“Give it gas! Give it gas!!” shouted my dad in the passenger seat. I floored the flimsy pedal of our ‘66 VW Beetle and leaned forward to will the car across the highway. It lugged forward, puttered through the narrowing traffic opening finally reaching the opposite side.
A 15-year old with a drivers’ permit crossing a 2-lane highway in a 10-year old Beetle sounds like a metaphor for disaster… and it was!
I cocked my eyes to the right, not wanting to look my dad straight in the face, and braced for the stinging reprimand and his explosive Irish temper. But he remained calm as he spoke words I’ll always remember: “You’ve got to know what gear you’re in before you go. Once you decide to go, give it all you’ve got. Don’t ever hesitate.”
At the time, those words were meant just to teach me to drive safe—and keep me alive, but in the thirty years that have passed I’ve come to think that my dad’s word were pretty profound. They seem to be a precursor to how my personality has evolved. As I think back to that moment crossing the highway, perhaps that’s why I’ve become a planner, make to-do lists and now always want to know where I’m headed before I go. It’s a matter of knowing “what gear you’re in” before going. And throughout the years with changing careers, running a marathon, and moving across the country I’d like to think I’m living those words to “give it all you’ve got and don’t hesitate”.
The ’66 Beetle became “my” car through my high school years and into college. Just like the bumps and bruises and ups and downs of life, it experience a few fender benders, rolled off the driveway into the woods, drove me to funerals, parties, and school. It was my first taste of independence and my first test of responsibility for gassing it up, keeping it polished, and getting to my part-time jobs.
That experience with my dad and my Beetle taught me such great lessons of life. I believe in knowing what “gear” you’re in before you go. And, Dad, once I go… I go like hell!
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