The uphill drive

For some reason, I often used to dream about driving. Specifically, about driving a stick shift. And even though nowadays you can order an automatic transmission on just about any car, those constant dreams were like subliminal messages. They convinced me that it was important to know how to drive a manual.

When I was sixteen, my dad promised that he would teach me both stick and automatic. When I was seventeen, I still didn’t know either one. Tired of being the only high school senior who always needed a chauffeur, I finally enrolled myself in a driver’s ed class. Two weeks later, I at least knew how to drive an automatic.

I didn’t learn how to drive stick until my boyfriend’s mom taught me on an old Jeep Wrangler last year. I quickly grasped the concepts—use the clutch to shift gears, don’t stall out, avoid steep hills—but the actual doing was much more difficult. I managed to drive several miles and get up to about 50 mph, but I also stalled out and slid downhill a bit, scaring the car behind me.

But regardless of those difficulties, I fulfilled my dream. I now possess the skill to drive a stick shift. All that’s left is practice.

Writing, my other big dream, is the same way. Since age 9, I’ve known that I want to be a novelist. So I worked hard in school, got a degree in creative writing, and switched from a full-time to a part-time job in order to write more. At 23, I have the skills I need to be a writer. All that’s left is the practice.

And just like driving stick, I find myself having to constantly shift gears, not stall out, and brave the hills. Which of course is easier said than done. Every day is filled with chores and distractions—the dog, the dishes, the internet. Even when I can find time to focus, there’s that dreaded “writer’s block.” And when I do finally work my way out of a block, writing is still an uphill battle. Sure, on a good day I can knock out 1,500 words, but that still leaves roughly 78,500 more to make a novel.

Of course, most goals in life are like that. You might want to be a teacher or a lawyer, a musician or a parent, a doctor or an actor. No matter what your dream is, you will encounter distractions that force you to shift gears, moments where you stall out, and hills that seem impossible to climb. The key is to keep driving yourself forward, no matter how rough the road gets. Because anyone can learn the skills, but it’s the people with dedication and perseverance who achieve their dreams.