It was a horrible day.

It was terrifying. It was embarrassing. It was humiliating on so many levels. It was probably the worst day of my life.

I spent the bulk of that day crying. My tears alternating between heaving sobs into my pillow and silent twin trails down my cheeks and onto the pages of my book.

I wrapped myself in my quilt, tucked my back into the safe nook where my bed was shoved into the corner of my bedroom walls, and refused to speak. To anyone. My mother tried. My father tried. Even my rebel big brother tried. I just sniffed my leaking nose, blinked my seeping eyes, and stared at them with blank eyes.

I was seventeen. And I’d just failed my driver’s road test.

It doesn’t seem like a huge deal. Fifty percent of drivers fail on the first try. But I wasn’t supposed to be one of those fifty percent. I was a perfectionist. I was a straight-A student. I was a model child. I was the little sister who was finally doing something all three of her brothers had done as soon as they turned sixteen and could legally drive. I was supposed to show them up, make them proud, and win their respect. I was supposed to pass on the first try with a perfect score.

But, no. I didn’t.

And when the examiner told me to “turn here; you’re done” before we’d even gotten halfway through, my stomach dropped. When I parked in the lot outside the registry office and my dad AND my rebel big brother–who I wanted so badly to impress, so badly to make like me–walked out, the tears started.

He had come to surprise me. My big brother, who for a few years had scared the crap out of me but was finally taking notice of little ol’ me and trying to actually know me, showed up at my driver’s exam to congratulate me. But there was nothing to celebrate. I failed. I didn’t yield to the driver on the right at an uncontrolled intersection. Never mind that as I eased my nervous foot onto the brake he waved me through. I was supposed to stop. So I failed. Automatically. Failed the test, and failed at impressing my big brother and earning his respect.

At least, that’s what it felt like at the time.

As soon as my dad parked his car in the garage, I sprinted up the stairs to my room and closed the door.

I snatched my favourite book off the shelf.

I wasn’t used to failing. I wasn’t used to seeing disappointment reflected back at me. I wasn’t used to feeling that twisting of self-disappointment deep in my chest.

So I retreated to the safest place I could think of. Novels. Fiction. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It was sweet. It was romantic. It was historical. It was emotional.

It was what I needed at that moment.

I needed to escape.

I needed to escape my own feelings. I needed to process them but not dwell on them. I did not need to talk about them. I needed to feel something else.

So I read about a little girl who learns her mother is her father’s woman-on-the-side and that she’ll never get to live at his big house with him. I read about how that little girl ended up being sold by a well-meaning but stupid drunk to a brothel when she was just a child. I read about how that girl hardened herself to her fate. And how she endured so much abuse that she was nearly beaten to death. I read how a sweet, kind, gentle man felt drawn to her when he watched her walk down a street. So drawn that he rescued her from that brothel and made her his wife. I read about how she couldn’t understand how anyone could love her. How she struggled with her self worth. Struggled so much that she left him because she felt she wasn’t worthy of him. And I read how she, ever so slowly, learned her value and his. And how she went back to him. And how they lived happily ever after.

I cried for 464 pages.

And I was cried out.

I tried for my driver’s license again a few weeks later and passed just fine.

What books have helped you escape life’s emotional tolls?

  1. I can’t say I can pinpoint a specific story like yours where a book helped me get through, but I certainly have my stack of comfort books (they’re on the bookshelf in my bedroom, as opposed to the big wall shelves in the rec room). All of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen, for one. But even more, I have comfort movies: Austen again, live-action fairy tales (Enchanted, Penelope, Star Dust…), My Big Fat Greek Wedding, etc.
    Oh, and I failed my first driver’s test too. And was the first in my family to do so; all three of my siblings passed on the first go. So what happened to your relationship with your brother?

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Angelika! My brother and I better friends now than we were. We’ve both matured. Sadly, he lived in the UK now, so I rarely see him. But he did fly home to Canada for my wedding and will be doing the same later this year for our other brother’s wedding. 🙂

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