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From (way) behind the wheel

And trying to find a way to control things!

By Sandra Tena ColePublished about a month ago 5 min read
Top Story - June 2024
From (way) behind the wheel
Photo by M. R. on Unsplash

Driving, ever since I was 16, or maybe even earlier, when I started talking about wanting to take driving lessons. Always driving, mostly in a hurry, often lost, sometimes with others in the car, but always driving.

Also, always driving *from the back seat*. At least until a few years ago, anyway, when I was finally in the front seat but on the wrong side, but I'll get to that in a minute!

First, at sixteen (or maybe earlier), I started having those dreams: driving, from the back seat, with my arms and legs wrapped around the front seat to reach the peddals and the wheel. I was excited to learn to drive, but my anxiety dreams seemed to disagree. I wanted to get places, to have the freedom to move around at my will and leisure, to take people with me or to help friends out when needed - but my anxiety dreams indeed seemed to differ!

At sixteen I learned to drive, as most people do in Mexico, and I was even given a car which belonged to a very dear aunt, my aunt getting an even better upgrade, and my parents happy to pay her a tidy sum for a well-loved car for their youngest daughter. But I wasn't allowed to drive it then. My anxiety dreams had got the best of me.

Most of the time, I was driving in a hurry while in very heavy traffic, usually late to catch a flight or to meet someone important (from a dear family member or a friend, to whatever celebrity was starring on my favourite movie or show). Often it was the case that I was completely lost, as well, and not sure at all how I had even got there. In the case of having company, the dream would likely start with my dad suddenly handing me the wheel as he had to jump to the passenger seat for an emergency, so I had to wrap myself around the driver's seat as I've already described. Sometimes I'd already have previously said celebrity with me and I was taking them to a film set or the airport (and on occasion I was also supposed to be acting alongside them), so the stakes were even higher because of the responsibility I'd have on my shoulders and the money that'd be lost if I didn't deliver! Celebrity guest stars included Billy Boyd on the way to the set of The Lord of the Rings; Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor in full costume ready to perform Come What May at the Oscars; various members from the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but as their character (and the times when Spike was there, an added level of difficulty was that all the windows and windscreens in the car were blacked out); Jared Leto when I got into 30 Seconds to Mars; Bette Midler as herself, and then again as Winifred Sanderson; and Sarah-Jessica Parker going to the set of Sex and the City, and then again for Hocus Pocus, both entirely as herself. Remind me to call Katy Najimi or Doug Jones, or both, to see if they want to guest star as well.

After I got my license and was able to drive as part of my normal routine, the dream kept mostly at bay for a while, only coming back every few weeks to fill me with dread and tiredness. I drove for the best part of a decade without any major incident, though, and pretty soon I realised that the issue was that my subconscious was trying to process my fear of not having control of my life, or of being forced to take control when I was clearly in no position to do so! As I navigated University life doing a BA which was clearly not my path, then an abusive relationship which left me emotionally maimed and unable to have children after two dreadful miscarriages, and later a series of alternatingly fun and hellish teaching jobs, it became clear that my dream sybolised my fear of not having control over things in my life.

Then I moved to the UK as a student and didn't have to drive anymore, and voila, the dream was gone! For about six months, anyway! When I acknowledged that my MA was an "instead of" instead of what I *really* wanted, the dream came back into my nights! But I took control, finally! I chose to move to London after my MA and try my luck - and what luck I had! I met whom would become my husband and later my creative partner, and so with things going exactly my way, the dream only dared to come to my head every few months. But it was enough to keep me from getting my license here!

Things felt to be chaningin for the better, though, and over the next few years I felt ready to try driving again - then the pandemic came! No one could have seen it coming, though, how distressed I would become again. I was more sure than ever that the dream was my fear of not having control - and how much fear got stuck in there! Even though I had worked on a lot of my anxiety issues, pretty soon the dream was par of a trio of literally constant nightmares, the other two being of such terrifying subjects so as to never be told. But long story short, I had decided to get my UK driving license, and as the tie for the test approached, voila again! I was suddenly driving from the front seat! BUT, I was in the front seat which would have been the correct one in Mexico, so I was in the wrong seat anyway! Talk about control issues!

I'm still working on said control issues, and I'm happy to report that the anxiety dream has become less and less recurring. Although, a few months ago I did have a particularly stressful version of it, in that I was driving Taylor Swift to one of her concerts for the Eras Tour - me in the wrong seat, Taylor in the right seat (but not driving, cos I was), and fellow performer and friend Becky Lawrence, who is also a major Swiftie, in the back seat (but not driving, cos I was!). Becky and myself were also set to sing with Taylor for one of the numbers. Talk about responsibility!

Given that I was just given the chance to get tickets to the Eras Tour this weekend, but I can't because I am one of the Wayward Sisters in the Scottish Play during the three dates that Taylor is on at Wembley Stadium, I think it's fair to say that the dream still means fear of not being in control of things in my life.

Sigh. I'm going to keep working on it!


Thank you for reading my piece. I tried to be humorous about a very real issue and I hope I helped you find a lighter side of things as well.

If you liked my story, a heart, comment, insight or tip would be much apprediated. Feel free to check out the rest of my Vocal stories by clicking on my profile link below.

Here's a link to Becky's YouTube.

Short StoryPsychological

About the Creator

Sandra Tena Cole

Actress, Model, Writer

Co-producer at His & Hers Theatre Company

Esoteric Practitioner


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Comments (10)

  • Andrea Corwin 25 days ago

    Oh gosh, what a mixed up dream but at least you had interesting people riding with you, right? I wrote a story about driving in German (true story) on Vocal where I couldn't find my way around. Congrats on Top Story. I hope you are having sweet dreams now.

  • Congratulations on having your story featured as a top story on Vocal! This is a remarkable achievement, and it's clear why your work has received such recognition. Your storytelling is truly exceptional. The narrative was not only compelling but also beautifully crafted, holding my attention from start to finish. The way you developed the characters and plot was masterful, making the story both engaging and thought-provoking. Your unique voice and perspective shine through, setting your work apart. It’s evident that you poured a lot of passion and effort into this piece, and it has certainly paid off. I look forward to reading more of your incredible stories in the future. Keep up the fantastic work! Best regards, Dr. Jay

  • Fly Alone28 days ago

    This piece vividly captures the author's lifelong struggle with anxiety, manifested through recurring dreams of driving from the back seat. It explores themes of control, responsibility, and personal growth, concluding with a hopeful determination to overcome these fears.

  • And congratulations on Top Story, Sandra! 🎉🎉🎉🎉

  • Uhh, I love the complex and vivid world of dreams. I feel the realities and anxieties of your life experiences, those centered around driving and control. Well-written!

  • Cheryl E Preston29 days ago

    This was a fun read at 1:44 in the morning. Thanks for sharing.

  • Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Sehrish Ghaffar29 days ago

    i enjoy reading it

  • Oneg In The Arcticabout a month ago

    I get the bus dreams instead, where the bus is always going in the wrong direction and I can't get off!! Surprisingly no driving dreams even though I do drive.

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Omgggg, I've had the same dreams too! I'd always be in the wrong seat and trying to drive. Lol, Taylor Swift. I'd have fainted from excitement. Anyway, I hope things get better for you

Sandra Tena ColeWritten by Sandra Tena Cole

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