Updated: Aug 10, 2021
When I turned 40, I was disappointed with my life. I was voted Most Likely to Succeed in high school and whether success meant having a lot of money, a fancy career, or a beautiful family, my classmates were awful fortune-tellers.
And so I made a few changes.
Some people get a divorce during their midlife crisis. Others escape to the Galapagos or go bungee jumping. I started building my family.
The first thing I did was buy my goldendoodle, Tod. It was completely out of character since I was never a dog person, but I had suffered from depression for years, and there were only so many times I could read about dogs as a remedy without seeing what all the fuss was about.
And Tod exceeded the hype. I loved being a fur mom so much, it gave me the confidence to take the next step.
So while most of my friends were purchasing braces for their kids or signing them up for driver’s ed, I started going through IVF in the hopes of becoming a mom.
While I don’t want to discourage anyone from doing IVF, I’m not going to sugar coat. The process is awful; lots of shots, appointments, and disappointments. The lack of control was the worst; it was the first time in my life I could try really hard for something and still maybe not succeed. I needed to take back my power.
I had been driving a used Toyota Corolla for years. It did two very important things: 1. Get me safely to my destinations. 2. Make me envious of every Subaru driver on the road. I wondered what the owners did for a living, how they afforded their fabulous vehicles, and when my day might come.
Unlike IVF results, buying my first new car was something I could control. It was simple; I would get the product by paying the money. Admittedly, I had no business purchasing a luxury item on a teacher’s salary with doctor bills piling up, but who thinks logically during a midlife crisis?
For a nano-second, I hesitated to get my car in orange, worrying I might get sick of it. But then I came to my senses and remembered life is short. And orange suits me.
I was the little girl who said, “Focus on me, Daddy,” when he was filming my sister at her soccer game; I auditioned for all the plays; and I became a teacher. It made sense to get a car that put me on stage.
And I loved it. It was bold and shiny and it would be all mine--after five years of payments at three percent interest. I kept the inside clean and the outside waxed so the orange really popped. I bought Tod a skybox car seat, where he co-piloted while we ventured around the country, waving to all the other orange Crosstrek owners. It beckoned me in crowded parking lots and elevated my status with my students.
When Subaru gave me a chance to personalize it with a small plaque, I chose to include symbols for yoga, the marathon, road trips, and dogs because I wanted the world to know that I am zen, fit, outdoorsy, and cool. In this car, I was a certified adult individual with bluetooth, a sunroof, and a life of excitement and adventure.
Then I got incredibly good news from the IVF doctor, and 39 weeks and one day after that I got Autumn.
Overnight, life shifted into domestic warp speed. One day, I was a single lady carrying a yoga mat and doing handstands and then, suddenly, I was a mom carrying a baby and doing laundry--insane amounts of laundry. It’s unbelievable how much I miss yoga. It was the friend I went to several times a week when feeling lost, stressed or overwhelmed, and every time, I’d leave feeling stronger, calmer, and clearer. And while there’s still room for the yoga mat in the trunk next to the stroller, there isn’t much room for the classes in our schedule.
But it’s worth it.
In my former life, I spent a lot of time looking back with regret; now all I see in the rearview mirror is Autumn. She turned my car into our car, made my plaque outdated, and changed my perspective for the better.
I used to cringe when I got into my sister’s mini-van, always promising myself that for her next birthday, I would get her a dustbuster and insist on its daily use. It might not pry the lollipop off the carpet, but at least it’d be a start.
Now I get it. I totally get it.
Once you become a parent, you give up the stage for a front row seat to your child’s development. Nothing is about you anymore and even more nothing is about keeping your car clean. You still have worries about bills and losing the baby weight, but it all takes a backseat to nourishing your tiny human in every way imaginable. And what a privilege to be given the opportunity to drop your ego so you can care about someone else first and foremost, and to help that child become the best version of herself. It’s the best gift in the world.
And I can’t believe I almost missed it.
Now, my backseat--which I hardly knew I had before my baby came along--is better stocked with snacks than the shelves at Trader Joe’s. There’s a bubble wand, some rhythm sticks, and a whole lot of sand--even when we haven’t been to the beach in months. And the rest resembles a cross between a used book sale and a school lost and found that no one ever checks.
Maybe someday I’ll clean it out. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll just let the evidence of our happy life together keep piling up. I’m getting comfortable with the mess, and in a weird way kind of loving it. I’ve also never heard of anyone wishing on their deathbed that they’d kept their car tidier.
Yeah, maybe I’ll just keep driving my filthy orange car with my goldendoodle in his skybox and my baby girl in my rearview mirror and...