This is my second coming out. I’ve come to the realization that despite what others have told me; despite my own inclination to ignore this part of who I am; I have finally accepted and embraced something I’ve been lying to myself about for a long time.
I picked the wrong path. One that didn’t have enough cars. I’m stepping onto a new path today, even though I don’t know where it leads.
Since I was three years old I’ve been inexorably drawn to any and every thing to do with motor vehicles. My second birthday cake was shaped like a dump truck. I have burned through hundreds upon hundreds of Hot Wheels and still collect them as an adult. My adolescent video gaming diet consisted primarily of Need for Speed, Grand Theft Auto, GranTurismo, and Mario Kart. Please don’t ask me how many times I’ve watched Top Gear and Fast & Furious, start to finish. While my childhood friends were playing baseball and discovering the joys of Pokemon and girls (separately of course), I was memorizing HP and 0-60 figures in automotive encyclopedias and drawing my own supercar posters to put next to the Corvettes, Vipers and Murcielagos covering my bedroom walls and bookshelves. As an amateur potter I even dreamed of becoming a clay modeler for Pininfarina. As a middle schooler I got in the habit of reading my dad’s Motor Trend and Car & Driver magazines, and to this day I sift the magazine rack in every waiting room I encounter hoping to find the latest issue.
So how is it that despite all those signs, I ended up diverging entirely from the idea of an automotive career? Well, it just seemed daunting. I didn’t think it was meant for me because my dad didn’t work on cars. I was afraid that if I didn’t get the “early start” that so many gearhead kids are afforded by their gearhead dads, that it would just be pointless trying to compete. The first seven years of my driving life were spent in a very exhilarating beige Ford Taurus with the hallmark collapsed rear suspension. I wouldn’t drive a manual vehicle until 22. It all seemed like a pipe dream, so I let it wither.
It stuck for awhile. I decided to study political science in college and I flirted with the idea of Peace Corps and Foreign Service before eventually settling on ESL teaching after I graduated. I’ve been with my current employer for several years now, and I’m getting close to finishing my MBA.
Yet despite that steady march towards what would appear to be a pretty decent life, it still doesn’t feel right. Every time, no matter what, I keep coming back to cars. Racing, tuning culture, restomods, industry news, dozens and dozens of groups on Facebook for cars I don’t own, online forums, trying to become an armchair mechanic with Engineering Explained and Donut videos. When I can’t fall asleep at night, I’m counting cylinders, not sheep.
It took me five months of obsessing, combing through eBay, Craigslist, and Autotrader for my first true enthusiast purchase before I landed on…well of course you knew it would be a Miata.
I think it was that symbolic first car purchase that made me realize I can’t keep lying to myself. I need this. I don’t know how long it’s going to take, how much money it’s going to cost, where I’ll end up, who will disapprove, or if I’ll have anything to show for it at the end.
But I do know one thing, and that’s that I’m living my truth starting now. I will have to fight hard to break into this industry, and that’s okay. Because when I finally get to where I want to be, I will look back and remember that the first concrete step I took toward this commitment was writing something about it and putting it online for others to see. And if I inspire just one person to live their truth too, then that’s a victory in my book.
So, yeah, I’m coming out again. I am utterly, hopelessly obsessed with cars and driving the hell out of them. And I will stop at nothing to make it my livelihood too.
5 thoughts on “On Career Paths, Cars, and a Second ‘Coming Out’”
You pulled the words right out of my mouth. I just finished my junior year in college studying mechanical engineering, and though I originally chose this field almost entirely because I’ve been a car nut since I was a little kid, I’ve had lots of second thoughts about going into the auto industry for my career for a variety of reasons. I’ve long been shy and embarrassed about being into cars – so much so that at one point, my mom told me she was under the impression that I’d rather tell people that I was gay than that I liked cars. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the vast expanse of automotive knowledge necessary to work in the industry, but hopefully I can expand on that to the point that I’m sufficiently qualified for an automotive engineering position. I hope that one day I can experience the second coming out that you did. You’ve definitely inspired me to live my truth.
Thanks so much for your comment. I think part of the reason it took me so long to finally just decide that cars are right for me is because of the dissonance between my own social circle & my personal values and those of the “typical” enthusiast. I was fearful for years that enthusiast community wouldn’t accept those parts of me. I’m increasingly less concerned with that these days. If I’m able to live authentically as a gay man, then there’s no reason why I can’t also live authentically as an auto enthusiast.
As for your aspirations…GO FOR IT! There’s a lot less second guessing when you’re following your passions, even when there’s a really challenging path ahead of you. I for one don’t want to have to psych myself up to be productive at my desk job. I want to love what I do.
Best of luck to you!
Congratulations for jumping in the deep end and just going for it. We were all newbies until we weren’t. I think you will find yourself being welcomed and accepted by everyone in the community of car enthusiasts for the simple reason that you like cars, a lot. When the opportunity presents itself to grab a wrench or screwdriver, go for it. Like my father told me, “you will very likely know what the problem is when you see it (it will look broken, burnt when the others aren’t) and remember that everything will go back in the reverse order that you took it apart”. Also, you should not have extra parts when you are done. My favorite bit of advice from my father was “Dan, there are not any half-hour projects”.
Nicholas – nice article and thanks for sharing!
Great post I love it. I’m color blind, the Miata looks similar to interlaglos Blue you see on e46 m3 comp packs. Regardless, great car.
Amateur motor sports like auto x and hpde are great ways for me to get my competitive/sports need itched (along with running). I was never able to catch or toss a ball worth a damn, but put me in a car on a track or a parking lot full of cones and I was a quick study from the get. I’m also fortunate that my dad was an industrial mechanic and car guy, so even though it doesn’t come to me naturally, I can turn wrench and do brakes or change the injectors on an s52.
Be sure to keep everyone posted with your endeavors with the Miata. You deserve it!