I am taking my driver’s licence today. I am nervous – nearly paralysed with anxiety. It’s 08:01 right now and I am waiting for 9.00 so that my driving instructor can take me to the dreaded testing grounds. A I wait I think of all the events that led up to this moment.

Learning to drive will be difficult, I had told myself. A mistake on the road could have fatal consequences. I remember my first drivers lesson.

It was a warm September day and my mother was driving me to the driving school. She was excited that I final paid to go and get driving lessons and that the first one was starting that day. As she lectured me on the importance for a young independent woman to drive, her words began to blur along with the rest of reality. I began to imagine myself as a fully grown working woman and driving was the first step to accomplishing this.

It’s 08:09 now. I have failed my driver’s test once before. I was so tense that I had to remind myself to breath every now and then. I also needed to remember all the things I had been taught.

At my first lesson my driving instructor introduced himself.

“Igama lami uAndile,” he smiled at me.

We began the lessons by doing the car check. We were just behind campus and the roads were quiet and empty but the silence only made me more nervous. We did the car check twice as well as the inside inspection.

08:20. Why is time going so slow? I think to myself.

I wonder how well I’ll remember the car inspections when I have to…In the first driving lesson we checked the engine oil, fan belt, water and the brake fluid. The boot keeps a spare tyre, wheel spanner, jack and emergency triangle. I have to remember these things, what about the gears?

In the ten minutes that followed that first inspection, Andile explained how the gears worked. They follow in sequence as the speed increases. I have to use the clutch to activate each gear. He made me change gears while the car was still off. I hated this drill, he was very adamant that he wanted me to activate this gear in three moves.

“One! ” Clutch, click, click…
“Two!” Clutch, click, click…
“Three!” Clutch, click, click…
“Four!” Clutch, click, click…
“Three!” Clutch, click, click…
“Two!” Clutch, click, click…
“One!” Clutch. click, click…

We did this over and over until he decided I was ready for the road.

I turned on the car, did my 5-point check – clutch, gear one, 3-point check, balance the clutch, release the handbrake and the car moved.

I was slow and some woman behind me swore at me because I must have taken too much time at the stop street. The more circles we took, the more liberated I felt. Mom was right, this felt like independence being brought to life.

It’s 08:35 now. At least I’m confident about my parking skills. It was my alley docking that failed me last year when I hit the pole, I was not ready then. I knew it inside, I am worried about the steep hill start now.

“Balance sisi, balance!” my dad had good intentions but he got heated when I was not doing things his way. He taught me how to start the car on an incline and I was getting frustrated. He let out a long sigh and shook his head in disappointment.

“Gear number 1,” he said. “Balance, accelerate, buka i-speedometer.”

I did that.

“Once it gets to two yehlisa i-handbrake!”

I did that.

I did everything he said and still the car either rolled or stalled. He gave me one more chance, we both breathed. I hoped and exhaled anxiety and frustration.

I did it! I had successfully started the car on an incline.

It’s 12:00 now. The field test went perfectly and although I made some mistakes, my road test was fine too. I remembered everything during my test. I finally did it, I am finally a licensed driver!