4 Life Lessons I Learned From My First Car!
One car door closes and another one opens. It was 1977 and my grandfather passed away just as I was getting my driver’s license. I needed a car and now there was one available. My parents, in the midst of a divorce both agreed that my grandfather’s 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger should be mine but my mother insisted that I purchase the car at Blue Book value from my grandfather’s estate.
Lesson #1: Saving money makes sense at any age. Independence is empowering. Even at 17, my bank account contained a large percentage of my babysitting money and money earned from my after school job. My grandparents always told me to “save for a rainy day” to put aside money for when you unexpectedly needed it. This car and this moment were exactly that. Purchasing my own used car at such a young age taught me the value of that money. It felt exhilarating because I had earned the $800 that was required for the purchase and in an instant, this event made me, as a teenager, responsible and independent.
This car was anything but cool, but I still felt cool because I was just happy to have something to drive and to get me where I was going. My 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger had manual roll down windows, only an AM radio station and NO AIR CONDITIONING. Yet, I was in love! I immediately switched jobs to one that was 15-minutes away by car teaching me a few things about the power of choice.
Lesson #2: Choices are what life is about. I now had wheels so I was no longer beholden to have after school jobs that were close to home. I could choose to try something else and to take action where I could not before. Our choices are inter-related. I chose to purchase the car, which led to a choice for a better after school job, which led to earning more money. Choices link us to our story.
My 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger then took me to The University of Maryland. Everything I owned in life mysteriously fit inside that small car. It had the power to transport me from one chapter of my life as a high school student in Fort Lee, N.J. into a new chapter and state in my life as a college student in Maryland.
Lesson #3: On the road of life, there are many defining moments. I remember packing that car up for school like it was yesterday. It was a symbolic, and empowering, and mature moment. Neither of my parents packed up their luxury cars and ventured to Bed Bath & Beyond to buy me dorm supplies and spend a day moving me into my new home at college. Why? It was not as much of a family event in the late 70’s…we were all far more independent then our children are today. Bed Bath & Beyond had not even been invented yet AND truth be known, I did not have all that much stuff! My move to my college life was mine alone. I owned it, as I do many independent and determined choices I make each and every day…and it all started with that August day. My partner? My 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger!
We had a bittersweet relationship my Dodge and I. Things were not always good between us. About mid-way through college my Dodge Dart Swinger stopped swinging so much! In fact, it was a gamble almost daily if my once reliable form of transport would now even start. She had carburetor problems that no mechanic between Maryland and N.J. could properly solve. I put myself through much of my college experience which often meant working 35 hours a week and taking a full class load of 15-16 credits a semester. It was not an easy existence, but one that Randi-of-a-certain-age is now quite proud of. That hard work, and that particular car, shaped who I am today. I would exit work and never know for sure if my beloved car would be taking me home. Uncertainty makes you creative and grateful all in one! When things got really bad with this car during senior year, I would do something that will absolutely make you laugh. I would be traveling home on a break between Maryland and Northern N.J. and I would stop at a rest stop and leave the car RUNNING while I went in to get something to eat or use the bathroom. I had an extra set of keys and I would leave her purring outside and locked up (because for sure I did not want anyone to steal her!) Truth.
Lesson #4: Endurance. Tenacity. The ability to work with what you have…even if what you have is not perfect and not what you want it to be…is something that my 1972 Dodge very much taught me! I needed this car to last as long as possible. As a student or a newly minted executive, I did not have the means to get a better one. I needed to be creative and leave that car running at a rest stop! I needed to believe that I was somehow going to get where I was going, and I needed to trust in myself that I was going to be resilient and make that happen. Guess what? I did just that. Today…decades later it is that same creativity, endurance, commitment, and consistency rooted in my Dodge Dart Swinger days that continue to be my personal compass and road map. These are the very things that make me a good business owner, a strong coach, and a leader in my own life. They keep me grateful, and humble, and appreciative.
Just as an aside. Once my 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger was finally carted away to the junk heap post graduation, I vowed that I would never have undependable transport again. To this day, the cars that keep me company provide me with an entirely different level of service. I am a happy Lexus driver at the moment…and yet…as much as I love and appreciate that car…it will probably never, ever, teach me anything about life!
A DIY (Do It Yourself) Hack:
I am curious? What was your 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger?
It may also have been a car, or maybe a relationship, or a place, or a specific job, or a time period of your life. Whatever your Dodge Dart was, it helped to shape you. It set the “wheels in motion” toward you becoming YOU! Do you remember? If so, embrace that today! Defining moments are not always visible to us when they are happening…and often show up years and even decades later to inspire and guide us. I will admit that it had been a long time since I gave much thought to my 6-year adventure with this car so very long ago. Last week I attended a conference in NYC and one of the speakers asked us if anyone had a defining moment that would make a great topic to speak about? I often use personal references from my life in my workshops and lectures, but I was really searching my soul for something from the past, yet new, that I had not tapped into yet. Then she mentioned her first car. BINGO! I remembered mine!
Reminiscing about those early years with my first car took me full circle on so many current personal agendas.If not for that car I would have stayed in suburban Maryland or ventured out West to California post graduation. I knew that my Swinger would never have made it, so instead I choose after college to come back home to NYC where a car would not be a necessity. A decision that influenced and continues to influence my immediate world.
The tool set that we each bring to the table of life is literally littered and sprinkled with the good, the bad, and the powerful defining moments in our lives. We don’t and cannot remember everything or how it shaped us, but some things stand out. For me, connecting back to that point in time really reinforced my own growth and my boundless drive. That car held the keys to future me and all that I have become!
What can your individual defining moments…your 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger do for you? Can your defining moments reinforce your courage? Can they instill and connect you to your truest self? Do they validate and support you in celebrating your value and your connection to your inner voice? If so, where can that motivate you to take forward action based on past success?
Cheers to change!