Shortly after I turned sixteen my parents graciously handed me the keys to a brand new Ford Fusion. Rarely did I see my house in the daylight anymore, as I was always driving people places, aimlessly exploring town, making it to various school responsibilities, etc.
I drove everywhere and in my mind it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Fast forward a year later and I was returning the keys to my parents.
Less than a month into driving, I was ambushed by the most terrifying fuzzy yellow caterpillar you’ve ever seen. The beast was crawling up my leg and while fighting back I accidentally jumped a curb and destroyed a mailbox in my Grandparent’s neighborhood. A dozen unopened envelopes floated through the sky in my rear view mirror.
Fortunately it was one of those plastic, snap together boxes and my cousin David (the sole witness and passenger) helped me reassemble it before anyone saw the massacre. We took off, never telling the homeowner (which I’m pretty sure is a felony) and there’s a black mark running down the side of it to this day.
On a rainy afternoon in the Riverview High School parking lot a few months later, a jacked up Dodge Ram decided to crush the right side of my poor sedan while backing out, over a thousand dollars of damage. I sat inside helplessly watching.
The next semester I dropped my friend Ally off in the same parking lot. As I stood outside my car talking to another friend, she threw her Nissan truck into reverse and smashed the front end of my Fusion into pieces. Geico’s number was on speed dial by then. After a year of vehicular stress, I switched cars with my mom. She took the thrice-damaged (and thrice-repaired) 2012 Ford I was driving and in return I became the proud driver of the Honda Odyssey they bought when I was seven years old.
Driving a minivan in high school and college turned out to be a blast. Everyone could cram in, it was incredibly comfortable for frequent road trips, and I was always on my toes because it broke down monthly, at least.
A mechanic told me once that his crew didn’t feel comfortable working around it because, “If someone threw a cigarette underneath, the whole vehicle would explode.”
“You’re driving a death trap.” Another warned.
Dad sold it for $700 on Craigslist last year after it started spewing fresh gasoline from the bottom every time I made a sharp turn. There were 284,000 miles on the odometer.
Just as I thought my soccer mom days had passed however, my Grandparents jumped in. Their typical routine is to purchase a new vehicle every 7-10 years and give the old one to someone who needed it. This year, I was their charity project.
And here I am, a 21 year old college graduate still driving a minivan.
Is it what I expected to be driving nowadays? Not at all, actually 15 year old me would have been utterly embarrassed by the thought, but I’ve really turned out to be a miserably inaccurate predictor of most life circumstances.
I didn’t expect to be starting my fourth year working at a camp for elementary schoolers this year. I didn’t even like kids four years ago. I didn’t expect to be unemployed upon graduation, I always wanted to be the guy who walked off the commencement stage in the morning and started a dream job that afternoon. Heck, I didn’t think I’d ever write about life on the internet for my friends to read.
Life has just turned out this way.
Unexpected realities keep me on my toes, a constant reminder of my lack of control. One of the biggest challenges I face is choosing how I respond to the Unexpected. It’s also the only decision I control in many circumstances.
Life is so much more exciting when I choose to embrace the unexpected, making the best of whatever circumstance I’m living in. The reverse is also true. When I try to fight against things I can’t control, anxiety and defeat come rushing in.
To be honest, I’m really not great at this. Frustration is my natural response when life doesn’t work out my way, but when I take a step back and look at what God has done (and continues to do) with my small existence, I realize life has not only turned out different from what I expected, it has turned out better.
As I grow older, I hope to make the best of the hand I’m dealt. I hope to break down doors that need to be broken, opening up opportunities I never dreamt possible. I hope when things don’t go as planned I recognize I have a chance to respond well to them, and that makes all the difference.
If that means driving a minivan for the rest of my life, let’s go.