What I should have been doing all along
(cross-posted at DriveTribe)
I have been a car guy all my life, as far as I can tell. When I was looking through old photos looking for a picture of my uncle Bill to post a few weeks back, I came across a ton of photos of me when I was little, some as far back as age 2 or 3. In nearly every picture, I'm holding a Matchbox car or a Tonka truck or ripping the wrapping paper off a Snap-Tite car model or standing next to my uncle Ron's slot car track. In every photo of me from when I was young, there is something car-related.
I was one of those smart lazy kids. You probably know the type; maybe you were the type too: tested through the roof, but always turned in homework late; carried a B or C average but blew the curve when it came time for the final exam. I drove teachers and guidance counselors nuts, and as a result of skipping ahead a grade, then another, then repeating that grade (looong story), my classmates didn't know what to make of me.
My parents were supportive, even though I don't think either one of them really knew what to make of me either. They happily indulged my weird little hobbies, most of which revovled around mechanical things (and in particular, from the very start, cars) and bought me Legos and Erector sets and model kits and those Radio Shack "Learn Electronics" kits for birthdays and Christmases. And I loved them. My dad was thrilled, because he was a mechanical engineer by trade (he worked for Caterpillar for decades), but he never understood my issues with math. It's always been my intellectual blind spot; I can understand the concepts, I get the formulas and proofs, but I cannot seem to add/subtract/multiply/divide in my head. It takes me forever.
But I've always been an ace with linguistics (at least English). I could read at age three, and was reading at a fifth-grade level by kindergarten, hence the first grade skip. Spelling and grammar have never presented a challenge for me; I just "get" the language. I don't remember learning how to read. I just always could.
So they pushed me away from the math and engineering, and into more langauge-based pursuits: writing competitions, spelling bees, and most importantly, community theater. I've always had bad stagefright, and a very minor stammer (not quite a stutter, but I stumble over words quite a lot), and they thought that pushing me onto the stage would help with those. And I guess, to some extent, it did.
Looking back I see now that I never liked it. Worse than that, I was told I was good at it, but I didn't like it. I had a "natural talent," some community theater director said. So I spent my junior high and high school days in drama club, trying out for the musicals and ending up in the chorus, occasionally getting a minor speaking part and being terrified because of it. And then in college, I landed bigger roles in plays, starring once, and hating every second of it. So I quit. And I haven't missed it.
Instead, I did... nothing. I floundered around, kept changing my major, got nowhere, and after a couple years, flunked out. I told people I was going to become a writer, told them that I was working on a book, and it wasn't entirely a lie, but very little actually got written, at least of the book. I was too busy thinking about other things.
As soon as they discovered I could read, my dad started letting me read his car magazines whe he was done with them. Road & Track, Car and Driver, AutoWeek, even the Consumer Reports annual auto issue: I devoured them all. I grew up reading Patrick Bedard and David E Davis and Peter Egan and Denise McCluggage and Paul Frere and dozens of others.
It never occurred to me that they were just people, who had learned to write well and decided to write about the stuff they love, and turned it into a career. It should have. My life might have been very different.
My love of cars was always treated as a hobby, something I could play with when my homework was done, and so I carried that attitude over into my adult life. Messing around with cars was what I did for fun, but other, more serious pursuits had to take precedence. I was "too smart" to "waste" my time tinkering with cars for a living, but it was fine on the weekends. And writing about cars was seen as time wasted; why wasn't I writing fiction, or poetry, or something "meaningful"?
It's amazing, sometimes, how stupid us smart people can be.
Towards the end of my ill-fated college days, I started to hang out in downtown Duluth a lot, back when Archer Brothers Racing still had a car dealership in Canal Park. I used to like to stand at the window and gaze at the cars inside, cars I couldn't begin to afford, only occasionally going in to look at them up close, afraid of being told I didn't belong there. I loved the cars as much as the people who could afford them, maybe more, but what got you in the door was not love, but money. Or so it felt.
What I should have done is walked in there and asked for a job. Any job would have done, and then instead of just staring at all those cool cars, I could have stared at them while sweeping the floor around them or something. And instead of trying futilely to write the Great American Novel, acting out the part of tortured artist who just couldn't make the words come, I could have just started writing about the cars. I always have words about the cars.
And here I am, decades later, having fallen into a career (more or less) that I don't really care about one way or the other, and it slowly has occurred to me that if you want to write about the cars, you just start writing about the cars. Don't worry about what anyone else thinks of your "silly" passions; just enjoy them.
Maybe something will come of it one day, if not now. But maybe not, maybe I missed my window, and that's OK too. As long as I can still futz around with cars, and tell stories about it, I'll be fine. It's who I am, and it's what I want to do. And I'm going to try to get better at it, because I love it. It's hard work, but everything worth doing is.
So now that I've got a seat at this little table, I'm going to write about the cars. I hope you like it, but I don't really care if you don't. Or at least, I'm trying to tell myself that I don't care. But a big part of stagefright is impostor syndrome, and it applies to letting someone else read what you wrote, too. Putting something out into the world is scary as hell; what if they hate it? Does that mean they hate me, too? What if they love it? Then I have all that pressure to keep doing things they love. Or, worst of all, what if they don't care at all?
I've started, and killed off, at least four blogs in the past. I'm not sure why I felt the need to end (and delete) them, but I did. Nobody read them, outside of a tiny circle of friends, so it didn't seem to matter if I wiped the slate clean.
But posting on here is different. There's a built-in audience. And there's no way to delete a post that I can see. So whatever I post on here, I'm stuck with. It doesn't have to be great, but it has to be something I can live with, from the moment I hit "post," because after that it doesn't belong to me anymore. It belongs to a community, and anyone else who happens to stumble upon it. And that's a lot of pressure, but it's sort of exhilarating too.
If you've read this far, I'm sorry; this is more of a mind dump than anything, just some excess flotsam that I needed to skim off the top and throw out, and it doesn't "count" unless I put it out somewhere, so here it is.
My next long-winded diatribe will actually be about cars, I promise.
Shop-Teacher last edited by
@mark-tucker No need to be sorry. This is a place where the occasional brain-dump is encouraged
AestheticsInMotion last edited by
After reading that, all I can say is don't feel like you're limited to only car content around here. I'll be reading whatever you send out into the internet.
Chariotoflove last edited by
I’m definitely not going to tell you how to delete posts then. Keep writing. No one here will put you down. We will tell you what we think of your writing, but mostly only if you ask.
BritsnSwedes was MINIGTI last edited by
@mark-tucker Hi, can relate to many things in your bio. My parents and teachers were continually frustrated that I was undisciplined and so had mediocre grades when I shoulda been so much more. My wife and I are active with the local community theater group which is a really terrific crowd, but neither of us are lead material ha.
I was unbelievably lucky and fell into a great job that was interesting though not related to my studies right after college. I’ve been there almost 20 years. If I ever had to look for a new career I’ve thought about begging for an apprenticeship at one of my British car mechanics ha.
Just Jeepin' last edited by
I assume most high schoolers get told that writing, and communications in general, are critical, but I doubt many appreciate how true that is. You need the job skills to do your work, but you need the soft skills to get the job. And keep it.
davesaddiction last edited by
@mark-tucker Thanks for sharing all this. Glad you’re here - I look forward to reading more.
Captain Cayman last edited by
Many relatable points. Thanks for sharing.
SilentbutnotreallyDeadly last edited by
That was awesome. Feel free to write and post whatever you like on this little off-topic somewhat slightly automotive related blogoforum...I mean, I'm working on a Oppo review of some very special (to me) wheelbarrows...
@mark-tucker I can relate to more of that than I'm comfortable enough to admit. Thanks for sharing, I offer wholehearted encouragement and will continually look forward to your next piece.
gettingoldercarguy last edited by
@chariotoflove I hate your writing.
gettingoldercarguy last edited by
@aestheticsinmotion Pretty sure we're reading somebody that can and may go professional
Rider last edited by
It's not too late to write about cars. David Tracy was an engineer with a great job and he gave it up to write for the site-which-shall-not-be-named. Douggy had a cushy job that he gave up, too. Oppo was, uh, is a great place for you to improve your skills and build a portfolio of writing samples and The Hyphen can be, too.
sony1492 last edited by
@mark-tucker Looking forward to the next one!
Vondon302 last edited by
@mark-tucker I wouldn't worry about your writing, this right here is better than most of my writing. Lots of relatable points to me.
Cheers and looking forward to more.
HoustonRunner last edited by
You keep doing you, I’ll be here with the rest of Oppo to read it.
Wow, thanks everyone! I appreciate the kind words and encouragement. You will be hearing more from me; I have a couple of ideas for regular or semi-regular posts, and plenty of stories to tell.
RallyDarkstrike last edited by RallyDarkstrike
@mark-tucker No need to apologize for this diatribe, we're here for car stuff and to support each other! Glad to be part of the chance for you to help reinvent yourself in some small way!
Hi Mark, it's Dave. If you want pointers on getting into this business, email me at david.tracy@jalopnik.
Loved your words.
@david-tracy I absolutely will, thank you!