Self-Portrait Tuesday: Freedom

This is me standing by my very first car, bought new, in 1991. I was a few months shy of 28. This vehicle opened my world. I had gone off to SUNY Oswego in 1989 to finish college. A financial shortfall required that I leave school and return to work at Syracuse University in 1990. To say I was discouraged is an understatement. SUNY required that I take 18 more credit hours on campus (they’d already generously accepted my credits from three other colleges), but the campus was 50 miles away and I had no car. At that time I earned about $16K a year, I think, and I rented a room in a duplex. Money was scarce. So I went into hibernation the year of 1990 and decided I’d just leave the goal of getting a degree alone for awhile.

Yet the dream would not die. I wouldn’t let it. In March 1991 I was looking through the Sunday paper and saw a car dealer advertisement for a 1991 Eagle Summit for $6,000. My ex-boyfriend took me out there the next day. They tried to up-sell me to a car that actually had automatic transmission, air conditioning, and a radio, but I was determined to buy what was advertised. My research into reliable cars had put this car on my list. They let me test-drive it, and I took it to the bank, where I got a $1,000 cash advance. (I didn’t think they’d let me finance the entire car.) I brought it back, sealed the deal and got a four-year loan for the rest (which I paid off one year early). I was bursting with joy when I called my parents to tell them I had to come over that night to show them something important. They were happily surprised for me, and impressed with my resourcefulness.

This car then allowed me to commute to Oswego the summer of 1991 through December 1992 while I worked full-time (and took other classes using remitted tuition from SU). And then I took this little car — which I’d dubbed Blue Belle — to Austin in 1994. I quit my library job, sold my furnishings and most everything else, and drove to Texas, where I found an apartment, a job, and a new life. Blue Belle served me well for ten years, and I actually cried when her transmission failed September 2001. Replacing the transmission exceeded the value of the car. It was time to let her go.

This little car gave me freedom.

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5 Comments on “Self-Portrait Tuesday: Freedom”

  1. Kyra Says:

    Hi Kathryn,

    I love this post, I’ve just started reading your blog recently and really enjoy it. Thank you for leaving a comment on my blog! I usually receive an email when someone comments, but haven’t lately, so I just discovered your comment today. It’s really wonderful to hear someone else’s story about following their dream and feeling that it was worth the struggle and sacrifice. Thank you!! I hope you do write more about it on your own blog.

  2. bella Says:

    Hi, I found your blog through the SPT links. I loved this entry and your photo. I think it’s amazing how that car gave you what you needed to finish school and work at the same time. This was a really great story!

  3. Patry Says:

    The vehicles I look back on most fondly are not the shiny new ones that rolled off the lot, but the ones second hand beauties that both empowered and challenged me.

  4. Teri Says:

    Love this. I went to SUNY Potsdam from ’90-’92! I still think of it so fondly. Upstate NY is very special to me.

  5. la peregrina Says:

    There is something about getting that first car. I saw mine as freedom, too.