It’s incredible how much value and affection we can place on things and also the countless sayings to the tune of “the best things in life aren’t things.” While I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment, this is probably the most personal and sentimental thing I’ve ever written about an inanimate object.
I leased and drove a Smart car for three years and it is crazy how much that little car saw me through. I remember signing all the agreements on a random weeknight a week after I had transferred and started school at UCLA. Because of my financial situation, I had to work full-time throughout college and did not live on or near campus, hence the need for a car (never mind the incredibly unreliable and inefficient transportation system in Los Angeles). I had very little capital upfront and remembered seeing a commercial on TV advertising the Smart car for $99 per month. Of course what they don’t tell you is that is the starting cost. While at the dealership, they quoted me a cost of closer to $200, which was something I could not commit to, so I pressed on what I could do to get it down to that $99 a month. They basically had to lease me the straight from the factory model – no air conditioning, no radio, not even floor mats. But I remember driving off the lot and feeling incredibly proud. You see, that Smart car would come to represent so much for me – so much struggle, so much perseverance, so much triumph – and truly the very first #adult thing I did all on my own; it saw me through countless (psychological and physical) roadblocks, detours, and varying routes in a very specific chapter of my life.
For such a small car, it saw me pack up my life more times than I ever thought possible in a three year leasing period. From apartment to apartment in California, to across the country to Nashville and back again. There are some decisions that we must make that can feel like the hardest thing in the world for us to come to peace with. We can feel anxious, scared, and totally stuck. That’s exactly how I felt when I decided to finally walk out of an unhealthy relationship. After I stepped out of that apartment that I had called home for many years, I sat in my Smart car and felt cemented to that moment and that place, both physically and emotionally. Driving off was one of the most freeing experiences I’ve ever had. I drove away from care that had turned into abuse, love that had turned into pain. Sometimes removing yourself from a situation is the best decision you can make.
Other times, however, it is actually impossible to step away from a situation. What then? Well, patience and endurance are other things this car taught me as well. (And also that rain and freezing temperatures is not something to take lightly!) Since I am stubborn as heck and also hail from California where weather is a strange concept, I made an unfortunate decision to try and brave an ice storm and drive two hours through it, in order to see through my weekend plans. That typical two hours turned into a total of eighteen, stuck on 65 between Nashville and Alabama. I tried so hard to keep going, to keep driving, swerving and sliding all over the road and getting into too many close calls. Finally, as if the Universe said, “All right woman that’s enough now!” traffic came to a stop and there was nowhere to go. A few inches of ice had accumulated on the pavement, making it impossible for cars, trucks, and other vehicles to continue driving safely. I found myself crying and screaming in my car, wishing I had gotten to my destination already and upset with myself that I hadn’t listened to what people had been advising. I was impatient, restless, and angry (I also really had to pee). I caught a glimpse of myself in the rear view mirror and looked myself in the eye. Sure, it’s good to let yourself feel what you need to feel, but in this moment, the tantrums were not helping the situation. So at this juncture, I learned that there is always a solution to a problem – even if that solution is to wait and be patient – to stop moving and be still.
What this car lacked in power steering and other features, it made up for in love and support. My smart car not only got me into the smallest of parking spaces, but from point a to point b and everywhere in between – setting me up to go even farther. Life can take us on some pretty incredible adventures if we allow it. If we’re blessed, we’ll have the support from family, friends, and maybe even a good little car.
MaryGrace Baldo is a digital product manager and part-time dog nanny. She holds a BA from the University of California, Los Angeles and as part of her passion for social justice, diversity, and philanthropy has volunteered for Junior Achievement, Visual Communications, National Eating Disorders Association, and the Feminist Majority Foundation. Besides working and volunteering, she is constantly overspending on experiences, craft beer, takeout, and oh avocado toast, all in the name of adventure (#millenial). She has also an incredible arsenal of reaction gifs and memes and currently resides in Baltimore, MD. You can follow MG on Instagram