It was sleek...it was stunning...it was fast...and on November 7th of my 16th year, it was mine! My parents were not the type to spoil us kids but my mom was determined that both my sister and I have "cool" cars. Something about her youth led her to want to give her kids nice cars. Not new cars - but "cool" cars. And who was I to argue?!?
As a result of my mother's desire, my first car was a burgundy, 1979 Chevy Camaro, eight cylinder with a 350 engine. I didn’t really know what those last numbers meant but when I’d rattle them off, guys were usually quite impressed. I did know that the car was fast. It idled at around 20 miles per hour. You’d go through a school zone with your foot on the break the entire time.
Not surprisingly, my parents became concerned that the car was a little too fast. Consequently, they decided I shouldn't drive it. Instead, they let my older sister drive it while I sat in the passengers seat. I washed it, I cleaned it, I doted over it, and my sister drove it. To make matters worse, my sister was driving it when it got in its first accident. For the record, it wasn’t her fault, but the rear bumper was never the same again.
Now why do I mention all of this? Well, because all of you probably have a similar story about your first car. There’s something uniquely powerful about the “firsts” in our lives. They just seem to stick. There’s quite a bit of research to support this but it boils down to a magic combination of novelty and emotion. That’s why we tend to remember our first crush, our first cars, and our first houses even though we've likely upgraded over time.
There’s definitely emotion tied to your first car. Usually it’s a combination of happiness and freedom. Getting your driver’s license at age 16 is an American right of passage. But times are changing. What once meant freedom – you could go where you wanted to go, you could hang out with your friends, blast your music as loud as you wanted – is not that enticing today. This generation's "coming of age" consists of a mobile device. The iphone 8 has replaced the Camaro V8 as the status symbol of choice. According to a recent study form AAA only 44% of teens obtain a driver’s license within the first year of becoming eligible and just 54% are licensed before turning 18!
There are predictions that self-driving cars and transportation networks will kill the need to own a car in 25-30 years. By 2030, most new cars will be made without rearview mirrors, horns, or emergency brakes. By 2035 they won’t have steering wheels or gas and break pedals because they will be driving themselves! Crazy right? You’re living through an incredible period of history.
When you say your life story really isn’t all that interesting…it’s simply not the case. Your life, however "uninteresting" you deem it, is far different from what future generations will experience. And your story is only going to grow more interesting with time. Technology is changing everything.
Wouldn’t it be fascinating to hear firsthand from a relative who rode a horse to school or only travelled by wagon? Well, that’s going to be you one day! Having a car - wanting to drive a car - is going to seem strange to future generations. Learning how to parallel park, keeping quarters in your ash tray in case you needed to stop and use a pay phone, is an experience doomed for extinction. Is your first car the most fascinating experience of your life? No. But it illustrates how the world is changing. It's increasingly interesting to look back, to reminisce, and to savor memories that no longer exist as part of our day-to-day world.
Hold fast to your memories! Better yet, record your memories and stories. No one has lived the life you have. No one has experienced the world the way you have. Don’t take for granted even the common memories that you hold. What’s common today - like driving a car - will be uncommon in the future.