My first car died because I forgot to put oil in it.
Alright, it’s a little more complicated than that, but not by much.
The old, used, green Ford F-150 had faulty gauges. It said there wasn’t an oil shortage, but there was.
Of course, if you have to be told you are out of oil by a gauge on your dashboard, you aren’t putting enough care into your car.
So, why wasn’t I caring for such a valuable possession?
Well, I didn’t earn it.
I bought that car with a savings fund set up by my grandfather. I hadn’t dropped a bead of sweat to earn that money, I was fortunate enough to have a wealthy and generous family member.
I had no investment in it — no skin in the game.
I didn’t take care of it because I didn’t understand what it was worth.
It died in a grocery store parking lot on a hot summer day.
I had frozen goods in the bed.
I was scheduled to run a 150+ person event in two hours.
Later that day, during said event, my pants ripped open.
That really wasn’t my day.
Anyway, I had to get a new car. This time, though, I had to buy it with my own money — no savings from family gifts.
I had to dip into my own trove of cash that I had painstakingly earned, to get the wheels I needed. I leased a grey Honda CRV, reliable, and boring.
I took much better care of it.
I wasn’t checking under the hood every day, but I scheduled service dates on my calendar, kept my inspection up to date, and all that nonsense.
When I turned it in, the only thing that had changed about it was the mileage number. It was in pristine condition.
As lovely as that all is, I still wasn’t really that invested in the CRV. It’s not like I had to put in extra hours at work to pay for it. I had the savings, dropped a nice down payment, and then coasted on a comfy monthly fee for three years. I kept it in good condition more out of fear of extra costs when I turned it in than any sense of ownership or investment.
That story changes when it comes to my current ride.
In September of 2019, I decided I wanted to live on the road. I made a plan, set a date to leave, and got to work.
My main task?
Make enough money to buy a small camper and build a freelance client list that could sustain my new lifestyle.
It was five months of hard work and long hours. I was searching for clients like a starving wolf hunting for dear. I wrote more cover letters than I care to mention and eventually got so sick of them that I started sending potential clients a simple list of all the stuff I could do for them.
Ironically, it worked better than CVs, but that’s a story for another time.
I barely made the date that I had set five months earlier. I didn’t even have the last client I needed when I signed the papers for the RV — all I had was a promising email exchange.
How does all of this work affect how I take care of my new apartment on wheels?
You can probably guess.
I’m obsessive about it. I do a full check before and after I drive the thing anywhere. I clean it weekly. I hear a sound I don’t recognize? I’ll spend two hours tracking it down. Water pressure seems lower? Time to check all the pipes. The shelf is sagging a quarter of an inch? Prop it up!
It’s mine, and I worked damn hard for it, so you best bet I’m putting gallons of elbow grease into it. If you’re familiar with the Sunk Cost Fallacy, you could say I made it work in my favor.
“So, Ethan,” you may ask, “that’s nice and all, but why are you telling me all of this?”
Good question, beloved reader!
Imagine the role of the cars in my above story is replaced by you, the wonderful person that you are, and the role that I fill in the above story is instead, say, a theoretical romantic partner.
Let’s say you have a partner who got lucky with you — you’re their green F-150. They happened upon you one day, and you were enamored with them. You flirted and pursued and romanced to your greatest capacity and won their heart.
How much investment do you think they have in the relationship?
They may have gotten you for a good deal, but no matter how much they enjoy you, one thought will always haunt their mind. “I got lucky, and I could get lucky again.”
When you haven’t worked for something — when you haven’t sacrificed or struggled for it — you remain uninvested. You aren’t going to notice the little details. The oil will run out without you suspecting a thing. And slight imperfections will stand out and make you wonder if you could get something better.
Let’s change the example and say that instead of the green F-150, you are your partner’s RV.
They decided what they wanted, and decided to go out and find it. They joined clubs they weren’t that interested in, in hopes of finding you. They were out at the local bar every night, not for fun, but to scope out the field, desperately hoping for a glimpse of what they were seeking. They spent nights lying awake thinking of what they might be missing — reviewing their actions and working to improve their flirtation strategies, knowing they had to be on their best to attract you. They talked to their friends, asked for introductions, tried online dating, and a million other strategies until finally, on that fateful night, they finally found you.
Months of hard romance later, they finally win your undying love.
They are invested. They are committed. They went out to earn you, and they did.
You can be assured they aren’t going to let go of you.
They are going to, as I said above, dump gallons of elbow grease into the relationship. No detail will slip by them. No bad blood will be allowed to fester. No lie will hide from their gaze, and no doubt will ever cross their mind. They will withhold no iota of love, nor will they ever be ungrateful for the love they receive because every ounce they receive and express is their right and reward for all the work and sacrifice they put in.
And naturally, this relationship goes both ways. Just as they must earn you, so too must you earn them.
You are theirs, and they are yours.
They value you. They know your worth.
That which is obtained by luck is soon lost for lack of attention.
That which is earned is kept and appreciated forever.