I drive a 1995 Ford Thunderbird. The car, which was paid in full, was a gift after I was forced to give up my much newer and sleeker ride. The truth was I had lost my job and I realized a high car payment wasn’t a priority over rent and food.

From the time I signed the lease for the car I resented it.

I had insisted on going into the dealership on my own (no boyfriend or dad). However, I wasn’t there to buy a new car. I was there to pay off my lease on the car I already had. Before I left for the dealership I had made some phone calls and done my research, I had calculated the accurate pay off information, based on the car’s current value and the interest rate of the loan. Despite all of this, the car dealer’s salesmanship, charm and ability to play on my vulnerable ego put me behind the wheel of a car I didn’t need, couldn’t afford and barley even liked. By most people’s standards this was not a fancy car, but for me it was the biggest purchase I had ever made.

I remember driving off the lot feeling like a bit of a fraud, a sell-out. I had never based my worth on material things but in someway this vehicle made me feel better about myself. The car dealer had done his job at playing on my emotions at the time. “You deserve this,” he had said. “You work hard and you seem like you’re a person, who doesn’t put herself first. This car can be your first step in having higher expectations for yourself.”

About an hour after me stepping foot on the car dealership’s pavement, I transformed from a strong independent women, who knew exactly what she wanted and what she had to do to get it, into a 20 something year-old naïve girl who was eating up an ego boost delivered from a guy who spent his days manipulating people for money.

I have always been a bit of an open book and sharing my personal life with the car salesman, whom I had only just met was natural for me. As we sat down to go over my “options” I proceeded to have diarrhea of the mouth, opening up about everything from my rocky love life to the job I hated. Without much probing he was able to get me to fall into enough of an emotional state that if my credit had been good enough I would have upgraded car’s stereo, had the windows tinted and put rims on it.

At this point, I wasn’t even bargaining to bring the price of the car down because I felt my salesman-turn-counselor deserved a good commission for being such a “good listener.”

The “emotional stability” the car gave me lasted until I had to make the first payment.

A couple of years later when the T-Bird entered my life, I was grateful but in a way I felt like I had taken a step back in life. However, last week when I was faced with the choice to fix the T-Bird or buy a new car I realized that while I may not be where I expected to be in life I am the person I want to be.

Driving away from the mechanics last week in my 1995 dented up beauty I felt like I had truly arrived and although the seats aren’t leather and there is no navigation system, its all mine and that makes it the sweetest ride in town.