For the past 2 months, Darren and I have been working on obtaining our UK drivers' licenses. This process has not been easy, in fact, we're still in the midst of it and feel crushed by the whole thing.
When I was 15 I took my written test at the DMV and failed. I cried. I cried because up to that point I hadn't really failed at anything. I don't mean to be obnoxious, but that's just the way things had been going for me. I did well in school, I was ok at sports, I won awards and generally was well-liked. I hadn't experienced failure and didn't know what it was like. I felt rejected by the DMV-- didn't they like me? I picked myself up, read through the little booklet and took the test again. Pass.
When I was 16 I took the driving test. It was a short 15 minute drive around a quiet neighborhood in Paso Robles. Easy stuff, but it felt like the most important test of my life. I passed. Now, 20 years later, with a clean driving record, no tickets or major accidents I am in that place again.
Here in the UK driving seems to be a BIG DEAL. Drivers here seem to be very safe, considerate and consistent. While driving here for the first time I realized how aggressive I was and it took some time to calm down. I have come to appreciate the UK system and want to be a part of it. But now, as we go through the process, the whole thing feels like a very exclusive club and it's hard getting in.
The theory and practical tests here are rigorous. I studied for hours and took several practice tests in preparation for my theory test. After much stress and study, I passed. Now I'm on to the next step, the practical test, 45 minutes in the car. I'm going to schedule a few lessons so I can get some help in understanding what they are looking for in the test.
It all looks so simple when I type it out and re-read what I've written. But the real problem lies in the culture stress that we are experiencing. For a year we've been learning about life here and easing our way into it. At the one year mark, we expected to feel like we accomplished something and year two would be easier. But here we are, faced with a driving test and the big message we are hearing is "you don't belong here, you're not one of us!" Culture stress is when your core beliefs rise to the surface and you see them in the light of your new culture. As an American, I have a deep sense of my rights. I believe that I am a good driver and I should have the right to drive anywhere I want all over the world. But in reality, my license says that I only have the right to drive in the US. I earned that right there, not here.
The other problem with culture stress is that affects your calling. It is very hard to serve and love the people that God has called you to when you are mad at their culture.
All these feelings remind me of being 16 again. A 16 year old is desperately trying to prove that they are ready for adulthood and all the responsibilities included. Its so frustrating because when I hit my thirties I finally felt like I had made it to adulthood and the struggle was over. But now, here I am in a foreign country, trying to earn my driver's license and feeling 16 again.
The good news is that this is just a speed bump on our journey through life in the UK (bad pun intended). We will get through this, we will pass our tests, we will drive again. Until then we struggle with stress. Its really no bother not driving, everything we need is within walking distance and public transportation is great. The struggle lies in dealing with the stress gracefully and to that end we pray and ask that God would use this to refine our character into something that pleases Him.
I look forward to writing again and letting you all know when we pass!