How An Old Volkswagen Brightened Up My Week

As a college student finishing up the spring semester of my freshman year, the past week of my life has been full of stress, caffeine, and hour after hour of looking over my notes. Add into the equation the cold I got early in the week and you start to see how I could've been a bit tired out. By the end of the week, I was mentally exhausted and extremely relieved to be heading home for a relatively stress-free summer.

Once I arrived home, after a long ride in a packed-to-the-brim Honda Pilot, I stepped out into the 86-degree heat and proceeded to unload the car. After carrying a lot of boxes and bags inside and starting to unpack everything, I started to feel some physical fatigue to go along with the mental tiredness. I was wiped out, I felt lazy, and I couldn't really think of much of anything to do to brighten my day. Until I decided to drive my car.

Every time I come back from college and drive my car it's a therapeutic experience. I get in, adjust the seat (because someone has inevitably moved it since my last visit), put some good music on and cruise away. For the first couple of years after getting my driver's license, I became accustomed to spending a lot of time in the driver's seat of my car. My round-trip commute to school was 36 miles with no highway driving at all, so making the transition to not having a car whatsoever in college took some time. But now I'm back, so I get to enjoy my car.

Now, my car isn't fast. My car doesn't corner with any type of agility. My car isn't designed for any type of spirited driving whatsoever. What my car IS is a 2005 Volkswagen Jetta. It's a decade-old sedan that was meant for commuting and other boring activities. But you know what? It's still a hell of a lot more exciting than walking.

My first drive at home is always particularly nostalgic, and this drive was no different. As I pulled out of my driveway and Action Bronson's album "Mr. Wonderful" started playing from my speakers, the countless memories started flowing back into my mind. The endless funny stories, adventures, and constant obeying of the rules of the road that have occupied my time at the wheel of my car are all recalled as I shift the car into drive and hit the throttle. I think about all the times I've cruised around playing music with the windows down (because I'm a teenager and that's what we do), the times when I conveniently lost traction in snowy conditions and was forced to counter some oversteer (because I'm a teenager and that's what we do), and of course I occasionally recall my first, and only, speeding ticket from years ago (because, well, I'm a teenager and that's what we do). For years, this Volkswagen Jetta has been the perfect first car. This does not, by any means, mean that it's a perfect car. But, it has been a fantastic machine for me to drive on a day-to-day basis.

The goal of my drive was simple: to go and pick up some Portillo's for dinner. But I didn't just pick up my Chicago-style hot dog like your typical commuter. I picked a few roads that I knew would be less busy and proceeded to have some fun. This was the best decision I'd made all week. As I shifted through the gears, I couldn't help but smile as I admired the engine note that I have become so accustomed to hearing. Everything from the car's less-than-brisk acceleration to its tendency of power understeer felt so familiar and so predictable that, despite the rainy weather that set in halfway through my drive, I felt comfortable pushing the car (within the speed limit of course).

This drive woke me up from the exhausting slump that I called my week, and it did that without ridiculous amounts of horsepower or speeds anywhere near triple digits. So the moral of the story is this: if you're feeling down, if you need some excitement, and if you find any enjoyment whatsoever from your car, go for a drive. That's my lofty advice.