How I got here is a question I don’t ask myself much. There are too many plates in the air for me to stop and expound on the journey of my career. I hear that question a lot with people that I first meet, or with people I haven’t seen in a long time. Nashville happens to be a fun town to visit, so when an old childhood friend sent an email announcing their trip to Tennessee, we made plans to get together for an evening out. It was fun to catch up and reminisce about the crazy bike stunts we pulled or the tractor tire inner tube adventures on their farm and to learn more about the “gearhead disease” that I was happy he caught from his father. His dad and mine were friends from a very young age and still are thick as thieves today … still building cars and playing music together. We told our own stories and filled in the blanks, but hearing my words describing the path that I’ve followed over the past 30 years was kind of surreal. Not that it’s been a road paved with gold, quite the opposite, in fact. It’s a wonder that I survived the adventures along the way, but I suppose that can be said for anybody … that’s just life.
When I arrive at (or sometimes before) an event—SEMA, Hot Rod Power Tour, a car show, personal appearance, or seminar—I’m usually issued a laminated pass or badge, but not always. I have never thrown one away and there are some in a box somewhere, but the ones in this photo were hanging on a peg in my equipment room. I look at the pile of them and smile, thinking about how fortunate I am to be in this industry. But when I look at each one individually, it takes me back and I see the event like it was yesterday.
I remember Bob Maio and other great folks from the Mopar Nationals in Carlisle. Chad White and Autocrafters at All-Fords, Fred Staab and big laughs at the Hooker Bar at SEMA, watching Justin Wilson do a 7-second pit stop at an Indy race, making friends with Steve and the Heatshield gang, and the list goes on.
How did I get here? My badges know.
Each of these badges is a place marker … a cliffsnotes version of a time in my life when I decided to sprint into the face of uncertainty and terror and take chances, calculate risks while having faith that “things will work out” if I just keep my head down and work hard. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not done yet!
There are many badges to come, many markers in time that will give me the opportunity to remember them, the places, and the people that they represent. I take nothing for granted, and at the same time acknowledge that my blessed, fortunate, and incredibly interesting life is not an accident, but rather the product of years of hard work and the support of people that don’t get acknowledged near enough. How did I get here? It’s a long story and I’m lucky enough to have the badges to prove it. Just sayin’.
About the Author: Kevin Tetz is an automotive restoration expert, TV personality, freelance automotive journalist, and owner of Paintucation Instructional DVDs.
Photography by Kevin Tetz