We live in a world of cyclical, cynical over-consumption, where we purchase and disregard without any real sense of attachment to the things we buy. Why would we care, really? A thing is just a thing, right? Its purpose is utility, function, and sometimes to get us from point A to point B with limited irritation.
But when is a thing more than a thing?
I think it’s when we allow ourselves to return to that child-like habit of appreciating what we have. When we collected rocks like treasures, named our stuffed animals and toys like friends, and dared to allow a connection to the things we’re so often told are childish.
As adults, we’re subtly taught to fear connection. We’re made to feel small for taking joy in little things, and maybe even hurt for putting our trust in the wrong people. Lessons taught by fearful people to make more fearful people. Connection means, inevitably, some kind of heartbreak. Love, no matter how amazing and pure, is sometimes pain. People fade away from us or pass on; the things we’re attached to break or get lost over the years.
This week I’ve had to say goodbye to one of those things the world tells me I shouldn’t feel attachment to. My car.
Let me explain why she meant so much to me and why I’ll never listen to the naysayers and people who say it’s childish to care about a thing.
I grew up poorer than dirt and a little jealous of how much dirt had, to be honest. We didn’t have a car in a part of the world that you need one in order to do things. So, when I got my used Toyota Avalon from a sketchy dealer, I felt a sense of freedom, pride, and joy that you can only get when you’ve gone so long without something. I was thrilled, enthusiastic; I wanted to drive her everywhere. The roads were open to me suddenly, and I could go anywhere.
She was mine, and I had paid for her myself.
That freedom always made her special to me, of course, but it wasn’t until 2015 when I found myself without a home and with nowhere to go that she became so much more than freedom.
She became my safety.
Suddenly, over night, she was my house, my kitchen, and the place I went to cry when the world felt like it was too cruel and unkind. She protected me from the elements and got me across the country a few times as I struggled to find somewhere, anywhere, to fit in and figure my shit out.
Among my anxiety attacks, fears for the future, and the terror that my life was ruined, the car never once added to my fears. She kept running, kept going, kept me safe, and ultimately is the reason I’m here today.
She saved my life.
In 2019 she saved me again. When my marriage was crumbling, I had the clothes I could pack, the pictures I could collect, and the car I could take to get out and away. She gave me freedom again – freedom away from a relationship and a home life that was no longer working. She got me to a new place and the safety there. It was the last time she would save me.
This year, the age on her has caught up to her. Her repairs have grown to the point that they’re worth more than she is. They weren’t something I could keep up with, no matter my attachment. It was her time to go.
Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I’ve done. I felt like I was breaking her trust, ending a decade-long friendship. It felt like a death I had caused. She had protected me, been reliable and steady when I needed those things the most, and showed me that things can feel alive when we dare to let them.
Caring is why I’m writing this eulogy of sorts, and trying to figure out how to summarize thirteen years of ups and downs, and the way my life is transitioning with major change yet again in this post-car world. Because I care, this article doesn’t feel like enough. I don’t know if I can really ever explain the love you feel for your car when it’s your home, your shelter, and your freedom. Or the ways it hurts when you have to let it go in order to move on.
It’s one of those things that if you know, you know, and if you don’t, I don’t think you’ll get it.
So, it’s time I say goodbye to her, to let her go, and remind myself that the things, people, and places we truly love carve a place out in our hearts forever and that we get the wonderful, terrible privilege of carrying them when they’re gone. To me, it’s an honor I get to carry her with me into the future, and I love that I got to love her the way I do.
As painful as it is to let go, knowing her changed my life, saved my life, and I’ll never forget her impact and the lessons she taught me about being someone’s shelter in the storm. I hope I get to pay it forward one day.
Unapologetically care about the things in your life; care about the people in your life, too. Treasure them. Love openly, deliberately and with gratitude in the present moments.
Someday, you’ll have to say goodbye, and you’ll want to know you loved them with an open heart.
If you’d like to share your loss of a favorite thing, come let me know in the comments below or over at my Twitter here.