The car on my shelf

An unexpected knock on the door broke the monotony of my summer break. A cardboard box, and a letter with my name on it. By this time, I’d fallen heavily into a routine, lost touch with close friends but looking at the box, I realized the contents of the box would soon force me to learn something I needed to know for a while.

“The U-9 Grand Prix Car Mechanical Model – Love, Your Sister”. A sweet gesture I thought as I began unpacking the box. These kits were everywhere but this would be my first crack at it. I picked up the manual and was initially put off by the number of pages and the dense content it carried. I was curious to get started and my original plan was to explore and piece it together in a day or two seeking no help whatsoever, so I could marvel at my accomplishment but as night fell my hopes were thoroughly humbled. The process was longer than I expected and painstaking One youtube tutorial after another. On one occasion, two intricate parts that took hours to assemble wouldn’t fit together. Frustrated, I packed up and the whole exercise was forgotten for a while. The thought of continuing my efforts appeared daunting and the original spark of motivation was snuffed out by raw/numb fingertips and two pieces to a puzzle I was tired of working on.  

In an attempt to divert my attention from the pain, I called up a friend to share my story of an enforced misery I had brought upon myself trying to fix a car. We exchanged the obligatory “how are you”s and when it was my turn I started by reliving my first couple of days and how good it felt to be creating something but by that point in the conversation, the idea of offloading/unburdening what was bothering me seemed unnecessary and complacent. After a listless conversation that was going nowhere, the unfinished car stared at me, asking to be put together again

Pleasant days followed, each with a few hours of uninterrupted construction until the grand finale. The day I could sit back in awe of my little moving vehicle. So, I crank up the car, put it in gear, place it gently on the ground, and- nothing! As still as a rock! All that effort and it didn’t even work properly. It took more wallowing in self-pity before I picked up my bootstraps, took it apart, and found the culprit, a single crooked gear. Finally, I could watch the product of my efforts roll by with the satisfying sound of rubber band-powered cylinders in the engine chugging away.

Building the car was not spectacular in any sense of the word. Most people would have completed it with much more ease and finesse but I think my inexperience taught me some valuable lessons. Instead of sprinting headfirst into things, expecting to excel on the first try, and producing an amazing end product, everything became smoother when I enjoyed the ride, took my time, and looked for help when I needed it.

This simple but effective method of approaching things upon reflection I realized is not exclusive to an activity but can be applied to our day-to-day life as well. During difficult times when the end seems out of reach, making small, calculated improvements/steps can only get you closer to your goal. Even if something doesn’t work out, you will have gained some experience to contemplate and learn where you went wrong.

Now the model car sits tight on my shelf, slightly beat up but sturdy, a testament to everything I learned piecing it together.