Lessons from a VW Beetle

10 years ago I spent my entire life savings on my dream car: a blue VW Beetle with a moonroof. I had wanted this car since ever since I can remember. It had to be a certain shade of blue. It had to have a moonroof. I had to give it eyelashes. I had even purchased decorative license plate covers and fuzzy dice for the bug before I had the car. Every day that I worked as a child in my mother’s flower shop and put money into my savings account, I would picture the car so vividly in my mind’s eye and look expectantly towards the future when could put that money to use. By the age of 17, with drivers license in hand, I began my search and found the perfect bug: lightly used, turbo, all tricked out with a leather interior, seat warmers, and all the fancy gizmos that were available for a vehicle in 2000. The day I signed the papers and handed over all the money I had saved was one of my happiest childhood memories. The first of my “growing up” dreams had come true. I had my dream car. She was quickly christened Mickey and given sticker eyelashes around her headlights. For the first year, I covered her with decorative window clings for the holidays. She was my baby and I would diligently clean, wax, and polish her every two weeks. The first time she got a scratch in the paint was a dark day for me. I cried my eyes out. She was no longer brand new. She was damaged. She was imperfect. I tried an endless supply of scratch removers and cover-up paint, but I couldn’t completely remove the scratch. I was devastated, but I learned to accept the fact that my car was no longer perfectly new looking. Later the next year, our sap-ridden tree exploded all over my hood in little permanent droplets that were impossible to remove. My mom and I tried everything, even mayonnaise, to get rid of the sap, but in the end, the sap removed dots of paint from my hood. Another travesty I had to endure as my car became more and more worn.

Eventually I left for my undergraduate degree in Southern California with Mickey in tow. She had to live out her weeks in a dusty parking garage and wait for me to have her jump-started for my monthly drive home…. her poor battery exhausted from weeks of neglect. Still, I babied her, but the city life began to take its toll on her paint job: a dent here, a scratch there. Next I traveled in West Virginia for grad school. Mickey followed me weeks later on a car-transporting big rig. I have never been so happy to see something in my life. Away from family, friends, and the California culture, I felt that I now at least had another Californian in the state with me. Those two years were an adventure for us both, to say the least: snow, hail, rain, ice, giant potholes the size of a small lake. To this day, I still don’t know how we both made it out of there alive.

Upon the completion of my masters degree, I packed up literally everything I owned into the back of my VW beetle and began the drive back to CA. My mom joined me for the trip and we slowly made our way Westbound following the entirety of Route 66 ( view my previous blog posts for more info on our Route 66 trip). Bursting at the seams with all of my belongings and the long trip of uneven pavement left it’s mark on Mickey, with battle scars both inside and out. I fixed what I could and mourned the rest; but, we were both happy to be back on California roads again.

Now Mickey and I are going through a new adventure: weekly drives to/from Los Angeles for my voice lessons and coachings. This 8+ hr roundtrip trek each week has seen snow on the grapevine, engine problems which caused me to be stranded in LA until a mechanic could fix them, and many, many miles of travel.

Needless to say Mickie is no longer the shiny blue perfection she once was. As I gave her a bath today (her first in many months of dusty neglect) I reflected on her plethora of scratches, dings, flaking paint, sunspots, and foggy headlights, a sight which 10 years ago would have made me burst instantly into tears. And yet, as I looked at each and every imperfection, gently smoothing my soap covered sponge over them, all I felt was gratitude. With each ding and scratch, I recalled the adventure and experience which caused it. With each paint discoloration, I remember the hours of sun Mickey and I soaked up while traveling down Highway 1 through Malibu and Santa Monica with the moon roof open and the windows rolled down. With each foggy headlight, I recollect the snowdrifts and fog of West Virginia and Mickey’s ability to save me from oncoming snow plows or sliding into a snow drift.

Mickey has taught me a major lesson about life. If you try too hard to keep something perfect, it will never live. It will never experience anything. It will never have any worth. Sure, life takes it’s toll on things–even our own bodies–but in the end isn’t it better to have had experiences and to have lived than to still look pristine and perfect? I only hope that as I age I will be able to look upon my wrinkles, sunspots, and scars with as much gratitude as I have learned to look at my car with. For these are the markings of a life lived to the fullest. Thank you Mickey for teaching me how to live.

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My first drive with Mickey.

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Surviving the WV roads.

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Driving down Route 66.

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