I bought my dream car last week. The kind of car you give yourself permission to buy when you no longer tell yourself you have to be practical or realistic or whatever other stories I used to tell myself.
I never counted on it being such a huge lesson in patience, determination, forgiveness, and self-love.
That’s because I never counted on buying a manual. But as it turns out metallic blue, convertible Mini Coopers with my exact specifications AND with an automatic transmission are pretty rare. I know. I searched nationwide for what I wanted. We almost hopped planes to AZ, NJ, and southern FL to bring one home. But again and again the deets kept coming up bad – bad dealerships, bad CarFaxes, bad vibes man.
So when one popped up in our neighborhood that was a manual, I figured we could at least go look at it and give it a test drive. I told myself I wouldn’t settle for a manual. I want what I want and I was cool waiting until I found it. I’m past that point in my life where I give in too easily or tell myself I’m not worth it.
But she was so pretty, and she had what I wanted, and she was RIGHT THERE WITHIN REACH.
And so I changed my mind. Because that what you can do instead of “settling”. You can just change course.
I reminded myself that I do, in fact, know how to drive a manual; I’m just a little rusty, is all. Plus, this has always been one of those Bucket Lists things I’ve wanted to master. And I reminded myself that I am a strong, confident, 21st century woman, and so how hard can it really be?
That was T minus 48 hours before I found myself devastated and stranded in a parking lot.
I have never experienced so much stress and tension in my body as I did those first few days of re-learning a manual. I’ve never felt anxiety until I came up to a red light or stop sign after I’d only just got it into second gear. I’ve never felt so much pressure as when I stalled 12 times in the first hour with a pile of cars behind me. I’ve never felt my ego so bruised as that day when I decided, “I’ve got this. If every other woman I know can handle this, I can totally get to the post office by myself. Because again, how hard can it fucking be?”
It took me 10 steering-wheel-clenching minutes just trying to pull out of my neighborhood. Another 10 minutes to make a drive that should’ve taken 2. Then another 2 minutes trying to figure out why I can’t reverse out of the parking spot without stalling (hello, emergency brake). Another 3 minutes cursing the fact that every place of business in this town seems to be inside a bowl, and stopping on hills is a curse given to us by the Manual Car Gods.
And then on my way home, thanks to the adrenaline and anxiety coursing through my veins at this point, I panicked before I hit the next red light, pulled into the closest parking lot (which thankfully happened to be the mall), and sunk into a pit of despair.
I waited an hour for Justin to come get me.
He sat beside me, quietly and in full presence (because I has already warned him against anything else) and then softly suggested we pull around to the back of the parking lot and practice again.
Now let me just say…there is this place inside you, when you’re feeling like you’ve bashed your head against a wall one too many times, where you don’t see the purpose of one more brain-rattling bang. It’s called hopelessness, and as melodramatic as it sounds, I was swimming in that place.
It wasn’t about the car, so much as the story I told myself about the car. About my Self. About what I thought I was capable of, versus what I’m actually capable of. About what it made me if I couldn’t get this down: Weak. Small. And countless other layers without words.
I know, I know…melodramatic.
But the thing is Life gives us a million small experiences to feel big, terrifying, overwhelming, or soul-crushing things. It’s never, ever, ever the experience itself that’s too big or too much. Each challenge is ultimately pretty small when held up against the trajectory of the Universe (or held up against our highest and healthiest Self). It’s always our perception, our thoughts and emotions that get stirred by these small things that truly shakes us up. That’s how a car that can almost fit in my closet could crush my spirit in ways I couldn’t fathom.
Because it wasn’t the car. It was what the car represented. My “Dream Car”. A reflection of myself. A deliberate decision to own my own personality. My ego. And the deep, dark story of that Ego that came pressing down on me when it had something to teach me: a lesson in humility, in confidence under pressure, in imperfection, in embarrassment, and the willingness to try again. Lessons that are never really over.
So, I sat in the parking lot that afternoon with Justin, deliberating my decisions.
I could sell that damn thing…
Or I could make the choice to not allow the story in my head oppress me, own me, keep me small. I could instead choose to take action, take a risk, and take back my own confidence.
So despite my feeling small and stupid, I began again.
It’s been a week now. I’ve only stalled once since that parking lot and although my chiropractor is gonna love our business from all the whiplash I’ve given my guys, and despite the fact that Zeb calls it a Decepticon (i.e. it’s a Transformer, but one that keeps trying to kill us every time I drive), I’m getting the hang of it.
And my own confidence is coming back. But in very different ways.
I was reading this fascinating article called The Confidence Gap, where it talked about the risks men are willing to take while women statistically hold themselves back by their own need for perfection and approval (coupled with maddening levels of self-doubt). And the thing that stood out to me was the discussion on the willingness to try and fail and try again leading to the resiliency of failure or rejection.
As I woman, I know I fear rejection…even from the strangers giving me the bird as I sputter through the intersection. I know I overthink things, imagine every scenario, and run through the steps again and again in my head. In fact, while I won’t say I fear failure per say, I do fear what failure might “say about me”. And I know the limitations these fears can create.
But I also know that when I’m awake to it, Life is always giving me opportunities to examine these unhelpful habits and refine them into something else. And maybe this is why I never felt like I “settled” for a manual I was adamant against having. Because Life brought me to it, not by accident. Not because it is necessarily fun yet, but because before it can be fun I have to master the obstacle keeping me from enjoying it – my own thoughts and the willingness to take a risk, screw up royally, and flick it off again, in order to find the resiliency and deeper sense of trust for myself.
(And as a bonus, when I master this thing, I’m gonna look pretty badass rolling in my Mini.)