Going Down, Bouncing Higher
On the weekend before Thanksgiving in 2013, I drove from my university in New Hampshire to my parents’ house in Massachusetts. I knew they were expecting me for the holiday break, and I wanted to surprise them by coming earlier.
About halfway through the trip I was driving on a long stretch of road where I could see the traffic lights up ahead. Everyone seemed to be driving at the same pace, I was simply following along, not paying attention as the lights changed from green to yellow. As I got closer to the end of the road I noticed that two cars ahead of me people were starting to slow down, so I did as well. What I didn’t notice was that the car directly in front of me was slowing down much more quickly, and as I encroached I noticed they had slammed on their breaks, coming to an abrupt halt. At this point I knew it was too late. I hit my breaks as hard as I could, but my car kept moving, smashing into the back of a white Jeep. I had only had my car for three months.
This would be the beginning of the end. My car was totaled, and I spent hours waiting for a tow truck to arrive to tow my car, and myself, through the cold November night back to my parents’ house. I remember thinking that this was undoubtedly the worst day of my life, and wondering if I would ever drive again.
I spent the entire year of 2014 without a car, working jobs here and there to save the little money I could. I found a job as a work study in my university’s student union building, and worked as the News Editor for the school newspaper to pay for groceries or lunch. This would be the beginning of a long and arduous lesson I was being taught about patience and hard work.
It wasn’t until June of 2015 that I got my first real job. My girlfriend’s father found a summer camp that provided housing for the staff and paid you a decent amount along the way. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to earn money for a new car, while working somewhere that didn’t require one. I had my doubts that I would be accepted though, having never been a camp counselor before. When I got the call for the interview, I nearly asked if they had the right number. I couldn’t believe it was really happening!
Summer camp turned out to be a much more difficult experience than I imagined, and it became a journey on its own. With so much of my time and energy demanded from the job, I didn’t think about getting a new car until it was time to leave. I was so enriched by the whole experience, I wondered if I would have even attended camp had I not lost my car in the first place.
When I got back to school, I had another opportunity, also seeming unlikely, also raising doubts. I was unable to find a work study that fit my new schedule, and I still needed another job to support myself. There was only one available, a fellowship on culture and diversity awareness. I knew enough about diversity awareness that I thought, it can’t hurt to apply, thinking again, it was unlikely that the position would be available to me. This was another unexpected surprise, as I was accepted into the program about a month after applying, having nearly forgotten I had even applied. (Author’s note: it is important for me to emphasize how opportunities like these had never been available to me before; this was as crazy as it gets.) Through my savings from camp and the fellowship opportunity (which was generous enough to offer the semester’s stipend all at once) I was much more confident in my search for a new car.
And that search was long, and often disappointing. There were lots of fake ads I thought were real, and lots of ads that were too real (“great car, only 300,000 beautiful miles!”) that I had to sift through before finding the right one.
It had been nearly two years since my accident, but after meticulous searching, I was finally able to find just the right car, one I could afford (victory!).
It hasn’t been easy, as with the car came insurance, registration, and other various fees. What it meant though, was that I was finally on the path to getting back on my feet, two years after the worst day of my life. What I realize now, is that the car was not the reward. The experiences I had at camp, of working hard for a goal, and making lifelong friends and memories along the way while learning hard lessons in between are much more meaningful to me and are the true measure of success. I can’t say I’m happy I lost my car, but if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am today. For that reason, I’ve included a picture not of the car, but of one of my favorite days at camp.
Thank you for reading.
From left to right: Natalie, me, Heather, Natasha, and Olivia celebrating a day off on July 4th