My Sweet 16 came with three instructions: get a job, buy a car and pay for your own insurance. When I made the transition from 15 to 16, my parents started to nag me about the typical teenage stuff, the most prominent being that I had to buy a car and insurance to 'learn responsibility'.
Initially, I was furious at the seemingly unjust notion of actually having to work for something, while others received their dream cars. But, I can't judge those people. I'm happy that their car situation worked for them and know many can relate to my predicament. But at the time, it totally sucked.
Some car-searching landed me with a $500 price tag - almost unheard of for a car. I had gotten lucky. $100 went to the previous owner, who was a family friend, and $400 went to my step-dad. The car had been sitting for years, but he was able to revive it. He made the car, which was worth only a few tanks of gas, run.
The car, which is older than I am (think almost two decades) is a silver Chevy Cavalier, which Chevrolet stopped production of in 2005. This almost always results in questions from curious gas station workers and people who park next to me. Each time that happens, I recite her details, and each time, the questioner marvels at such a durable car.
So, when I got the car 3 years ago, naturally I was indifferent. I had to worry about my windows getting stuck or my door not opening, but at least I had a car. It was frustrating, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't envy cars with air conditioning. But now, I am anything but *cavalier* about my car.
This drastic change in attitude stemmed from my senior year mentorship program, where I spent half the day at school and half the day at a workplace to learn more about the field I wanted to go into. For someone who rarely drove to school, the 53-mile minimum I now drove each day was a big change.
Two months and a slew of daily breakdowns later, after I'd finished mentorship, I found myself still driving to school - even when I didn't have to. Without realizing, the thing I had dreaded most turned into a mundane, and dare I say relaxing part of my day. The ride gave me some alone time to get to know my car and myself.
While I did figure her out, I was never able to name my car. Many people have suggested old lady names, but I haven't found one that fits right. What do you call an old lady who flies down the parkway doing 80? This is Jersey after all. Plus, she almost feels too unique for a name that I can come up with.
Her unnamed self has a unique personality to match. We altered the seat so that I can sit comfortably and see the road, as I am extremely short. The awesome radio (have I mentioned it's Bluetooth? In a car from another decade?) has all my presets. I know which door doesn't open and where the temperature gauge is supposed to sit. I know that the windows move faster when the radio is turned off and the only button that works on the keypad is the panic button.
In more ways than one, my car is my most valuable possession. She is who I want to be. She is strong-willed, reliable and *driven*. My car has been there for me in some of the biggest junctures of my life, both auto and personal related. She stayed with me the first time I hydroplaned on the parkway and when I got "pulled over", a term used loosely while having an anxiety attack in a parking lot. She also accompanied me as I drove home from some of my saddest days, like my breakup with my boyfriend of 4 years, and some of my happiest, like the first time I parallel parked in a real-life setting (see the picture above).
Now that it's summer and I'm not spending hours in my car every day, I've weirdly come to miss it. I liked being with my car to experience my days. I had a place to scream or cry or laugh, and while I still drive, I don't do so nearly as much. Driving has always been anxiety-inducing for me, but my car makes me feel safe in a way I haven't before.
I know my car will cease working some day, most likely while I'm at college. As much as I'll cry when I have to let her go, I know she changed me. She helped me past something I never thought I could do, let alone with confidence. And, if you think 'wow, this girl just wrote 900 words about her old car', all I can really say is that some of you haven't had to depend on a car with 180,000 miles for your life, and it shows.