Those who are neurotic

I got to thinking about neuroticism. I will be the first to admit it: I’m extremely neurotic. But you know what? That works for me. And it can work for you, too. Those who suffer from neurosis, me included, seem to get things done efficiently and quickly. And who wouldn’t want someone like that around? We neurotic types are also diligent when it comes to being on time and careful when it comes to danger. We are fearful of getting in trouble, so we mind our own business. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: we should all be neurotic! But in all seriousness, it’s okay to be neurotic, as long as it doesn’t take over your life. Live neurotically and happily!

The Most Elaborate of all Learning Processes

I wrote this in October 2012 for an English class at LMU. This essay is about learning how to drive a manual car… and how my father taught me.

The Most Elaborate of all Learning Processes

            There are those things that come easy; there are those things that take months, even years, to master; and then there are those things that seem unattainable to master. Yet somehow, we come to master them. For me, it was the latter in the elaborate learning process of manual cars. I struggled and struggled, but somehow, came through. Eventually, albeit. My father taught me how to drive a manual car, also known as a stick-shift, and I will never forget those months learning this intricate process.

I must first explain how to drive a manual car to those who learned quite easily on an automatic before I delve into the dynamics of my personal learning process. Driving a manual car requires precision. The driver must lift up on the clutch with his or her left foot while pressing down on the gas pedal. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. It is not. This clutch and gas momentum requires enough precision that if done incorrectly, the driver will stall. And trust me; it takes more than one lesson to really get this right. After the driver has mastered the complex momentum of letting up on the clutch and pressing down on the gas, the gears must be tackled. There are six gears: one through five, and reverse. One is used when starting the car, while five is used in high speeds; the gears in between are used to get up to the high speeds. The driver cannot go from one to five; the driver must go up to five through each gear. That is, unless the driver is ignorant of the gears.

The gears seem easy, right? Wrong again. The gears require a certain amount of flow. The driver must be able to feel where the gears are in order to go up to the correct gear. It is entirely possible to accidentally go from first gear to fourth gear if the placement is incorrect. I have done this before. It is not a good situation. For me, I freaked out the first time it happened, wincing at the obnoxious, screaming noises the car made. The noises are so terrifying that I went into panic mode, turning off the car and waiting for what seemed like hours to try again.

Once the driver knows, and masters, all of these mechanics of driving a manual car, he or she is ready to drive without extra assistance. But let me reiterate: this knowledge does not come without frustration, impatience, and fear.

My father started teaching me how to drive a manual car at age fifteen. I had just bought my learner’s permit from the incredibly slow Department of Licensing (DOL) and was eager to learn how to drive. That did not last long. Once I realized how difficult driving a manual could be my interest in driving subsided. I began to grow frustrated with the process. I was not picking it up fast enough. What was wrong with me?

I have always been one of those people who cannot pick things up quickly. I could just be a slow learner; I could just not be good at things. Learning how to ride a bike was a struggle, as was passing the test that everyone passes for soccer referee certification. Somehow, I could not do these menial tasks on the first or second try. Driving a car was no different. So I became quite frustrated.

My frustration was obvious. My father can vouch for that:

At first you were not happy having to learn two new things at once: driving and that stick shift. Also, you got very agitated whenever you stalled the car, which of course happened a lot. So I had to remind you that it was just a learning experience and that you would master the art of driving with a stick very soon.
I don’t think you believed me at the time, but since I know you can drive a car with a stick without stalling, and so I was right in the end. I also told you the boys would be impressed and was I right about that? (De Jong).

Of course he was right; it was just a learning process that I would not master instantly. But why couldn’t I have been that one person to understand it instantly? Why couldn’t I have been the exception, rather than the rule?

According to my father’s memory, my biggest obstacles were the ones most people struggle with: “The biggest obstacle was starting in first gear and stopping and then starting on a hill” (De Jong). Let me explain how difficult this is. Picture a car, parked on a hill. In an automatic, the car will roll back only slightly when starting. This is a little intimidating for new drivers, just the mere thought of hitting someone behind. But in a manual, this is a million times more dramatic. To start on a hill, the driver must use the clutch momentum, which pushes the car further back. And that is horrifying. I worried about hitting another car; I worried about rolling down the hill and not being able to go forward. Luckily, that never happened. But it could have. My frustration turned into fear.

Driving a manual car also make anyone impatient. My father dealt with my initial incompetence well. He was never harsh or rude or angry. He knew I could do it. “I knew you needed lots of practice before you became comfortable with driving in traffic and learning how to use a stick shift. Doubly hard! The most important [thing] was to make sure that you were ready to drive by yourself and by the time you were [sixteen]. I was pretty confident of your driving skills” (De Jong). I, on the other hand, was angry that I could not master this. I remember feeling so hopeless and worried that I would not have the competency to pass the driving test. My father helped me understand that all I needed was practice. I needed to fail first. I needed to stall in my elementary school’s parking lot before I could take the car to the street and immerse myself with real drivers. Now I know that. However, when I was learning how to drive a manual, this was not clear-cut. I thought I would be a failure forever.

Fear took over, leading me to believe that my driving skills, or lack thereof, would never be good enough for the road. I began to compose these intricate and negative scenarios in my mind: stalling in traffic, hitting another car because I could not get the brake/clutch momentum just right, not being able to start the car from park. This fear consumed my mind leading up to the driver’s test day. Anxiety clouded my vision. But according to my father, all I needed was confidence to pass the test. Easier said than done! Honestly, I worried that I would never be able to drive a car.

But I did learn. I eventually became more and more comfortable behind the wheel of a manual car. The first time I drove on the freeway with my father I froze, wondering how anyone ever manages to merge; but I became more confident shifting gears because I was forced to. The freeway does not offer much room for error. My confidence level skyrocketed once I tackled the dreaded freeway. And that changed everything. I learned how to drive a manual car!

My father is the sole reason that I can drive a car today. He did not give up on me when I wanted to give up on myself. He would force me to practice driving, much to my dismay. But his forced driving sessions instilled a sense of diligence and competence in me.

Besides just learning how to drive with my father, I got to bond with him a way that I never recognized back then. I actually thought he was trying to torture me by keeping his manual car for me to learn on. I argued, unsuccessfully, for him to get an automatic. But honestly? Now I am glad he did not listen to me. Driving an automatic is much easier, but we may not have bonded if I had picked it up immediately.

Our bonding began with frustration and fear, and ended with happiness and confidence. We shared my anguish and tears and cautious driving. My father agrees that it was a bonding experience: “Yes it was fun to go to Soos Creek [elementary school] and spend all that time with you. I knew that in a blink of an eye you would be [twenty-one] so I enjoyed your company while I could” (De Jong). Learning how to drive a manual car is also such an interesting experience, as not all teenagers will have the opportunity. I was lucky enough to have a thoughtful and patient father who understood my frustrations, but could also bond with me. That is certainly something I would not trade for the world.

It was my father who ultimately made the difference in making this experience worthwhile. I will not say that this learning process did not come without yelling, mostly on my part, but it did serve to show me that I can do things, and I should not give up. For that, I will be forever grateful to my father.

Learning how to drive a manual car took me almost a year to learn, and several years to master. I feel confident driving a manual now, even though I plan on buying an automatic after college. But having the ability to drive a manual is a skill I will never forget or devalue. And I have my father to thank for that.


How to be a friend

I got to thinking about friends. A friend is someone who knows all about you and likes you anyway. Plain and simple. But why does this spectacular and utterly true quote somehow not seem to fit into reality? We should whole-heartedly love those to whom we are close. We should be there for them in pain and sorrow. We mustn’t give up on them when they do something wrong. These are our real friends. We must love them with everything we have, for if we do not, we cannot be loved in return. And that would the biggest shame of all.

Not children

I got to thinking about those who treat adults like children. I must rant. Why does this happen? Why are college students being treated like children? Of course, I cannot name specifics, but it has recently come to my attention that college students are being treated like children. We do not need to be monitored so intricately. As long as we aren’t inflicting pain upon ourselves or others, we are doing the right thing. That must be understood. End of rant.


I got to thinking about hackers. This is something I feel strongly about, for I believe it is a violation that can make us question the intentions of strangers. And that, of course, is a shame; it’s a fact that shouldn’t have to be. Recently, my email was hacked. Needless to say, I was not too pleased. In fact, my overbearing, paranoid mind took over. I began to think of the worst possibilities that could ensue with an email hacking. And let’s just say I covered all ground possible. But I still have this inkling that I could be hacked again. And again. I’m terrified of that, for the repercussions could be disastrous. We can fight back… but really, how much? And at what cost? Thus, hackers have made me more paranoid than normal.


I got to thinking about balance. This kind of balance can be related to everything from eating right to finishing multiple class assignments in a timely manner. Balance, apparently, isn’t always easy for everybody. As a Libra, supposedly I’m good at juggling many things at once. Most days I do find that to be true. I like having a full plate; being busy keeps me on my toes. I must be efficient enough to balance everything. Sometimes I can become overwhelmed, but as long as I take one thing at a time, everything will be okay. So you, my reader, must remember this: balance is about finishing everything, but it’s also about taking things one step at a time. Not everything has to be done in one day. And always, always, always take time for yourself. That will make balancing everything else that much easier.

Seven short months

I got to thinking about the future. This is a touchy subject. But it must be examined and dealt with eventually. I’m a college senior about to go off into the real world. And you know what? That scares me to death. I’ve enjoyed the comfort and learning process of college. I love taking classes and perfecting my writing. But now it must change. I wish I could say that I’m ready for the real world; I’m not. Independence is great, but it’s also something that I must adapt to. No more being a kid. Am I ready for the real world? I sure I hope that answer is yes in seven short months.

This is my opinion

I got to thinking about opinions. Differing opinions can cause tension. We fight with those we love because of these differences. And sometimes, we have to state our opinions. But when should we hold back? Should we speak everything that is on our mind? Or should we bite our tongues? If we do bite our tongues, is it to spare someone else? Or is it to spare ourselves? I think offering our opinions is important, but we also must remember that biting our tongues is also necessary. An argument isn’t always worth saying exactly what we think.

Great Expectations

I got to thinking about expectations. Some of us have these great expectations not only for ourselves, but for others. And I would argue that expectations are good, but can also be defeating. I stumbled across this quote recently that sums it up: “Sometimes we expect more from others because we would be willing to do that much for them.”


This is something I’ve always had an issue with. I’ve always hoped that people will treat me with the utmost respect and loyalty, as I do the same. But that isn’t always the case. And that’s difficult for me to understand. I would be willing to do anything for those I hold dear to my heart. So why wouldn’t they do the same? It breaks my heart that they wouldn’t. And it’s something that I’m sure I will never be able to fathom or accept. Honestly, part of me wouldn’t even want to. I will always be loyal and faithful to those I love; and I’d hope that they would do the same for me. Isn’t that what we all want? So let’s go do it.


I got to thinking about manual cars. Do you know how to drive one? Most people don’t. I always find those who can to be impressive. We got to talking in one of my classes about things we can do that not everyone else can; this is one of mine. I learned how to drive with a manual car. It was a painful, frustrating, and rewarding experience. I learned in the parking lot of my elementary school alongside my dad. Stalling was my specialty during this learning process. In the beginning I just couldn’t seem to understand the flow between letting up the clutch and hitting the gas. It’s truly not something you can learn in an hour. It takes patience, practice, and skill. Learning how to drive a manual car, even though I don’t drive one anymore, was one of my most rewarding life experiences. It’s a skill I won’t ever forget. But it also allowed me to bond with my dad, as well as learn something incredibly unique. And who wouldn’t want to do that?