Well I’m back and starting to make a name for myself here at the Shepparton News.
I have a cow mug on my desk, family photos, a toy Peter Rabbit —which seems to be an office favourite — along with inspirational pictures of a new car and a holiday to Ayers Rock.
My first three weeks have not come without challenges.
I have driven a total of three different cars in this time period with my trusty Holden Cruze blowing a tyre on the way into work last Sunday morning.
Swapping for my partner Dave’s Triton ute, it being a manual had issues all on its own.
Retreating a few years, I started university in Wagga Wagga without a licence and being a homesick sook I was keen to get it as soon as possible.
Therefore, unlike my sisters before me, I opted for an automatic licence instead of a manual.
I couldn’t be happier driving the car I called ‘Nana’ around, feeling comfortable and safe in all situations.
However, it was the snide comments from peers — like ‘I drive a real car, I drive a manual’ or ‘I have a real licence’ — that I found uncomfortable.
I didn’t grow up on the farm like my cousins or father did so I hadn’t been driving since I could walk, as some would put it.
Driving actually really scared me. And I found it stressful to learn.
But I was happy enough in my automatic ‘Nana’ car for the time being and this is where I stayed for several years.
My move to Numurkah in 2014 and the use of wide open paddocks is what pushed my confidence to give manual driving another go.
Having my full licence by this time meant I didn’t have to be embarrassed by those lovely yellow ‘L’ plates and could just get used to the feel of things.
For a while I would only go for manual drives when my partner was present because I was still getting used to the gears, however, I felt that if an emergency occurred then I would be confident to drive the get-away car.
As time went on this happened quite a few times, with my car getting trapped in the carport at home because the power was out and the automatic door was inactive.
Or the time I broke the all-wheel drive connection in my car twice in a space of two months, or the battery went flat from playing music while I washed my beast.
Yes Dave’s ute has saved me quite a few times. And that is all I’ve ever wanted.
By all means I prefer my automatic, but to be comfortable and happy to drive a manual when I need to provides a bit of extra security.
I don’t feel that I am not a ‘real’ driver because I only got my automatic licence.
I feel that I made the right decision for me at the time and have allowed myself the space to learn and drive a manual in a stress-free environment.
I know a lot of people will disagree with me, but in today’s society, there is a lot more traffic on the roads and a lot more rules and regulations that we need to adhere to.
For all those with 17-year-old children about to go for their licence, ask them what they’re more comfortable with.
They can always learn later like me.
Madeleine Caccianiga is a journalist at The News.