Recently, in “A Lesson Learned Though Not Entirely The Best Lesson” (7/21/15), I wrote about, after the repeated experience of doubting my ability to do something and then doing it, instead of learning the lesson that I could indeed do that thing and should therefore stop doubting my ability, I learned the less impressive lesson that I would always doubt my ability and that was simply the way it was, hoping this self-awareness would help me come to terms with my doubting my ability and that that problem would eventually recede.
In the context of my writing, it eventually did. Unfortunately, my crippling self-doubt simply migrated to learning to successfully play songs on the piano. As well, I have come to notice, as burdening virtually every challenge in my everyday life. (Example: Making a tax payment using the Internet. Although I invariably pull it off, I still dread accidentally messing up. As we once did, ordering obscenely expensive tickets to a baseball game in San Francisco over online, and having to extend our vacation there because we had accidentally ordered tickets for a game to be played the day after we were scheduled to leave town. It is not paranoia. It happens.)
Thinking about settling for “Second Tier Life Lessons” reminded me of a paralleling situation elsewhere in my life, this one related to the troubling issue of showing off. Or, more specifically, showing off a recently purchased new car.
Here’s how it worked.
In 1972, the first car I ever bought was a pumpkin-orange, new Mazda with a sportily contrasting black vinyl roof. I had finally passed my Driver’s Test. (On my third try, my successful Driver’s Test broadcast coast-to-coast on a “Public Affairs” program on Canadian national television. But that’s another story.)
The first time I ever drove alone – with a “Learner’s Permit” you require licensed accompaniment – was when I drove my new Mazda off the dealership lot. During a torrential rainstorm. (Which is also another story – driving the car I had put my entire savings into alone for the first time when I was unable to see a foot in front of me.)
Jazzed up to show off my vehicular purchase, I proceed to my brother’s nearby Law Office. I pull into a proximous parking space… and I immediately roll into the car parked in front of me, crinkling my new Mazda’s front bumper and decimating the grille. I guess I did more than just “roll.”
That was the first time I distressed the prinstinity of a new car while in the perilous process of showing off.
My second car was a burgundy, 1978 Peugeot “Diesel” – it was during the “Gas Crisis” and the diesel “refueling line” was considerably shorter. (I required a new car because my Mazda, which I had arranged to have driven down from Toronto, subsequently blew up on Hollywood Boulevard. (Which, once again, is another story. It now occurs to me that these “other “stories” are more interesting than the story I am actually telling.)
Driving it home from the dealership, I feel exhilaratingly proud of my spanking brand new Peugeot. I pull into the driveway of the condo complex I live in. I press the button on my automatic remote. The metal “Security Door” rolls horizontally open. I proceed down the driveway, heading into the garage.
Suddenly, I see a fellow condo owner approaching my car. I stop, explaining excitedly that I had just purchased the just-off-the-lot Peugeot “Diesel” they are currently looking at. In my enthusiasm, I neglect to notice the condo‘s “Security Door”, rolling back in my direction. I sit helplessly as it slams into the side of my new car.
You can call that “Strike Two.”
It is now 1984. No longer needing the diesel refueling advantage, I replace my Peugeot – which was actually rattlingly noisy – with an eye-catching, fire engine red new Saab. Not the “Turbo”, which allowed you to go fast on the freeway, because, at the time, I was not driving on the freeway. So what did I need it for? To “drive fast” on “surface streets” where the traffic required you to drive slowly? Anyway – “Grumble! Grumble!” Okay…
Days after my new car purchase, I was visiting a therapist. At that point, I had not actually – at least consciously – learned any lessons related to the “New car – showing off – KABOOM!” conundrum.
When the session was over, I invite my therapist to take a look at my new car. We go outside, and I proudly point to it across the street. My therapist seems impressed. But, you know, the guy’s my therapist. What was he going to say? – “You bought that?!”
At that moment it hits me. I have inadvertently found the solution to my problem. It is a “Second Tier” solution related to my showing off my new cars and immediately crashing them, but it is a solution nonetheless.
The solution is this:
It is not: “Do not show off your new cars.” (Because your experience has demonstrated what is going to happen.) That one’s out of reach. The solution instead– less impressive, but equally usefully – is:
“Showing off your new car is inevitable. But you do not have to be driving it when you do.”
It’s a good one, huh?
My final new car purchase was in 1992, a forest-green, two-door Lexus coupe. Meaning that it is now more than twenty-three years old. This extended passage of time provides a successful, albeit more remote, alternate solution to my problem of showing off my new cars and immediately crashing them:
“Do not buy a new car.”
The message today is that it is easy to find workable solutions to your continuing difficulties. As long as you are not married to the “Best Case Scenario.”
Or, in the case of the Lexus, even the second best.