Queen of the Road
by Lois Search
Someone once said, "Determination is the deepest desire that puts you on the road of success." I believe that it takes more than just determination, but faith. For the longest time. I had dreamed about having my own car and being able to drive it. As a child, I had longed to feel the motions of being in the driver's seat, even while riding in the passenger's seat. Allow me to tell you the story about how I turned faith in determination.
I can remember as a child going to school on the school bus and imaging myself old enough to drive. My passion for driving continued on into my teenage years. I wanted to feel what it was like to be behind the steering wheel. I even had a deep desire to become a truck driver! In my dreams, nothing could stop me from being the "Queen of the Road." I wanted to see the world from a driver's seat at arms length.
When entering high school, I couldn't wait until I was in driver's training class. I still had high hope of being in the driver's seat. Unfortunately, things didn't work out as I had dreamed. They had a car that were specially equipped for someone with a disability, but not for someone with my type of physical limitation. The steering wheel that I couldn't wait to sit behind was too big and awkward for me to manipulate. I was told that my arms weren't long enough to turn the steering wheel a full turn and I would need to have a smaller steering wheel. It was too bad, but the money to purchase a smaller steering wheel was not in the county's budget at that time.
As time progressed, I graduated from high school and entered a local junior college. Keeping the faith, I told my father that I wanted to buy a van. I could see a bewildered look in his eyes and skeptical thoughts forming. I immediately explained that I still had plans to drive, no matter the cost was! Soon afterwards my father told me that he saw a van, but didn't know if I would like the color of it. The van was a beautiful "Colonial Yellow." Yellow is one of my most favorite colors, its bright and makes me feel bright. Others have told me the yellow van reminds them of a school bus, so naturally I said, "Let's buy it!"
After a couple of weeks of junior college, I was informed about a rehabilitation program financed by the State of California. I found out that this program was to prepare an individual with physical disabilities for the workplace. I was told to takes classes in the business field and they would help me to equip my van. This way I could be independent at a fast pace. So I entered the program not realizing what I had gotten my self into. I had hopes of returning to school and receiving a degree in social psychology. I only ended up playing in the system. During that time, I did have the chance to test drive one of the State's van that was set up for someone with a physical limitation, such as I. It even had a smaller steering wheel, a feeling that I couldn't describe. I was in the driver's seat at last and I actually moved the van on the road. Time went by and I waited to hear from them again. When would I be able to come back and drive? Finally, my rehab counselor called me and gave me the disappointing news. The state had a limited budget and was only able to help those who had been injured on the job, before someone who has not even held a full time job. There were no other options, but for me to quit this program.
In no time, I found out about a new program through Social Security. This program offered individuals with low income levels a chance to become more independent. I felt this program would help lead me towards self independence. I had to save at least $400 a month extra for three years without effecting status income. I was told that I could save up all this money and that it would be based on a contact with the Social Security office. In fact, after two years, I had a large sum of money to purchase my very own hand controls. I then took my van to a place that would install my hand controls. Time marched on and so did the agony of the final completion of my van. I was surprised that it took a year. They had to send parts back and forth to the manufacturer for measurements.
At last, the big day was here, my van was ready to hit the highway. The head engineer placed me in the driver's seat and told me to drive. I could feel my heart beating like it never had before. When I started moving I soon found out that there were cars on each side of me and I had to be extremely careful. After all, who wants to hit someone's parked car? Certainly not I! The head engineer seemed to be satisfied and told me to hit the road. Within a day I was able to find a friend willing to teach me the rules of the road and risk his own life in the passenger seat while I drove. In no time, I was told to hit the freeway. Driving became easier as time went on. The difficult part was not learning how to drive, the hardest thing was finding the ability to use muscles that I had never used before. I had to learn how to build up a tolerance to the demands of driving. I did develop a system of using gloves to keep my hands from hurting, but as far as driving for more than three hours without a break -- forget it!
Today, I have completed my B.A. degree in Human Services and I am continuing my studies in Family Mediation. I hope to receive my Master's degree in May of 1999 at age 34. I have found out that determination is not the main key that made me the "Queen of the Road," but the fact that I had faith in God and myself.
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