All these statements were said (with a rueful smile so I would know that he wasn't really mad at me), by my father nearly twenty-two years ago. He was sitting rigidly in the passenger seat of our faithful Dodge Colt, while the nearly-sixteen-year-old-version-of-me tried (usually in vain) to work the controls in the driver's seat.
The Colt had a standard transmission, and back in those early learning days, I honestly didn't think I would ever get the hang of working the clutch and gas together in harmony. I would look at my parents, older cousins, and other relatives in awe as they would drive these cars, manage to shift gears, all while seamlessly maintaining a conversation with me or whoever happened to be in the front seat with them. They didn't stall the engine, they didn't miss a stoplight, they didn't even cause the car to shake or jolt the tiny-est bit. It absolutely amazed me. I couldn't imagine how they could have the coordination to do it all at the same time, and I was positive that I would never ever be able to it.
I remember my mother telling me once that eventually it would become second nature to me, and I'd be able to shift and accelerate and brake and do all those wonderful driving things without even having to think about them. I wanted to believe her, but I honestly couldn't fathom how she could possibly be right.
As it turned out, she was. I'm proud to say that I am now able to drive a car with a standard transmission without getting a tension headache. In fact, I can take a sip of water, or talk to someone in the seat next to me, or chew gum, or sing along to the radio at the same time as I am driving the car, and it all works out just fine. (Note: I can't do all those things together at the same time as I am driving. That would definitely push me over the edge.) I can drive a stick shift, and I almost never end up in the 'borrow pit' anymore.
I think about that sometimes. I especially think about it when I'm starting something new and/or difficult, something that is waaaay outside my comfort zone, something that I'm afraid I'll never learn to do adequately, let alone well. I've thought about it as I've accepted new church callings, started new jobs, taken on new responsibilities, and entered into new stages of life.
Silly as it might seem, reflecting on the fact that I am able to drive a car with a standard transmission often gives me courage to try things that I otherwise might not have the guts to attempt.
And what's not to like about that?
*I used to think he was saying "barrel pit", and I never understood why he called it that. It's not like there were ever any barrels there.