able to make it and b) you’re not taking a speedboat to the desert; you brought the right tool for the job and it was built and designed specifically for this. The biggest jump my guide took me through was a sheer 30 foot drop. At one point I didn’t take a jump properly and landed so hard the sheet metal they used on the steering wheel cut through my hand. I wrapped it up with a piece of my shirt and drove with one hand the rest of the way through and I’m telling you, it was one of the greatest driving experiences I’ve ever had. I believe there is something to be understood here that can apply to everything.

  8. “Not every pothole is a catastrophe. Not every hill is too steep to climb. Putting pedal to the metal can be as exhilarating as it can be terrifying. It doesn’t have to be a smooth, straight stretch of road; the journey doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be good.”

    The journey is what is it is all about, it is where you learn and grown and become. We will never fully arrive. But who would want to anyways?

    Great post! 🙂

      1. Once, I was driving down the road and the guy in front of me threw a banana peel out his window. I swerved to miss it, assuming it would cause me to spin out. Then I wished I had a red shell so I could take him down. True story.

  9. Hahaha… so you’re manic? In your go-carting that is? 😛 😉 (just kidding)

    Having been on BOTH sides of therapy, I can completely relate to this story Quinn. “Strategy meetings” are definitely good; goals to shoot for, if they are realistic. Put your University degree in a frame and hang it on the most VISIBLE wall you have! Come on Quinn, be proud and brave!!! 🙂

    What if you flip your go-cart?

    Easy. Learn to fail better next time. And like you finish out here… put the pedal to the metal sometimes, even find a big ramp and LAUNCH yourself! Just be sure to first check where, or into what, you will come down in/on/to! LOL 😉

    This was an enjoyable funny read Quinn. Thank you. You are adorable, and I mean that in the most endearing way. Truly. <3

  10. Its’ funny. I have a post called “Imposter Monster” on my computer, waiting to be posted. Same idea. Some of us take the well-traveled, unexciting roads but the fear still lives on. The feeling of “Not Good Enough”p plagues even those who have made it big in their respective fields. Thanks for this honest commentary.

  11. Everything about this piece is relatable and I can’t choose just one sentence to quote as better than the others. All I can think, is what I do with my friends “We survived (again)!” *insert* * high-five,low five, fist bump, woogidie*

  12. By the end of this post, you had me believing that I’ve actually been go karting before. That’s how good your analogy was. Thank you.

Leave a Reply