Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Why I stopped driving.

For a decade, I drove. I drove every day as people in Michigan do. I drove the 16.2 miles between my parent's house and OU. I drove the 38.4 miles from my house to Dearborn to see Feraz. I drove 30.8 miles to my first real job in Detroit. I drove the 14.5 miles from Canton to go to my law school classes in Ann Arbor.

For years, I drove without thinking twice. There was a time in my life when gas cost $1.13 a gallon and the only way I could quiet my overly active mind was to get in my car, turn on the radio and drive in a direction which I had never gone. I was calmed by the promise that there was so much out there I hadn't seen or know of. It gave me a great sense of hope.

On February 13, 2007, I left Ann Arbor to do my nightly drive to Canton. It had been snowing but it looked like it was slowing down. What I didn't realize was that the temperature had also gone down and the roads had become sheets of ice. I was already on the freeway when I began to feel how slick the road was beneath me. I pulled into the left lane and didn't worry too much since the roads wasn't very full. I was driving slow and I noticed that there was a semi coming up on my right. The semi truck was drifting into my lane and pretty soon I realized that it was not pulling back into its lane. If I didn't speed up, it was going to smash my car into the median. I hit the gas and was able to get out just in time as the back of the semi crashed into the median and the front swung out to the right.

As the truck veered out of control, it crashed into the front of my car sending it into a tailspin. Six more cars hit me head-on sending my car crashing from the median back into one car after another. I kept saying my prayers as fast as I could, pleading for God to forgive my sins and preparing myself for the angel of death. But as quickly as it started, everything went still and was quiet. I looked down at myself. I was completely fine. My car was completely destroyed, all around me were smashed up cars. I got out of my car and stood in the freezing cold waiting for the police and tow trucks. It would take them ages because the roads were so bad. I stood there in shock. They shut down the freeway. An hour later, Feraz was finally able to get to me. He took me home. I closed my eyes too afraid to look at the road. My body didn't stop shaking that whole night.

I went back to school the next day and life carried on. I went right back to driving and for the next two years, it was almost as if nothing had happened. And then one day it started. Every time I got in a car, all I could see were cars crashing into each other. Every time I got in a car, I would imagine someone hitting me head-on, I would imagine my neck snapping and it all ending. In a fifteen minute car drive, I might see this image 20 or 30 times. It is an irrational fear. It doesn't go away. I don't know if it was because of the accident. I don't know why it took so long to manifest. Not being able to control these thoughts, I became worried about my ability to be on the road. So, I stopped driving. I didn't want to hurt myself. But I especially did not want to hurt anyone else.

I can understand why I am afraid of getting in a car. But I miss the independence of driving. And I don't like being scared. So, when I made my list of goals for this year, I aimed to drive alone three times. This past week, I drove by myself for the first time this year. Without fear. I took a deep breath. I pulled the car out of the driveway and I said to myself, It is ok. And it was. Alhumduhlillah.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. (Nelson Mandela)

(Today I am grateful that nothing has to stay the same forever.)

1 comment:

  1. Oh my gosh Sumeera, how scary! So glad you are ok. Good job for taking the first steps to conquering your fear!


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