The car in the picture above is an infinity FX35. It has a 3.5 gasoline engine which boosts 305 hp. The seats are covered in leather and the noise the engine does is absolutely unmistakable. It goes from 0 to 200 km/h in less than 8 seconds (if you know how to push it). I drove that car for more than 4 years. And I longed for it 2 more years before that.
It was one of my most precious possessions and also the source of one of my longest periods of unhappiness.
I stopped driving it all of a sudden. One day, I just started to drive a second-hand Land Rover Freelander, and the only reason I remember the brand name of that car is because a friend once told me about it that “if it doesn’t leak, it means it’s empty”. Which was true. There was a big difference between my brand new, precious Infinity and that rough, slow, second-hand Freelander. But, somehow, it didn’t matter anymore. Incidentally, I don’t own a car anymore, but that’s another story.
Labels, Brands And Who You Really Are
I wanted that car really bad. And I worked my ass for years to get it.
An Infinity was a goal so big that it seemed out of this world, outside reality. It was so insanely expensive and the image that exuded was so powerful that, at times, getting that car and taking a walk on the dark side of the Moon were at the same level of probability for me. Way beyond impossible, that is. But, eventually, I got it.
And, after I got it, something strange started to happen. All of a sudden, I was treated with respect. Clients (at that time I used to have my own company and still did quite a bit of in-person meetings with important clients) were looking up to me. Some of them even wanted to give them a ride in my car (and they were kind of big shots themselves, too). Women were looking up to me. Especially on the road, when I was driving really slow or at red lights. They were literally mesmerized by that car. My spouse at that time felt very good about it too. She felt empowered, safe and protected.
For a while, all this pleased me. Made me feel nice. Even happy, I may say.
After I got separated from my spouse, I continued to drive my Infinity for a while. I went with it on some dates. With other women, that is. And it all went extremely well. I didn’t have to do anything. Just show up in my fancy car. Women continued to feel mesmerized about it. All women. Or so I thought, at that time.
But then something happened. Namely, I didn’t want respect or admiration anymore. I wanted friendship. And warmth. And human connection. I wanted a true time of intimacy with a woman who can talk about something else than how fast can I go with that car from 0 to 200 km/h, or how comfy the leather seats will prove to us later in the night. Because pretty much that was the entire conversation I was getting.
Alas, every time I was showing up with my car, I didn’t get any of these simple, intimate emotions or approaches. Instead, I was getting respect, admiration, even envy. And a certain lust vibe from women, of course.
I guess that’s when I started to feel a bit of a separation. Between me and my “Infinity me”. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but bear with me. I felt that there was something more to me than my car. Or my money. Or my house. I didn’t know who or what it was, but I certainly felt that there was a real person beyond all these social labels: successful entrepreneur, Infinity driver, suburbs inhabitant.
Slowly, the gap between the labels and my real self grew bigger. Until, eventually, I didn’t match any of these labels anymore. In a few years, I still was a successful entrepreneur, (because I created from scratch an online publishing company and did a successful exit), but I didn’t have even remotely as much money as I used to have, didn’t drive an Infinity anymore and moved out from the suburbs back into an apartment in the city.
And, believe me or not, this is when the real fun started to happen. It took me a few months to realise, after I moved from the suburbs and got rid of my Inifinity that the source of my unhappiness was in that car. Or, to put it better, in the feelings I was deriving from its ownership.
Maybe the car was powerful, nice and a turn on for women. But I, the person, I wasn’t like that all the time. Sometimes I’m not powerful (I’m vulnerable), sometimes I’m not nice (I can be the grumpiest cat on the block) and sometimes I don’t really want to turn on women (like, you know, I just want to talk to them). As simple as that. But the projection I was creating from my car was invalidating all these genuine ways to relate. It was like a mask. And that mask attracted a certain type of pair masks.
Don’t get me wrong. I really, really like money. I don’t think money is evil. But I’m not an SUV. I’m a real person. And using outside objects to convey my personality was a big mistake.
The Story Of The Poor Tango Dancer
Two years ago I started to learn argentine tango. I started because I wanted to learn more about connection and improvisation. But the entire tango thing had a few – rather beneficial – secondary effects. One of them was that I completely changed my social circle. I wasn’t hanging out with fellow entrepreneurs or people from the industry anymore. It was something else now that was keeping us together. Namely, learning tango.
In this community it didn’t actually matter what car do I have. Or even if I have a car. All that was important was the way I was relating to my tango partners. It didn’t take long until I had more deeper connections with women from that community. Some of them were just short tango crushes, other were just flings, but some of them proved to be real friendships. And the common denominator of all these relationships was the complete lack of relevance of my car. Or of the fact that I have a car altogether.
I realized that when one of the women I was dating told me, two months after we were together: “Do you actually have a car? Wow!”. Mind you, for the last two months we had a wonderful connection, on all levels: emotional, physical and intellectual. We danced, we talked, we cooked, we shared intimate moments, and at any of these moments I didn’t feel the need to show up my Infinity.
And in that very short, but really precious moment, I realized I was actually cured from my “Hi, I’m Dragos and I’m an SUV” syndrome.
And yes, that was also the moment when I clearly remembered this quote:
“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”
I know you know from where this quote is. But if you don’t, just go ahead and watch Fight Club.
Because that’s what I’m doing right now. Not watching it.
But being in it. 😉