June 21st was the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere. It was also a solstice of sorts for me: it was the five year anniversary of living car free!
Taking the plunge to get rid of my car nearly didn’t happen. The very day I posted an ad on Craigslist to sell my car was the same day I got word that my friend Phillip O’Neill was killed that weekend by a distracted driver while biking in Pasadena. I was shocked and devastated, and started to rethink my decision.
I spent that afternoon in tears as mourned my friend and started to weigh my options about living car-free. My thoughts kept going to the same question: What would Phillip do? So instead of wasting that entire day behind my tears, I rode my bike to my Monday night volunteer work of feeding the homeless of Skid Row.
That bike ride was tough. In my mind, every car I encountered was the one that took Phillip’s life. My hyper-diligence turned into anger and paranoia. But I pushed out thoughts of Phillip’s death and replaced them with thoughts of his life. He would not want me to be afraid of biking and living my life. So I continued with my ride despite my fear and grief and served the less fortunate that night in his honor.
As hard as that initial bike ride was after learning about Phillip’s death, I’m grateful that I did it. Fear controls us if we don’t face it. I could feel his peaceful strength with me that night.
Phillip was encouraging of my plan to get rid of my car. He lived a car-free life himself, and shared his anecdotes on how he enjoyed that lifestyle. I knew he wouldn’t want me to go back on my plan based on fear and grief. I knew he’d want me to live my best life.
Five years later, I’m still living without a car. I’ve become a master at navigating LA Metro’s bus and rail system. The advent of ride sharing services around that time has made it easy–almost too easy–to get picked up within minutes by a private car. I’ve saved money and stress by selling my vehicle. I take pride in knowing this decision is making a substantial impact on helping the environment. Most importantly, I’ve become more invested in my community as I am able to closely interact with it while I walk and bike. I’m living my best life, better than I ever imagined, just as Phillip would have wanted me to live.