Today marks the 3-year anniversary of being car-less. I remember that faithful day when I handed over the keys of my shiny white BMW Convertible. I remember being heart-broken as I watched the new owner rev the engine so hard that I was worried it will set off all the dogs in the neighbourhood.
If that was not heart breaking enough, I realised I still had to break the news to my parents. I am sure you must be rolling your eyes thinking first world problems. But I grew up in a middle-class Indian family. The youngest child and publicly acknowledged as the blue-eyed girl of my mother.
As I told my parents, there was an awkward silence that even an atom (the particle matter and not the bomb) dropping would have been heard. My mum just replied, “OH”. And moved onto the next topic. But I knew this wasn’t the end. Truth be told a few days later I get a call at 6:30am on a Saturday morning. Off course it was my mother who started the conversation with “Your father and I haven’t slept in days since you told us about your situation”
My mother normally mentioned my father for impact of how upset they were. My father was a practical man and normally emotionally neutral and my mother was our own Indian diva. “Your father and I haven’t slept in days since you told us about your situation”I was still abit groggy considering it was 6:30 am and the night before ended three hours earlier but I am sure I wasn’t in a “situation”.
As being the respectful daughter, I didn’t mention the time or ask “WHAT SITUATION ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT” I let my mother go one and vent all the concern and frustration that was within her. I don’t think I heard every word she said and I may have fell asleep here and there.
But I remember hearing words like well educated, CA…MBA… as soon as I felt the heating of my ears(generally my ears get blood shot when I am about to explode like an atom bomb) I politely told my mother my phone battery was drained and I would call her back when it was charged.
A few hours later after a hot shower and a pot of camomile tea I called my mother back. This time she was also calm and her disappointment changed to concern.
It was heart-breaking to hear my elderly mother ask me if I needed financial help and she would give me their vehicle to get around.
But this was just the beginning of concerned faces and awkward questions from family members, friends, work colleagues and even strangers.
My decision to not have a car, was just that… it was a decision I made. A few days before I sold my vehicle, I sold my house. I decided to move from the North of Johannesburg to the East. My new apartment was 2kms from my office and the person I lived with, had a vehicle, hence paying R12 000 per month for a vehicle, insurance and tracker etc did not make sense. I did the responsible thing and saved R10 000 per month and spent the R2 000 using that popular app to get me to work and back.
You know that feeling you have when you finally out of debt…financial freedom…the world is my oyster. That’s the feeling I have felt everyday for the last 3 years. Okay maybe two years and eleven months. One month to mourn the loss of my white speed machine and handling my mothers daily calls of “Are you sure everything is alright”
The idea of being able to buy ANY car under R1mill but choosing not too was the most liberating feeling I have had since I finished my articles.
Now the time I wake up is not dictated by the traffic on the road, when I get into the office I am not frustrated or overwhelmed. Generally, my ride to work is dictated by my mood, sometimes I need to make calls or reply to emails, sometimes I just want to reflect and there are days when I just want to listen to the radio or chat to my driver. I am more productive at the office and even work longer hours easily.
In other parts of the world not having a car is acceptable, in fact because of the good transport infrastructure it’s considered irresponsible to the environment to even own one. In South Africa the norm is get a vehicle as soon as you earn your first pay check. That vehicle was your badge to say you made it. You have arrived. People who don’t own vehicles, cannot afford them…right?
In the last three years I learnt that true happiness lies within. If you keep trying to compete with fake lives on social media and owning a vehicle so people think you arrived, then you never going to be happy or find financial freedom. Over the years I learnt to be comfortable in my own skin, selling my car forced me to allow people to not make judgements by what I drive. It also gave me an excellent conversation topic.(If you are not an introvert you won’t understand what a big gain this is.)
I have tried to move away from people who think not having a car is a sign of a weakness. Its not that I am intolerant of people with different views its just that I believe you become like the people you spend your time with. Today I make decisions that make my life better. I wake up at 8am because I am not an early bird. I am a Group financial director and often find myself at work in a t-shirt and sneakers. I let my mind and passion for my work speak for me. Anyone who believes someone in sneakers cannot add value to their business or their lives is soon to be extinct.
I want to be wealthy and not rich. Yes there is a difference. Rich people buy things. Wealthy people buy assets that generate profit. I want to create a legacy not just have money to buy shiny things. One year after selling my car I managed to buy into that Group of companies I am the Financial director off. The R10 000 savings was definitely not how I did that but because I was so productivity and liberated I managed to think of a creative plan to reach my goal. It’s amazing what confidence does for the mind. (Details of the plan is a story for another day).
Understand your core values and make decisions based on that…not on what your neighbour can see. Live How Other People Won’t, So You Can Live How Other People Can’t. As for my Bollywood inspired mum…nowadays every time she needs a ride she uses the app…everyone can evolve (however I am still working on her sitting in the front seat when the car arrives.)
So the next time we meet, Please Don’t Judge me by the car I don’t have