Since October, I’ve commuted to work by bus rather than driving. After the first day, I thought: why didn’t I do this sooner? I’ve suddenly opened up more reading time and eliminated the annoyance of driving around five floors of a parking garage. On the occasional day when I take the car because I have an event after work, I feel inconvenienced.
Back east, I took the bus, walked or biked a lot—but then it wasn’t a choice: I didn’t have my driver’s license. Mostly, I depended on a man in my life to drive. Driving lessons were included in my relocation benefits in 2006 (likely intended more for employees moving to the US from China and India, not Canada) and I grabbed the opportunity to get professional help.
So now to explain how there came to be a 1:2 ratio of people to cars.
Three years ago, I bought a second vehicle, a 1998 Jeep Wrangler. I was doing a lot of hiking and I carpooled with others most of the time. I thought getting a trailhead-worthy vehicle would enable further independence. But I didn’t want to trade in my gas-sipping subcompact for daily driving. A small SUV would have been a less unpractical choice, but I remembered how fabulous it felt being in a convertible Jeep Wrangler in the summer. I WANTED a Wrangler.
I knew when I bought it that the decision, not typical of me, was purely about proving something to myself: that I was worth it. My internal voice (whom I call the “petty social commentator”) still tries to tell me I don’t deserve expensive things and to make me feel guilty about spending $ on myself. This purchase was a very deliberate action: I could choose the less practical vehicle because I’d saved the cash for it and that’s what I wanted.
On crappy days at work, when I was walking to the parking garage and remembered I’d driven the Wrangler, I would instantly feel better. Just getting into the Wrangler still makes me smile.
I don’t regret the decision or the $ spent. But the Jeep has served its purpose and now I’m ready to let it go with the return to a simpler life. When I spend less now, it is because I feel worthy of the simpler living retirement goal, not because I feel guilty about spending $ on myself. As the weather improves, I’m planning to walk home from work regularly again which allows time to decompress as well as exercise. The car I’ll keep is the one I learned to drive on: a practical 2005 Toyota subcompact. Writing this, I realize it is now 10 years old. I was a passenger for the first 42 years of my life and I’ve got that bright blue shiny metal package wrapped up in my feelings of independence. I won’t trade it in.