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Driving a Stick-Shift

Nine years ago, my husband taught me how to drive a manual transmission car. We were shifting (no pun intended!) our lifestyle a lot at the time, as he was taking on a new role that allowed him to work remotely from anywhere. On top of all that we learned about working from home seven years before the rest of the world, one big decision we made was to sell both of our current cars and go down to a single car that we would then share.

Since my husband’s teenage years, he insisted on always having a stick shift car. I never quite understood why until I learned how to drive one myself. And now, I can’t bring myself to trade it in for anything else. Trust me, it wasn’t all “rainbows and unicorns” learning to drive that car! I made many mistakes and for a while, my husband had to drive me to work while I learned. I stalled a lot. I was terrified to get on the freeway or get stuck on a hill, but over time I got better at it and now it’s a skill that I’m so happy to have mastered. We’ve talked about getting me a new car for so long now, and I know that day will someday come along, but good lord am I going to MISS my manual every day.

Last week, I came across this article from The Atlantic and immediately felt connected to the author. There is a level of attention and commitment that is required to drive a manual that just can’t be compared to driving an automatic transmission car. Every minute of your drive requires you to listen to the sound of the engine, feel the reaction of the car and prepare for what’s coming next. When I drive my car, I am fully immersed in the experience of driving and it allows all other issues of the day to fall away. As Ian Bogost said so well, “...the manual transmission’s chief appeal derives from the feeling it imparts to the driver: a sense, whether real or imagined, that he or she is in control.” And in a world where we rarely feel fully in control of what’s happening around us, there is a small sense of relief that I feel in my car.

Back when I was commuting to and from work, 50 minutes each way, it was enough of a mental shift for me just to drive home to decompress from my day. I didn’t need to have motivational books playing from the stereo, soothing music to listen to, or someone to talk to over my Bluetooth connection. (I often did those things anyway because I like them, but I didn’t need them when I was driving my own car). Today, I realize how valuable that was to my mental health throughout the years.

As a woman who drives a stick-shift, turbo charged, 2-door coupe in jet black, I also have to admit that I feel like a badass when I drive my car. When I drop it off at the dealership to get the oil changed or have maintenance done, the mechanics always do a double take when they see who dropped off the manual transmission car. And many of them are all of a sudden open to talking about cars with me, which always makes me feel included and equal. And as much as I’d love to change this fact, I have to admit that feeling is a rare one these days.

Learning to drive a manual and the love I now have for the practice has become one of my defining characteristics. As a business owner, wife, daughter and member of my community, I am always looking for ways to feel more connected. If everything in our lives could bring us the same kind of feelings that I get when I drive my car, I believe that would lead to amazing results.

The perseverance that it took for me to learn how to master a new skill, and then the connection I have made with this inanimate object feels more relevant now than ever before. As a new small business owner and entrepreneur, it is important for me to step outside of my comfort zone and learn about marketing, sales, social media, accounting and so much more! The days are long and hard when I’m focused on tasks that I am just beginning to understand, but the pride I have in myself and my company when we succeed at those endeavors is huge.

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