Editor’s Note: Danielle Muro is a 17-year-old junior at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy, the founder of the school’s newspaper, and now a Rivard Report intern who is writing about her experience learning to drive and earning her driver’s license. This is the second story in her series.
If life was a highway, I’d say that I am currently driving along its narrow side streets. Make that a narrow side street during 5 o’clock rush hour.
As an inner-city teen with no parental support, my progress toward achieving my goals and dreams has been a bit tortuous, with many stops and starts along the way. Obtaining my driver’s permit has proven to be no different.
Walking into the laid-back atmosphere of driver education class – an experience I discussed in my last article – my worries about the difficulty of the course immediately vanished. But that was the only the first step in the process.
For most people, the second step – obtaining a driver’s permit – is not an issue. That was the case for most of my classmates, who were able to get their permits within a week of completing the classroom portion of driver’s ed. The permit is required to get behind the wheel of a car to complete the rest of the driving course.
For me, getting the permit was a significant obstacle. The two roadblocks in my path: a lack of parental support and Texas Department of Public Safety rules regarding how long driver’s education instruction is valid.
Having a father and a mother whose rights to a driver’s license have been revoked is not helpful when it comes to obtaining a learner’s permit. Here I was, stuck with a green paper that certified my completion of a driver’s ed course. With neither parent willing or available to sign the papers to get my learner’s permit, that paper seemed useless. Where did it get me?
I was facing a ticking clock, a time limit that started the moment I attended my first class at driving school. Students are given six months to complete their driving course. Any instruction after that time period has to be paid for again. That would cost $365, about the same amount of money I would make in a whole month working my job at Casa Rio on the River Walk. In order to complete the full driving course, I need to get at least 14 hours of instruction behind the wheel, plus additional hours on my own time.
The weeks turned into months, and I still had not gotten my permit. Spurred by that ticking clock, I sought out a way to obtain my learner’s permit without the involvement of my parents. I turned to a family friend for help, and I am happy to say that I am now certified to drive a vehicle with a licensed adult at least 21 years of age, according to Texas Department of Public Safety regulations.
Even though I have gotten my permit, that clock still ticks away. I have approximately a month and a half to complete the 14 hours of driving with an instructor and 35 hours of driving with a licensed adult. These requirements present yet another roadblock for me, being a junior at a demanding high school with rigorous coursework. And I have my job at Casa Rio.
I usually hurry straight from school and hop on a VIA bus to get to my job downtown. My work schedule is unpredictable and my academic workload is heavy, making it nearly impossible to find available dates for me to schedule driving lessons. Despite the odds, I have a will to achieve this daunting task. And where there is a will, there is a way.
In reading about the roadblocks I have encountered and the ones still in my path, you may ask: “How do you manage?” To be quite honest, sometimes I don’t.
There are days where I find myself questioning the very purpose of my busy, sometimes vexing existence, and I lose motivation. When this happens, I rely on my own determination to drive me forward. I have also been blessed with a close friend who motivates me in an invaluable way, whether it be by urging me to get through another pre-calculus lesson without nodding off in exhaustion or reminding me how significant getting an education is.
On the bus rides to work – usually spent with my head leaned against my backpack in an attempt to steal a few minutes of sleep – I wonder where I’m headed in life. Just like the VIA bus on those crowded downtown streets, I too feel stuck in a way.
I have always been reluctant to rely on others, and living with the parents of a friend of my dad’s instead of a home of my own makes me feel more dependent. But even during difficult times, I feel truly grateful to be me. No matter how discouraged or physically tired I feel, I know that I’m the master of my own fate. This knowledge has fueled my journey down the busy street of life.
Throughout the process of getting my driver’s permit, I have learned that no matter how independent you may feel you are, sometimes you need a helping hand. Help, as I have led myself to believe for much of my life, is not a sign of weakness. In fact, help should signify that you are striving to achieve something greater in life. Take that from a disadvantaged young teen who aspires to thrive in the competitive world of journalism.
What’s more, I have learned that time, being an element of the universe, is rarely on your side. It is what you make of time that makes your life. Although much time has been invested in the process of obtaining my permit and getting this article published, I can confidently say that I do not regret a single tick of the clock as it has made its rounds. Each second of this experience has facilitated my growth as a young woman.
As I continue my driving journey, I am looking forward to steering around the roadblocks I am certain I will face. That includes finding the time – and a willing licensed adult – to drive with me so that I can log my behind-the-wheel hours. It also includes simply learning how to execute a turn. (Fun fact: I once turned into someone’s backyard.)
I am eager to navigate the roads of independence as a teen, with adulthood coming up fast in the rearview mirror. I will work to get through the traffic and potholes of my current road, and I will beat the ticking clock that has defined much of my life.