I’ve been Miss Cox High School, Miss Virginia Beach, Miss Greater Hampton Roads, Miss Metropolitan, and Miss New York. But I’ve never been Miss Independent.
I mean, I am independent enough to have lived by myself in a New York City studio apartment, never asked my parents for money post-college, and have no qualms with solo road trips. I just don’t possess the natural desire to fix or complete things on my own.
Can’t figure out how to de-code an excel spreadsheet? Work husband to the rescue! (Back when I had an office and a work husband.) Time to renew my car registration? I’ll risk it until a cop notices. Twice. Need to file taxes? Good thing my stepmom is a partner for a Big Four accounting firm!
Don’t get me wrong– I’m completely capable of doing things on my own. I just don’t like to. When it’s necessary, however, I step up. I make doctor appointments and hang pictures on my walls and even assembled an IKEA dresser one time! But if other people are able and willing, I’m never opposed to handing over the reins. Consider it a survival strategy.
A deployed husband and a father temporarily working in a different state really undermine the foundation of that strategy, unfortunately. During those dark times, I’m left to fend for myself when our TV breaks or the sliding door on the shower falls off its tracks. My solution: Go use the TV at my dad’s house, and semi-fix the sliding door until my husband gets home to do a better job. (My skills aren’t exactly thriving under this new arrangement…)
But I couldn’t ignore or half-donkey my most recent obstacle: A dead car battery. Luckily, my dad happened to be visiting town when it happened, so I wasn’t completely stranded in a restaurant parking lot, which was nice. (Can’t a girl grab some take out tacos in the middle of the day without being noticed?) Sadly, Daddio left the next morning at 6 a.m., which meant I could only hope and pray that it was a one-time issue. It wasn’t.
The following morning, I found myself in 15 degree weather with a dead car battery and no backup. The job of re-jumpstarting my car was mine and mine alone. I had spent the night at my parents’ house because #puppies, so their cars were conveniently available as battery-givers. That was good news, at least. I can do this. Black to black, red to red. Right? Why is the red thing not more pronounced? Is this a trick? How have more people not died while doing this? I connected the clamps and wires, convinced the car would explode at any moment. Since there’s no such thing as “smooth” in my life, sparks flew from the battery when I attached the final red clamp, and my car– which wasn’t on yet– started blaring its emergency horn. I nearly jumped out of my skin and yanked the clamp off of the batter in a panic. It wasn’t dramatic at all…
I went inside the house and told my stepmom that I was about to blow up their front yard. She came outside to chaperone, and assured me that I was doing things correctly. (That was the extent of the backup, I promise. Independence does win this round.)
It was then that I realized my car had lost its battery while the alarm was sounding, so the horn immediately restarted at any sign of power. Of course. It wasn’t a sign that the car would burst into flames. By the way, sorry to all of my parent’s neighbors who heard the beeping at 8:30 a.m. And the sparks? Eh, who knows. Long story long, I was able to start my car and take it to Autozone for a new battery. Success! Achievement! Independence!
The pride I felt in jumping my battery is indicative of why a certain level of independence is so rewarding. Not only are you more likely to survive during the apocalypse, but you realize that you are far more capable than fear or laziness wants you to believe.
Learning new ways to care for yourself is empowering, entertaining, and practical. That doesn’t mean it’s always fun, though. I think that’s where my problem lies. Playing with the television cords or tracking down beams in the walls aren’t activities that strongly call to me. I’d rather pour a glass of wine and watch Netflix on my computer in an undecorated apartment. The rest can wait for someone who already knows what they’re doing.
(I did decorate my studio apartment in Manhattan alone, but that was 30% fun and 70% obligatory. I felt too guilty to ask anyone to take the train all the way up to 181st street in Washington Heights just to help me hang some picture frames. New Yorkers will understand.)
Maybe this habit of avoiding adult-y tasks makes me a horribly dependent moocher with no creative or purpose-driven energy, but I really don’t think that’s the case. How many people can say that they self-motivate to write 1,000 word essays every single day? I can! My independence is simply packaged a little differently than most. Nonetheless, I’m inspired by my car battery to bite the bullet once in a while. To figure it out. To remind myself of just how capable I am of surviving on my own, even when it’s not easy or enjoyable.
Sure, sometimes we need to lean on others and appreciate the beauty in a chord of two or three strands. But if your inclinations are anything like mine, don’t forget to occasionally challenge yourself. Complete independence feels really darn good. And it makes your dad proud, so there’s also that.