This I Believe

Jennufer - Orem, Utah
Entered on May 23, 2007

The Better to Drive With

It was the worst thing that could have happened as my first bad driving experience. I was going to work, riding my little red jeep around 75 mph on a busy freeway. Some song was attacking the radio and I was trying to decide when would be the safest opportunity to take another bite of the sandwich in my lap. Suddenly, without warning, my front left tire fell off.

I have come to notice that sometimes, in my life, something happens which is the emotional or mental equivalent to a tire falling off. It tends to happens without much warning and without my control. It feels very much like a crisis. In the moment, I don’t know how I’m ever going to survive it. Needless to say, I believe in having all four tires.

When I was a child, I lived in Littleton, Colorado, just a few blocks away from Columbine High School. The tragedy which struck there rocked the neighborhood. Some part of me was traumatized by the event. Years later, as a teenager, I lost the tire who’s lug-nuts had been loosened by that awful event. A man came into the mall where my father’s restaurant is and opened fire. The metaphorical tire fell off and I was jerked sharply back to the haunts of the Columbine shooting.

Just as when my literal tire fell off, this unforseen event caused my newly crippled self to grind and scrape along the road in a flurry of sparks. I began to be afraid everywhere I went. I felt that at any moment, someone could pull a gun out and resurrect the scene.

When I got into the literal accident, I began pulling over to the shoulder immediately after I noticed the tire was gone. I tried to brake and stop the car. I did not anticipate the feeling of my stomach dropping when my foot hit the floor without any resistance. My breaks were gone! The car wasn’t going to stop.

After the shooting, after the initial fear, came the panic. I tried to go to school but when I started to walk in my head swam; I’d feel dizzy and would be nearly paralyzed with fear. School was dangerous. That’s where people died, I was not safe there.

Unlike my fear about school, when my car breaks were gone I didn’t panic. There was a sinking dread but adrenaline slowed time and I was clearly able to see what I had to do. I shifted into fourth, then third. The engine thundered in protest but eventually slowed itself down. I had to force it into second, but after the animalistic roar had its say, the miles-per-hour fell off and first gear stopped the car.

After several days of being unable to attend school because of panic attacks induced from the massacre at the mall, I decided to seek help. I went to see a counselor. It was difficult at first to talk through the fear and hurt, but eventually the feeling of lost control began to fade away. I started to see how I would feel better again. And I did. The fear is gone now, although sometimes moments of nervousness do come. I’ve fixed the metaphorical car that is me; I have everything I need to in order resume life.

I still believe in having all four tires. But most of all, I believe in staying calm- in doing what must be done to correct a situation one step at a time. I believe panic is not an option. Loss of control is only in my mind. I can be my own master even in the face of fear. I do have what it takes. I am- I must always be- at a place with myself where I can deal with only three tires and no break.