Julie Helen: I needed to regain confidence driving after the pandemic

Read Julie Helen's weekly WoW! column
Julie Helen: I needed to regain confidence driving after the pandemic

Julie Helen said her confidence on the roads diminished during the pandemic, but she's back on track. Picture: Stock posed by model

TODAY, I travel to Offaly and tomorrow I’ll be in Dublin. It is reminiscent of pre coronavirus times, I must say.

Am I back in the rat race? I’m not sure how happy I am about it. When did we decide that rushing around the place was the best way to go about life?

I remember last year when I took my car to Dublin for the first time in a long time, I got a big fright. I was tense in the car and I felt nervous overtaking and merging lanes.

Travelling the M50, I was terrified and I felt like a little old lady, up from the country. 

When I returned home, I was utterly exhausted and quite upset about how scared I had been driving the car.

For days afterwards, I asked David to check my driving. I felt shaky and unsure. When David sits in a car, he makes it glide. It was one of his attributes which drew me to him because I never felt travel sick with him when he took me on adventures and I’d generally feel quite nauseous with other drivers outside family.

David also drives trucks - vehicles are his business - so I would trust his assessment of how I was holding the road.

He assured me I was just out of practice of long journeys and that I was driving like I always have in the decade he’s known me. I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t convinced but I have places to go and a job to do, so sitting at home is not an option!

Today, after another trip to Dublin and a couple of trips to Kilkenny, I’m back to being confident on the road again. I am so relieved. 

Driving gives me such confidence and freedom.

I remember when I was in college and I got my first car, I felt incredible the first time I went even just as far as Ballincollig. I remember, at that time, choosing to go somewhere completely independently was a real novelty. Since then I went on to meet David and I’m full sure that our relationship would not have lasted if I wasn’t able to high-tail it to West Cork to see him in the early days.

Before long, I graduated to being trusted by him to collect small parts for the lorry. Now I’m well known as Mrs Helen and can travel and collect whatever my husband may need. Driving enables me to contribute to my family and do what needs to be done.

My recent fears around driving have taught me that I really am a creature of habit. It’s all about what I am used to. Keeping up driving and being out and about is key to how I operate.

Covid definitely had an impact on my stamina and confidence in driving, but it’s coming back quickly. 

Our habits tend to form part of our identity, but we may not realise how crucial they are until they shift a bit.

Sitting into the car may seem like such a simple thing, but it helps me to be a wife, a mother, a daughter, and a sister in ways I couldn’t be if I didn’t drive. There’s nothing like being in the car with the music on and I’m so glad I have relaxed back into it.

When I am in the car, I’m not the disabled girl, I am just another motorist rushing around with road rage, or leisurely on days off! I want to keep that independence for as long as I can because it’s part of who I am and who I’m glad to be.

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