I take my glasses off, clean them a little on the sleeve of my shirt, and put them back on. My gloved hand grips the wheel, and my left hand on the stick of my jeep. The sun comes through the open top, heating the seat behind me. My dad is outside the jeep, watching the walls on either side of the infamous Mirror Gulch. I stabbed the clutch down, and shifted to first. Revving the engine, and feeling the 6 cylinders vibrate the jeep. My hand now clutches the emergency brake. I am resting at a 45 degree angle, a cliff behind me, a steep rocky ascent ahead, and two walls so close to my doors that I had to take the mirrors off. I breath out deeply and smile. This is life.
When my parents first drove the deep blue jeep up to our front door, I was in shock. This was a dream come true. If you had asked me what I loved, I would have told you jeeps and trucks, but that was it. I knew nothing of the engineering, didn’t know I loved what was under the hood as much as I loved what it looked like.
Looking back, that jeep was down right sad compared to what I made it. I had no idea was a double wishbone was, how a shock worked, or how a clutch was made. As my father started ordering parts and tools, my interest grew. I had grown interested in different things in the past, but my love had peaked after a few months. This never happened with our jeep. I kept working, kept learning.
But with every interest, you have to learn. My father taught me how to build, to fix in a shop, and to work on the trail. I learned how to produce crazy fixes like telephone cord to tie my brake lines out of the way, replacing the steering arm with a strap, and rotating our tires 300 miles from a tire shop.
My father taught me the two most important skills that you can have, how to learn and how to teach. He showed me that you cannot teach properly until you understand, and you cannot learn until you want to. If I didn’t want to build the jeep up, I wouldn’t have. If he hadn’t been working on cars for his whole life he couldn’t have taught me.
As I progress out of high school, I plan on joining the Marines. Attempting to do so is going to challenge everything that I have been working on since I started working on that jeep. I will have to want to learn and grow as I am taught and trained. I will need to recognize that I am under another until I have learned what it takes to move beyond that. I will not be the top dog, and as such I will need to plan on growing for myself, not for anyone else.