How does one shift gears? When you hear that motor whining or sputtering, you know things have to move one way or another. Climbing uphill, barreling down, laying back or speeding ahead, it all calls for hand and foot coordination with a car’s mechanics (or a motorcycle’s if you’ve got the skills). If you’re new to driving clutch, expect to kill the motor at least once.
I’ve been driving manual transmission cars my whole adult life, learning on a ‘68 VW bus of all vehicles. As mechanically disinterested as my father was, for some reason he was adamant about me learning how to drive shift. Perhaps he thought it made me more independent. Like it allowed me the option should I ever be stuck in a do-or-die car driving situation:
“Nicole! NICOLE! Wisconsin is under attack! You’ve gotta get to headquarters to warn the others! You’re the only one who can saaaaaave uuuuus!” Bruce yells from the helicopter.
“But, Bruce [played by a young, but not too young, Sylvester Stallone], the only way down there is with the automatic transmission Prius- and that’s been blown up!” I yell back.
“No, Nicole, there’s another way! Last night I threw a five speed Subaru into neutral and pushed it under non-damaging rubble just to have for back-up. But wait! Do you know how to drive a….a MANUAL??”
“Yes, Bruce, YES! I know how to drive a manual! My dad insisted I learn how to when I…..”
“No time for memory lane, Nicole! Can’t you hear the bombs getting closer?! Quick! To the Legacy Outback!”
See? I knew there was a reason Papa wanted me to know a manual transmission.
“What’s she driving at?” you might be wondering, with no pun intended. It’s about life, kid. Understanding its mechanics, using them to the best of your ability, navigating the ups, the downs, the curves, and listening for both its purrs and cries. The analogies are endless!
About a year ago, I decided to shift gears. After a seemingly chronic bout of WhatamIdoingwithmylife, I was running on empty (I told you the metaphors were endless). But knowing how to shift is different from knowing when to shift. I knew I missed Madison, and that I wanted to further pursue my production skills. Yet, as a lifer bartender, letting go of my full-time gig was surprisingly challenging. And as someone who hates to quit, leaving New Orleans for the familiar confines of Madison felt melancholic and scary. My fear of the unknown and, well, fear of the known both led to a holding pattern that lasted too long until I knew I had to move. Time to change gears while keeping my eyes on the road. Release accelerator pedal, press clutch down, move gear knob, release clutch, press accelerator pedal. And keep faith.
It was while poking around for Madison jobs that I spotted a glimmer on the horizon: Hinckley Productions! The company’s owner, Natalie, and I met in the fall of 2016, our quick rapport leading me to join the team. My employment with her company would prove pivotal in my approaching transition. My four leaf clover interchange, if you will (gha! Sorry, I can’t help myself). And when Natalie pulled up to the studio in a 1979 Toranado, despite it being an automatic, I knew I had landed at a good place. At Hinckley, I’ve had the opportunity to meet new circles of people, hone my writing skills, produce video shoots, and generate ideas that get made into reality. Most importantly, and perhaps unbeknownst to them, Natalie and Co. have held my hand through a momentous and formidable period of change.
And damn, change is hard. But when you know it needs to happen and you’re stalling (I swear I was going to stop….), life feels like you’re swimming in glue. Your heart catches on moments you’d rather not work through, time relentlessly passes, and a year later you’re sticky, stinky and wet for all the wrong reasons. Yet, taking that leap of faith takes immense trust, something we can’t always muster. I was painfully slow to approach this latest daunting curve, but I’ve skillfully accelerated out of it (ok, just bear with me a moment more). I’ve got Aretha on the radio, my Madison family riding shotgun, and all of my analogies out of my system. Let’s ride!