Crashing And Cruising
Sparkling white walls frame a glass coffee table. The sun is on its downward descent and I’m sitting in the heart of Knightsbridge, Central London. A glass of cool water flavoured with lime sits before me, whilst Barbara Kubicka lounges against the opposite sofa, a coloured mind-map taking up half the seat. ‘I wrote down some ideas and answers so I wouldn’t go off track,’ she smiles. Her voice, with a slight Polish lilt, is crisp and gentle.
A qualified doctor in aesthetic medicine, Barbara Kubicka is the only woman to race in the 2013 Ginetta GT5 Challenge. That’s right, she’s a doctor and a race car driver. Yet life wasn’t always all-systems-go. Born with a club foot in communist Poland, Kubicka lost her father when she was an infant. Raised by her extended family, Kubicka says academic excellence was the primary means of pleasing her mother. The intense pressure to succeed during her teenage years, combined with a pervading sense of isolation, manifested itself physically in the form of anorexia which Kubicka describes as ‘a scream for help’.
‘I wanted to control something. You feel deep inside that it’s not something you’re destined to experience, but in that moment I didn’t know what to do. There’s an element of satisfaction in controlling [but it can quickly become] an obsession.’
Yet anorexia didn’t mean a red light for this young doctor. Her frame, though petite, is healthy. So what caused the change?
A growth in confidence.
Kubicka reminisces on being the only girl in the class, then laughs at the memory of the teenage boys whose egos she crushed with perfect test scores. ‘Excelling in those subjects built up my confidence.’ Moreover, ‘I had a school teacher who was very loving and encouraging – I finally knew I wasn’t alone.’
So how does a student destined for medicine end up racing sports cars?
‘Driving gives me a sense of freedom. You can go wherever you want. Perhaps initially it was the feeling of control… but it’s different. The car is in control. With high performance sports you have to forget about everything else, nothing else exists. You are completely present – it’s a taste of heaven.’
[column-break]A taste of heaven? Where does faith come into this driven woman’s life?
Raised in a Catholic family, Kubicka spent time searching for acceptance and security in meditation, spirituality and New Age religions before she finally accepted Christianity. ‘I felt trapped in my studies and wanted a way out, so I prayed, “God give me a way out!”‘ Then she crashed in a race. She laughs at the memory, ‘I was flipped upside down and lying there I realized the only thing I needed to do was do what gives me joy. To take care of myself. I didn’t need to please everyone around me.’
Even when faced with car accidents and set backs, she says that ‘working out what I wanted to do gave me the perseverance to keep pushing on. Sometimes you don’t know why you’re doing things, but you know you need to do them. I ask, “What am I meant to learn here? What’s this about?” Instead of being defensive, I think “It’s happening for me not against me.” Happiness is a choice – we have to see our setbacks as opportunities.’ For Kubicka driving is a form of praising God, because ‘it’s about me letting go and trusting Him. When bad things happen it’s about running back to Him.’
So how do you cross that finish line when it seems so far away?
‘Choose your friends. Knowing people you can be vulnerable with gives you strength. Have a good support system, especially since as women we esteem our value based on relationships. We need them – and healthy ones at that!’
For Kubicka, perseverance is a daily choice. To choose to change. To not stop when things go wrong but to run the race to the finish line no matter how long it takes. Persevering is part of living.
Words by Justina Kehinde
Photography by Andy Herbertson