Unintended Authenticity

What is it about the MVA (Motor Vehicle Administration) that makes it such a frustrating place to be? Is it the endless lines of people, the robotic employees, the super long wait times, the exorbitant cost of each visit, or the fact that a trip there never goes according to plan? At least that is how a visit to the MVA goes in Maryland and Florida. The MVAs in Pennsylvania and North Carolinas did not take up your whole day, but they sure do take a chunk out of your wallet. The moral of the story is that Uncle Sam will always get what is he is due, along with some of your patience and time.

It seems that we always have an issue whenever we try to get a car registered, get licenses, or attempt to do whatever else is required to be a law-abiding automobile operator. Despite our best efforts, we successfully complete the intended task approximately 50% of the time we go to the MVA. We research, plan, and collect our documents, and it still rarely works out in our favor. Such is life, better luck next time, says the Motor Vehicle Administration.

Moving to a new state requires at least one visit to the MVA, unfortunately. Some people do it sooner, some people do it later. We just wanted to get it all done and paid for, so we did it sooner. The X factor in the MVA visit of 2019 is that we now have a toddler. Getting two licenses and three cars tagged seemed like a big task, and it was, especially with baby boy. He is so fun, and he is such a joy, but man he never stays still! That can lead to a disaster in a setting like this.

Well, we knew what we were in for, and we prepared to the best of our ability. Naps, snacks, and books were all had, along with a healthy dollop of above average patience. I also took the time to do my hair, dress nicely, and put on a little more makeup than usual. After all, I was going to be looking at this license for a few years. I wanted to like the picture I would repeatedly present whenever my license was required.

We got to the MVA right after lunch time, and it happened to be the Monday after Thanksgiving. Why is that important? Apparently half of Florida needed to visit the MVA that same day, because it been closed for an extra two days last week. Bummer. So, the three of us wait for about an hour and half, but it didn’t involve much sitting. No, we were running around the MVA with a toddler who thought we had just taken him to the coolest place on earth. Oh, to find such joy in the smallest of things.

We saw the cars and trucks in the parking lot, ate a lot of goldfish, made friends in the waiting room, and spent a lot of time running back to check the current number being called. When our number was finally called, it was such a relief! Well, it was short lived. Our passports were expired, and as a result, we did not have enough forms of valid ID to get our licenses. It was a good thing that I spent the time to get myself glammed up from my usual “mommy just came from the gym” style. As frustrating as it was, we only had ourselves to blame. We should have seen that they were expired. At least we were able to get two out of three cars tagged in FL, but we were still going to have to come back. Not surprising.

When we got home, we realized we would actually have to go back to the MVA two more times, because we had to get the third car registered within a limited time frame. The licenses were a little lower on the priority list, and those could be done individually, whereas registering the car required both of us to be present. We would also need our birth certificates in order to be able to get our licenses, which are not in FL, and that was going to take time.

The next week, we got all of our stuff and trekked down to the MVA again, all three of us. This time, I was not glammed up; I was dressed for battle in the MVA with a toddler. It was the same routine, with baby boy being a ball of energy in the drab and dull MVA office. We found trucks and police cars, we made friends, and we handled a few meltdowns. It’s the price of admission at the MVA with a young kiddo.

We waited about thirty minutes this time, as it was not the Monday after a holiday week (thankfully). When we were called up, we told the MVA employee that we just wanted to get our car registered. She questioned us on why we didn’t have FL licenses yet, and we told her that we had attempted, but that our documentation wasn’t valid. She asked to see it, and to our surprise, she said that we would be able to get our licenses even though our passports were expired due to some administrative thing.


Now, I had two immediate reactions: 1) gratitude and relief that we would not have to come back to the MVA for a long time, and 2) dismay at realizing that I currently looked like I just came from a gym. Call it sheer, unadulterated vanity, but I had wanted to look good in my license picture! That’s why I did my hair and makeup before going there the last time! After all, I was going to have this thing for years, might as well try to look good!

Well, that was not going to happen. My license picture was going to be a permanent snapshot of a mom getting down and dirty in the day to day with frizzy hair, little makeup, a messy bun, and a T-shirt (ha).

A sweet picture of my brother and I, frizzy hair and all.

I got caught looking how I normally look, and for some reason, that surprised me. I had wanted to present the best looking version of myself for my license picture, but that is not my daily reality. Normally, I have on casual clothes, little to no makeup, and wavy, frizzy hair. There just is not time or reason to be glammed up everyday. Not to say that I allow myself to look like a hot mess, however tempting it occasionally is. After all, will my quality of life improve if I look glamorous every moment of every day? Probably not. I look how I look, and that’s just how it’s going to be. I am ok with that every day, but why was I not ok with it when it came to the picture for my license?

It was a funny way to realize a common truth. Why do we so often fall victim to our pride in these little, surprising ways? Oftentimes, we don’t even realize it is happening until something doesn’t go as planned, ie when you get your license picture taken while dressed to try and contain an active little toddler. These little self-introspective moments are good, and it is also good to be able to laugh at yourself, which I sure did.

This situation makes me think of a story that Chip Gaines told in his book “Capital Gaines“. He was having a hard time picking a picture for the cover of the book, and he was choosing between a couple flattering pictures of himself and a non-flattering picture of himself. He was advised to choose the flattering one, which is not a surprise. After some debate, he chose the unflattering picture because it was the most authentic image of him, wrinkles and all. When I read it, I thought that was pretty cool. It’s not easy to choose genuine over most aesthetically appealing, especially when you have a significant audience like he does.

In that book, Chip expounds upon the reasoning and the lessons of that decision in much greater detail, and it really made me think. Why do we all want to show the best version of ourselves at all times, even if it’s not entirely true? Why are we so quick to give a standard answer that lacks truth and depth when a friend asks how we are doing? It’s easier to keep people at a distance instead of genuinely engaging with them, whether that be avoiding a hard answer or showing them what we really look like when we don’t exert a lot of effort. However, that only hurts us in the long run. It dampens genuine relationships, and it allows us to emphasize the superficial, which is already way too easy in our current world.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30.

So, after asking for one re-take (my pride is still intact, apparently), I decided to just go with it. That license picture will be a great reminder on how reality oftentimes isn’t as pretty as we would like it to be, but it is so important to be authentic. We all have struggles, insecurities, and flaws; it’s a mark of humanity.

My favorite family photo just after bringing the baby home, post baby belly and all.

The quicker we embrace authenticity, the better our relationships will be, and the easier it will be for us to see the blessings of our current reality, even if it’s being at the MVA 🙂

***Update: my husband says it’s actually the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) in Florida instead of the MVA (Motor Vehicle Administration). Turns out, he’s right (haha!).

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