I remember when I passed my P’s, I think I had just turned 19, I felt a sense of relief that I had somehow squeaked through and almost immediately on its heels, a wave of dread when I realised I was now going to be expected to drive, in a car, on my own.

The first drive I took on my own I played Michael Jackson in the after-market CD player Dad and I (98% Dad) had installed to stay chill and upbeat. This was only a five minute drive from home to Uni and every second felt like a heartbeat away from a crash and an explosion and everything catching fire.

I did manage to make it in one piece and then had zero idea how to go about finding a park and ended up parking right on a yellow line in a fairly obviously not good parking location. As I got out of the car wondering why there was such a prime space unoccupied, a passing student looked at me quizzically and noted that the yellow line means you can’t park there. Of course, I knew that. I sheepishly got back in the car and waited until they had passed out of my vision and found another park. I vividly remember this maiden voyage in my little car and how breathless it made me.

From then on, I became addicted to the independence. The freedom to get in my car, whenever I wanted and just drive. Go anywhere at all. I loved, still do, driving at night. It’s peaceful, cathartic. Jumping in my car brought me so much joy. I had freedom, my jams and I felt limitless. Getting my license changed everything. My social life, my confidence, my job prospects and I was suddenly useful to my family. It was almost like going from black and white to colour in terms of how much it opened up my life.

I am sure I am not the only one who has some version of this story.

Back to present me, 35, and simultaneously feeling young enough to still dream of a professional sports career and old enough to be thankful for the support rail in my shower, the feeling has…changed.

The world has changed too. To 19 year old me, global warming was something that I had heard about in episodes of Captain Planet as a kid and some nebulous Greenie talking point because they had to talk about something. It wasn’t on my radar in the slightest.

35 again, climate change (global warming wasn’t as encompassing as it needed to be and so the term has evolved since the early 2000s) is constantly on my radar and colours a majority of my thoughts and actions. There is an emotional climate change tax I uncontrollably charge myself every time I do something.

I feel guilty whenever I drive anywhere. I feel guilty when I fill up on petrol, leave a light on by accident, leave a light on deliberately, use a heater, use a full flush when a half flush would do, relax in the shower, buy something in plastic, order food delivery, am stuck in traffic, turn the car on and leave it running while I type a message before I drive, catch a plane, buy a product from a known mega polluter and so many more.

I feel a sense of dread whenever I read a news article on how abysmally short of arresting a catastrophe we are. Tipping points, points of no return are basically locked in now. Severe climate change is unavoidable but we are told by desperate scientists that every fraction of a degree in avoided temperature rise is so crucial and still we hurtle along in the wrong direction.

With the knowledge of what’s happening, it makes it uncomfortable, anxious and at times shameful to exist within my own life. I often feel like a hypocrite being so adamant about the need for change and still driving everywhere and living mostly as I did when I was 19. I eat so much less meat, I buy a lot less stuff and I try to be conscious of what waste I create. I get lazy with it and miss the mark on the standards I preach quite often.

19 year old me felt no guilt, only joy, upon sitting in the car and turning the key to go for a drive. 35 year old me tries, and fails mostly, to justify why it is necessary to drive this time and there wasn’t another feasible option.

And here’s the thing. I could do more. Undeniably. However there are a couple of factors that stop me. First is that I’m inherently lazy and making more sustainable choices, at this stage, requires extra effort. Often a do not pass go factor for me. The next is that it’s a sacrifice. More sustainable choices, at this stage, often require a sacrifice – mostly of time, your most precious resource.

Finally there’s the classic tale of whataboutism. Why must I sacrifice my time and effort for this to make such a negligible difference when the main culprits continue to charge ahead in the wrong direction, gaslight individuals and their communities, rake in profits and on top of all that demand even more ludicrous subsidies many craven governments continue to pile on them?

I don’t think 19 year old me had much figured out. I don’t think 35 year old me has moved the needle appreciably on that either. I think fresh faced, newly minted P plate owning 19 year old me perhaps had more capacity to recklessly enjoy their life. 35 year old me is much more equipped to appreciate life, but entirely consumed with the things I appreciate disappearing in fires and floods.

I want to strike a balance somewhere in the middle. I want to feel OK enjoying life again, but still be aware and active about moving to a carbon free future. I can be aware without emotionally burdening myself with guilt and shame for living in the world that I exist in. I can be proud of progressive actions that I take. I can be sad about the soulless capacity for wanton destruction that major corporations steadfastly refuse to budge on and also accept that driving and the independence it gives can be part of a fulfilling existence.

My very existence will create carbon emissions and contribute, even on the teeniest scale, to the earth heating up. I cannot avoid that no matter what I do. However I can learn to be content, if not proud, that I am, along with many others, pushing in the right direction. My choices are better for the planet than they were when I was 19. They’re better than when I was 34.

One of my favourite quotes, and I overuse it, comes from not-stand-up guy and former NFL coach Jon Gruden: “You can’t go broke taking a profit.” For all his sins, I admire the wisdom of this advice. His context was that it’s better to advance a football down the field 1 yard and live to fight another day than to try and reach for something that’s not there and end up losing yards and going backwards.

My context is it’s better to do what I can reasonably adopt into my life as I go and be OK with my effort rather than become consumed by being unable fix everything and end up living in a way that is more harmful than helpful.

Maybe your context is that it’s better to give yourself encouragement for attending the gym two times in a month or attempting your workout and only getting part of the way through it rather than giving into the feeling of being a failure or letting yourself down again and sapping your motivation and ultimately turning an effort into something that derails you. There’s your token gym wisdom for this blog.

I need to learn to be comfortable taking a profit and not worrying that it’s smaller than I’d like, rather than reacting badly and turning a small profit into a loss. I have to stop sending myself broke. 19 year old me knew how to rejoice in any profit. 35 year old me needs to tune into some Billie Jean and go for a drive…

…a necessary one…

…to the shop…I’m working on it OK?