Behind the wheel

Students share their first memories driving


Photo by Kripa Mayureshwar

Kripa Mayureshwar and Irene Tang

On a cold, cloudy morning in early November, senior Kushagra Srivastava pulled into the parking lot of Philz Coffee. Blanketed under a layer of clouds, the roads were mostly empty, and Srivastava was able to drive in solitude for the first time after getting his driver’s license. Though he enjoyed the independence and freedom, Srivastava recalls the nervousness he felt while driving by himself. 

“When you drive with a parent or with someone next to you, you [are with] someone who’s driven for many years,” Srivastava said. “But when you’re driving on your own, for a moment you realize, ‘Damn, I’m in charge of the wheel and I have to make the decisions.’”

Srivastava recalls fond memories of his older brother driving him to and from school every day for years when he was younger. One of his biggest motivations for learning how to drive was the desire to be able to drive his brother around and take him to get coffee, the way he did for Srivastava. While Srivastava has had his license for over a year now, he remembers that the first time he sat behind the wheel, he didn’t “feel confident in even just turning the wheel,” and would slide his seat so far forward toward the dashboard that his knees were “basically touching it.” 

Junior Grace Wang, who got her permit the summer before her sophomore year, says that her motivation for getting her permit and license early were a combination of her own craving of independence and her parents’ desire for her to be able to drive her younger siblings around. When first learning to drive, Wang cites that she also felt unnecessary nervousness, but more due to her driving instructor overcomplicating the mechanics of driving. 

“I felt like I was going fast but low-key I wasn’t, and [my instructor] made turning and everything seem super complicated,” Wang said. “But now that I think about it, it’s not even that hard.”

One of senior Rojel Acot’s biggest challenges when he began learning how to drive was turning — he says turning required a lot of skill due to the size of the minivan he drove. He cited feeling nervous that he was going to “crash the car,” but his worries were alleviated with practice.

“I under turned and I would have gone straight into a pillar,” Acot said. “[Driving] in a parking lot was very stressful because I kept moving the steering wheel up and down.”

Photo by Kripa Mayureshwar

One of Srivastava’s biggest challenges while driving was also learning how to turn, due to a lack of confidence. His initial nervousness often made him hesitate when driving, hindering his ability to make quick decisions such as when and how to turn. 

Wang doesn’t recall feeling much nervousness when driving alone with her license for the first time. Her parents didn’t speak much when driving with her, making it “like the same thing as driving alone.” However, the pressure of being responsible for a vehicle and the people in it was much heavier.

Acot addresses similar concerns, claiming that the freedom and independence that come with being able to drive — his motivation to get his license — can also be daunting due to the risk and responsibilities that come with it.

“[When I drove by myself for the first time], I was a little bit more nervous because I didn’t have anyone next to me,” Acot said. “And if something bad happened, I wouldn’t really have anyone else to rely on.”

Despite the challenges they faced while learning how to drive, Acot, Srivastava and Wang all describe driving to be fun and freeing due to the independence that comes with it.

“Driving allows me to feel liberated,” Srivastava said. “I think that’s the best way to describe driving. A lot of people use metaphors like driving is an escape from reality. And until I started driving, I never really understood it. But when you start driving, your car is your own bubble. It’s a way to exit that world and go to a completely new world where you might not have to worry about problems.”