Ride the Wave

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.” –Robert Frost

Life throws curveballs. The biggest curveball of them all is that sometimes, you feel like you are getting thrown a curveball every other day, and sometimes, you feel like you are hitting homeruns every inning. (Why am I making a baseball metaphor?? I hate sports). But you get the picture.

This week, I was confronted with a few curveballs. There’s some quote I can’t find right now, but basically it says we learn the most about ourselves through our actions during difficult times, not easy ones. Surprisingly, I made it through this week, I’m still standing, and I wanted to share the secret I rediscovered.

Last Wednesday, I drove my 2010 Toyota Corolla down to Monroe Muffler to renew the inspection, which had expired the day before. I was a little late on that one, but it was all fine…I was getting it taken care of. The man behind the counter greeted me, took my keys, and said it should be about an hour. Great! I thought. No problem. I have a book to read, I get to skip work for a little while, and everything will be good to go.

Everything was not good to go.

For the first time in five years of riding with Eugene (my car), he failed his inspection. And we’re not talking just a little tiny thing, like a windshield wiper needs to be replaced or something like that. We’re talking, Oh, by the way, you need four brand new tires because yours are about to grind into the ground, and your front brakes need to be completely replaced. I felt like I failed. What did I do wrong? How could I have avoided this? And when I asked the mechanic he chuckled at me, looked me straight in the face, and said, “Nothing, kid. It’s just wear and tear after five years of driving.” So maybe there wasn’t anything I could do.

But regardless, what does any twentysomething do when a hefty portion of their hard-earned bank account is going to be depleted? They call their parents. And that’s exactly what I did. Except this time felt different. It was more of a telling, as opposed to an asking. It was my car, my money, and I guess now, technically, I’m “an adult.”

“Mom, dad, I just wanted to let you know that this happened. It’s going to cost this much. I don’t really want to do this, and my wallet isn’t happy about it, but what can I do? I can’t drive out of here without tires or brakes, so I guess that’s that.”

And I said to the mechanic: go ahead. So for the next two and a half hours, I waited while Eugene got a makeover so he could pass his inspection.

As I drove out of the car garage, I told myself I was going to stop all unnecessary spending to make up for this huge financial detriment. I’m not going to go out to dinner with anyone, I’m not going to drive anywhere because gas is expensive, and I’m basically going to eat ramen for the rest of my life. As you can imagine, that didn’t work out well. That same night, I went to Spot Coffee and bought myself an iced Americano. I thought it was $3 that I didn’t need to spend, and you know the little things certainly add up.

But I did need that Americano! Because how often have we heard that it’s the little things in life that matter? For me, one of my main sources of happiness is going to a café, ordering a simple beverage, and sitting for hours, reading or writing just for fun. And that’s what I did that night. Was I $3 poorer? Yes. Did I use gas to get there? Yup. But you can bet by the time I was leaving Spot Coffee that night, my depleted bank account was no longer the first thing on my mind.

Life throws us challenges and obstacles. It includes failures and successes. But there’s nothing we can really do about it. I’m under the impression that we just have to ride it out like a big wave and make the best of it. I’m laughing now because someone at work told me yesterday, maybe sarcastically, “UGH. You’re such an optimist!” And clearly after typing that last sentence, I am. But literally and metaphorically speaking, you can’t go against the wave—it will only drag you down. By riding with the wave, continuing your path, and making the most of life, it will lead you right to shore.