When did I become that person who calls her car “my baby”?

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This time last year, I was finishing packing up my apartment in New York City after 12 happy years spent as a New Yorker.

I left primarily because I needed a break from city life to recharge and figure out the next steps in my career and future in general. As I probably should have guessed, life has taken me in completely unexpected directions ever since. And one of those directions, weirdly enough, has been my new identity as a car owner.

Last July, I wrote on my portfolio site about the question: To car or not to car? I considered all of the reasons that I should and shouldn’t buy a car at that point in time, after living in my home state of Florida for three months, and ultimately concluded that I just didn’t need one at the time.

Back then, I had just started living with my boyfriend Adam and working from home. He has a great car (which I love) and it just didn’t seem necessary for a two-person household to have two cars when one of those people really doesn’t have a necessity to leave the house during the week. Whenever I did need to leave the house, we worked around it and usually just went together. That mostly meant grocery shopping and social plans, and it was fine.

For a while, we even had a nice thing going with him taking me to the local Starbucks a couple days a week to work, and then picking me up to bring me home around lunch. That worked quite fine, actually, until we moved apartments and it was no longer convenient.

As time went on, the need for a car increased.

But still, we resisted. For one thing, getting a car costs money. And not a little bit of money but typically several hundred dollars a month in car payments, and that was just not an expense I was looking forward to. Not to mention, of course, car insurance and gas.

Secondly, I was still working from home (and quite happy with that setup) and wasn’t sure that it was worth getting a car if I am only using it, at most, twice a week. Considering the expense and how little I actually needed a car, it seemed almost silly to get one. However, I’ll admit, there were moments when it would have been convenient if I could take the car on my own… which, sadly, I couldn’t since Adam’s car is a manual and I can’t drive stick. However, we formulated a plan to teach me how to drive his car and avoid spending the money on one for me.

And then I met her.

On a sunny day back at the start of February, we went with our friends to the Naples 5th Avenue Ferrari Show. It’s basically where all of these people that have ridiculously expensive cars go and show them off once a year, and it was fun to see. As you might expect, there were also a lot of car companies there – including MINI of Fort Myers.

Here’s the funny thing: When I originally planned to move out of NYC, I had planned to get a MINI eventually. I have loved MINI Coopers for many years now, mainly because its small size seemed just perfect for my 5’2″ frame. And I still occasionally passed by the dealership and thought about it or even looked at used MINIs available online.

When we came to the MINI of Fort Myers booth at the Naples Car Show, however, we discovered that the friends we were there with were friendly with Jerry – the guy staffing the booth. They themselves had gone through four MINIs already, and were big fans. I sat in the MINIs they had there, and discovered that I totally loved the convertible and new color available on the newer models (Caribbean Aqua Metallic).

We weren’t planning to get a new car, though… but then Jerry told us all about this cute little convertible MINI that had come in the night before. It hadn’t even been detailed yet and didn’t have a price tag, but the car sounded kind of perfect: It was a 2014 MINI in British Racing Green with tan leather seats, and it was a convertible!

I had been joking to Adam for months now that, if we were to get a car, then we might as well get a convertible. Not only have I dreamed of a convertible car ever since I came to the U.S. at age eight, but I figured that if we were going to get a car and barely use it, then we might as well make it an extra-fun car so that we can use it for extra-fun weekend trips. I know that might be a silly plan, but it made logical sense to me at the time.

Well, long story short, WE GOT THE CAR.

In one afternoon, we went from occasionally thinking we might need one soon but would power through for a while without one… to being bonafide car owners to this cute 3-year-old MINI with only 3,000 miles on her (definitely one of the top selling points too, TBH).

Instantly, I fell in love. I mean, that’s why we got the car in the first place, isn’t it? It may have been a slightly impulsive decision, but the truth is that not having my own mode of transportation for when I needed it was starting to get more and more difficult. And the fact that this was the exact car I wanted (a MINI, convertible, great condition) was just the cherry on top. And although originally I had dreamed of a red car, I immediately got into the British Racing Green color.

She’s a little speedster, in fact, and I decided to name the car Elphaba after the main character (whose skin color is green) in my favorite Broadway musical, Wicked. I call her Elphie for short.

Dorky? Absolutely. Adam laughed and made fun of me for the car name, but he also agrees that it’s weirdly perfect for me.

Now here’s the thing: I never thought that I would become the kind of car person who would, ya know, name their car and call the car “my baby” but that’s exactly what has happened in the two months since I have been a car owner.

This past weekend, we got my baby (yes, I’m really saying that!) back to the dealership in order to outfit her. Don’t judge me, but one of the fun parts of owning a MINI is that there’s all kinds of accessories for the car. And it had been our plan since day one to get her racing stripes and checkerboard side mirrors. Courtesy of my parent’s birthday present and income from one of my recent freelance pieces, here she is!

It’s been a really weird transition from being a total New York City girl who was more than happy to spend the rest of my life commuting via subway to being a happy car owner who’s thrilled whenever I get to take her out for a spin.

In fact, I’ve noticed that there’s nothing quite like a short drive (even just to meet a friend for coffee) with the top down and the sun shining down on me to lift my mood.

And that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Since I’m making a commitment to be happier right now anyway, I’m admitting that my car makes me happy.

Maybe it’s a bit shallow of me, sure, but we have to take our wins wherever we can find them. Right now, I’m happily settling into my new identity as a newly minted car person. It feels a little bit weird sometimes but then I walk outside and see Elphie and, well… I’m totally cool with people thinking that I’m weird while I drive down the street with the top down while blasting Broadway songs and singing at the top of my lungs. It makes me happy, period.

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Essay 6: The Dream of a Convertible Car [#52essays2017]

This essay is part of the #52essays2017 series focusing on my memoir, Moscow Chica: How Growing Up in Cuba and Russia Made Me an American. For more, please follow this publication and subscribe to my newsletter.

When my family moved to America in 1994, everything seemed great. Until it wasn’t.

About a year after we came here, my parents separated and divorced. And although they were back together a year later, remarried and happier than ever, that year living in Miami without my dad was (mostly) scary.

But that year had its happier moments too, like how the best Christmas ever was surprisingly spent in a women’s shelter and the little apartment we lived in shortly after. That apartment brought me a lot of happy memories, including my memory of the first adult desire I truly had.

A red Firebird convertible.

That is the only thing that I remember about the billboard advertisement that I saw every day on my way home from school during this year. And it was thrilling.

The car depicted in the poster was beautiful and sexy and it signified a kind of freedom that I didn’t yet understand at the age of nine, but I knew that I wanted it.

The attractive couple sitting in the driver and passenger seats didn’t hurt either, and I longed for when I could have the kind of freedom and happiness that they had clearly tasted.

I honestly can’t remember anything else about that bus ride home, but I remember that billboard. I don’t know who I sat next to on the bus (I didn’t have friends at that school) or how long it took. I don’t even truly remember what time of the year it was or how I noticed this particular photo in the first place, but once I had… I couldn’t take my mind off of it.

The lifestyle promised in this one advertisement seemed like everything I wanted at the time, and everything I have wanted since. It signified success and the power to do anything you wanted to do. I dreamt of the day that I would have those things too.

For years afterward, I always held the wish that someday I would own a red Firebird convertible.

It was the first car that I ever wanted, and the only car that truly appealed to my kid and teenage self. It had to be that car, in red and as a convertible. Something about that entire image meant so much to me that it wasn’t until recently that I started to slowly decipher it all.

Even though I am no longer that scared little 9-year-old girl, new to America, still learning English, with a turbulent home life and no reassurance as to what this world may bring… I am still sometimes unsure of myself, unsure of the world, unsure of the path in front of me. Sometimes I long for the kind of knowledge that little Irina had, the knowledge that having a car like that would mean that I was something special.

It’s probably no surprise, then, that I have never been able to get the idea of that car out of my head. Although I’ve long since moved on from that specific make and model, the color red has always held a special place in my heart.

Red was my favorite color long before this poster, and it’s remained my favorite color for cars – and now for lipstick.

Convertibles have remained a mystery, something I secretly wanted, a symbol of fun and freedom. I was thrilled when my uncle got one a few years ago, and although I had settled on possibly never owning a car because of my love of living in cities with great public transportation, I knew that I would definitely want one if the chance ever presented itself.

Recently, as I readjusted my post-NYC life and settled back in Florida, I contemplated getting a car (and ultimately decided not to). But the thought kept popping up in my mind, and I knew that my new dream was a little red Mini Cooper.

The model may have changed, but the color stayed the same. It was a dream, though, and I never thought it would actually happen.

And then, to my surprise, an opportunity came up.

Adam and I had talked about our need for a second care eventually, and the idea of a convertible came up. I insisted that if we were to get a second car (that I would use), it should be a convertible.

“After all,” I reasoned, “since I work from home and will probably only use it a couple times during the week and on weekends, we may as well make it a fun car, right?” To me, a convertible was the ultimate fun car.

When the unexpected opportunity came up to get a Mini Cooper convertible, I practically jumped at the chance. In fact, getting that car was as much of a spontaneous decision as you could possibly make in the purchase of a vehicle. We heard about it in the morning, and by that same afternoon, it was all mine.

Now my little convertible baby sits in the driveway and gives me immense pleasure whenever I have the chance to take her out with the top down.

Granted she’s not the bright red color that I had always wanted – but that’s okay too. She’s a British racing green and I love that so very much. Maybe it’s not the color I envisioned, but it’s definitely the spirit.

That little girl that used to ride the bus every day to an uncertain future surely has something a little more certain now. If nothing else, my desire for that first red Firebird convertible has influenced the way I view success and some of the things I want in my life.

While my tastes in cars have grown (and maybe not by much), I still find myself surprised by how much that one billboard changed my life. When we’re young, we want things so far out of our reach that we don’t actually think we will ever get there. It’s nice to know that, now, I can actually attain some of those things.

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(Image via Chad Horwedel/flickr)

The truth behind why Millennials don’t care about owning cars or houses

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Earlier this year I wrote about Millennial wedding trends and a couple months ago I wrote about how asking a millennial to carry cash is absolutely terrible. Today I’m back writing about Millennials once more! This time it’s about why we Millennials don’t really want to buy cars and houses quite as much as generations of the past.

For me, it mainly comes down to memories being more important than material possessions… But there’s a lot more to it too. Plus, BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: This is also my very first story published for my new contributor gig at Dose.com and OMGFacts.com. YAY!

Check out In Defense Of Being Cheap AF on OMGFacts.com!

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To car or not to car? When buying one is the question…

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To car or not to car? That is the question…

Here’s the deal: I have been living in the state of Florida for almost three months now, and I have yet to purchase a vehicle for my transportation needs. And I am starting to seriously consider whether I actually need one or not…

The truth is, I’ve been living in New York City for the past 12 years and it’s been really easy to get by without a car. It’s really the best city this side of the Atlantic for public transportation. There are tons of subway lines and the buses aren’t too bad either (though many of my NYC friends have never been on one, I like them!).

In fact, nobody I know in the city has a car because nobody really needs one. And if they do have a car – and there’s been a friend here or there – it’s for a very specific need. One friend has a car at his family’s home in New Jersey, one friend has a car because it’s easier to conduct his business, one friend has a car because it’s MUCH easier to travel with his baby and another friend has a car because he needs it for his band equipment.

The general trend, though, is to not bother with one at all. To be honest, the only real reason to have a car is if you live in an outer borough (Brooklyn and Queens, mostly) because it is a shorter commute to go from one outer borough to another in a car. But even for those friends that have a car, not a single one of them uses it to commute to work or to go into the city.

I’d heard stories of other friend’s friends having cars for various reasons, such as going to the Hamptons during summer weekends or for monthly Costco trips. Those seem like pretty decent reasons, actually, but none of these were really reasons good enough for me.

I was pretty happy to not own a car for the past decade, and I honestly sort of continue to be happy about it.

The truth is that my main reason for considering owning a car at this very moment is because it has always seemed impossible to NOT own one everywhere outside of New York City.

Sure, you could probably get away with it in smaller cities like Chicago and Atlanta. But in general, if you want to live anywhere outside of the metropolis that is the biggest city in the United States, then you needed to invest in your own mode of transportation.

No longer can I depend on the trusty old MTA to get me to the beach, to get me to work or to get me to dinner with my friends.

These days, I really can’t get anywhere without a car – but to be honest, I am still having my doubts about needing one.

The truth is, I’m very comfy without one right now. I work from home (as the freelance food editor at Brit+Co) and find very little cause to use a car on a daily basis. In fact, if I had a car, I definitely wouldn’t need to use it every single day because of my very cushy remote work situation.

I’m currently in the process of officially moving in with the boyfriend, which is partially another reason why I’m both considering getting a car and considering NOT getting a car.

You see (and I know that I am SUPER spoiled in this), he pretty much drives me wherever I need to go. And the truth is, it’s not like he’s going out of his way to go somewhere special. Nope! For the most part we are going somewhere together and that’s just fine by me.

With very little exceptions, our arrangement has been working for us.

I know that this might not always be the case, which is one reason to get a car. I know that as the “honeymoon” period of our relationship fades or as my needs become greater (or his needs, for that matter), having one car for two people is not going to be ultimately sustainable. And even worse, I know that in cases of emergency, if I need to get to the hospital or bring one of our pets to the vet, I am REALLY going to need a car.

But right now, all of that seems really far off. At most, I can see myself maybe needing a car once or twice a week – and at the moment, it’s kind of easy to just say “meh, I’ll just have Adam drive me or borrow a car from my parents in dire straights.” If I started to spend the money I am planning to budget on a car FOR the actual car, I would be spending more per ride than if I took an Uber or rented a car three times a week.

Now doesn’t that seem just a little silly?

I know that a car will provide me with plenty of freedom. Should I start to feel cooped up or want to go out and run an errand or want to just go to the store and surprise Adam with something, or even just buy flowers for myself because it’s gloomy outside and I want them, having a car will definitely be a huge advantage. And that’s not even to mention one or both of us needing some alone time or time with a friend. Coupledom, while extremely awesome, isn’t everything.

But then again, I’ve survived 12 years without one. And although I’m not saying I will live the rest of my life without my own mode of transportation and simply depend on my partner when and if I need him (or, ya know, an Uber), it’s also nice thinking about all of the really AWESOME things that I could do with the extra money I’d be spending on a car that I barely even use…

So, for now, I am holding off. In a couple of months, after my work situation is more stable and I’ve paid off my 2015 taxes (don’t ask) and our rent has gone up a bit with a lease renewal and we are just more stable as a couple in our lives together… I will reconsider. Yet at the moment, I just can’t help but think: do I really want a car when an extra vacation or two a year might just be so much more fun?

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