This was never supposed to become a yearly tradition; my original piece was a farewell story to the car I had loved and nurtured for half a decade and chose – needed – to break ties with. That was supposed to be the end of the narrative; when I wrote it, I never thought I would write a story that compelling again. Instead, it was where my life began.
When I drafted Mirror Finish I, I was on the precipice of realizing I had autonomy and could shape my own future. It was the first time I saw that there could be self-actualization in my life if I was brave enough to grasp it. Selling a car – something so trivially silly on the face of it – made me realize there is no invisible, indelible woven thread of fate. It was the first time I ever saw a narrative I could shape about myself.
When I wrote Mirror Finish II, I had taken a massive step forward towards seizing that autonomy. It was the first time I had written a story as a writer, not a programmer and part-timer. I had put some faith in myself at long last and taken the leap to become a full-time automotive writer, something I genuinely wanted but had been scared to reach for. It was the first time I believed in myself to shape my narrative for the better.
And then a thousand unimaginable things all happened too fast to process as soon as I’d hit publish on that last installment. I fled a disaster and began to rack up bylines. I bought a nine-foot-tall model of a Soviet Buran spaceship, which in the chaos-theory butterfly-wing roundabout way led to an amicable but painful breakup with my girlfriend of four years. I had my first successful print-shop launch.
More importantly than any of this absolute chaos, I finally decided to choose my own name and become Victoria Scott.
Despite everything falling apart so rapidly around me, changing my name was the final step I needed to truly change. Toni, for me, was a compromise. It was the last concession I was making to a worldview – to an entire world around me – where it seemed that I could never truly change. But Victoria is not a compromise. Victoria is aware of who she once was, and no longer feels an obligation to him. I could now become someone.
Then the part of my story that most people know me for all fell into place: I bought an old van and decided to find who, exactly, Victoria would become on the wide-open road. I still find it hard to pinpoint the moment I decided to purchase Marsha and set out West; for such a drastic and sudden decision, it seemed natural from the moment it struck me. Something gnawed at me; despite transition granting me clarity of mind, it is not and never could be a panacea. All it gave me were tools: tools to construct a person with a self-image, tools to build Victoria. It was apparent after so much had changed I needed to use those tools.
* * *
Just as suddenly as my life had lost most stability, I set out to willingly excise the last parts of my earthly foundation. I had to have nothing but a van to drive and stories to tell. I needed to be alone because I was terrified to be alone. I had no inkling of what I would find when at long last, in the middle of the silent desert, with no one for miles in any direction and nothing but sand and sky and cloudless moonlight around me, I looked within. There would be nowhere left to hide, and I could see Victoria. I was horrified to find nothing; what if now I was just a woman in a van, as hollow as I’d been as a man in a cubicle?
In the funniest way, the main crux of these stories – the mirror that my car is supposed to hold up to who I am – I already wrote. It was just called the Vanscontinental Express this time.
But finally, when I stared into the mirror, I could bear to gaze into it in a way I never have before. In my little toaster-shaped four-wheel-drive bedroom, under the skies of Nevada and on the plains of New Mexico and at the tops of the peaks of San Bernardino and in the suburbs of Seattle and the bars of WeHo and the winding roads of Arizona, I found something there. It’s hard to define what it was – divine spark or purpose, maybe – but I liked what I found in Victoria.
As much as I want to ascribe it to a heavenly inspiration, there is a real reason beyond the divine or the mystical that I found something inside. This was the first time since transition I actually appraised myself. I looked deeply inward and finally, instead of the one big secret that had obscured everything for so long, the girl inside I was burying under anything I could throw into the hole that kept boring to my core, I just found a woman in love with the world around her, and with awe, I realized she could finally live, and she deserved to.
An amazing thing happens when you finally believe that you are worthy of existing: you can love, fully. I could write ten thousand words about the people I fell in love with this year. I admit – I have no idea what will happen next with anyone. I don’t know what I really want out of relationships. I do know, though, that nothing feels better than to love fully without a caveat, and I have relished every moment of that feeling. As I write this I am listening to music that people I love introduced me to and every note means something, and I adore this significance that permeates every day of my life.
* * *
And now, as I write this, I start my first full-time job as a writer. I am Victoria Scott, Staff Writer for The Drive, working alongside people I’ve been reading since before I was in college. I am in awe of what the past year has held – for every person that’s told me they’re amazed at the cool adventures I get to go on, I assure you, I am twice as amazed. It has been completely surreal, and yet it has all been so vivid because I was present for it.
I still have my moments of self-doubt and imposter syndrome, undoubtedly. I don’t think those will ever truly go away for a person who still can’t quite believe she became this so quickly. But every single insane experience – alone under a Milky Way bright enough to cast shadows, wrangling an injured van held together with handcuffs down a mountain peak, tearing an Aston Martin through Palm Springs, piloting an NSX around Daytona – I was finally there to enjoy, and they all meant so much more to me than they ever could have as Toni, or Tony, or Anthony. I lived them, as I never could have before.
Once again, I don’t know what the next year will hold. Last year, when I finished Mirror Finish II, I was convinced the hardest was over with. I had taken the jumps I needed to – to be a writer, to be a woman – but I was not tossing myself into a yawning crevice like I had expected to for so long. I still needed to hit the ground again and continue down the path I was forging, and after so long on the precipice, I forgot life would go on after I’d lept.
photo by Jess Walker/Aston Martin
Now, at last, I am learning how to walk the path. Whether I’ll find myself in Marsha under starry skies, or an NSX lapping Daytona, or any of the million places that seem so much more tangible after a year living out dreams I’d been too scared to let myself imagine, I know that I – I know that Victoria – will be there, walking the path, loving the life I finally can live as myself.