I once stood on top of a Scottish mountain. It would be cliché to say that I felt like I could see the world, but really I felt like I could see everything of importance, everything that mattered to me in that moment. The memory is somewhat foggy now, but I remember being on top of this relatively short mountain overlooking Loch Lomond in the Highlands. And I remember taking it all in. Looking out at the water and seeing the expanse of mountains and greenery. In that moment I had one word: breathtaking, and I knew then that that’s what I wanted my life to be. A series of moments that could all be categorized under this label signifying some sort of existential fulfillment.
A year on, I’m having a very different summer than last. Like very different. This time last summer, I was touring Edinburgh Castle, my Facebook Memories reminds me. But today, I am shopping for a car. Last summer, I was worried about an eight-hour flight. This summer, I’m worried about not flipping a car off the highway again. It’s all very different. And I think maybe I wish to go back in time. To be in Scotland again. To be standing on that mountain again. And while I would love to, I don’t wish to relive what I’ve been through now. At the same time, I don’t wish my accident hadn’t happened. Genuinely, I think it was cosmically meant to happen.
I’ve fielded a lot of questions since the accident. Understandably. And to an extent, I think some people have it wrong. My life did not flash before my eyes, I was not instantly transformed by the accident, and just because my minor injuries have healed doesn’t mean it’s over for me. What actually happened, then? When I was flipping through the air in my car, I was the most present I’ve been in a very long time. My life did not flash before my eyes because what did flash through my mind was every TV drama and movie and story I’ve heard about an accident like this. I knew that very few make it out of this. And so I was concentrating on not hitting my head on anything. That, and I kept wondering why I was screaming and what good that would actually do. Not that that stopped me.
Then, when it was over, I opened the door and stepped out. My legs were shaking, and I was shocked, but altogether I was physically healthy. I felt lucky, yes. I still feel lucky. I felt and still feel grateful. But my life hadn’t changed, by my estimation. I still found myself thinking about my plans for the night and what I was planning to watch on TV. Because that’s me. And maybe that’s a good thing because it means I was still capable of thinking about those things. As freaked out as I was and still am, I don’t feel that my life has changed. It just feels like that is now a part of the overarching story.
Now I’m left repeatedly answering a bad question: Are you okay? And I say, “Yeah, I’m okay.” Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes I am okay. But sometimes I’m not. There is this idea that because my physical scrapes and scratches are mostly healed, I must be over it by now. It’s been a little over three weeks since the accident, and I don’t know what I am. Maybe I’m okay; maybe I’m not. I can’t always tell. I want to be okay. But that takes time and distance. And also sleep, which has been elusive recently.
The thing about divine lessons is not everyone gets to learn from them. All too often, it is not a lesson but a consequence. I’m glad mine wasn’t a consequence. I learned a great lesson in what not to do as a driver, but in seeing Death’s hooded figure loom too close for comfort, I learned that I am happy with how I live my life. There is not a person I wish I had said more to. Everyone I care about knows I care about them. There wasn’t anything I’d wished I had said differently. I had only one regret: I wish I would’ve kissed that guy when I had the chance. And that is the only thing I would’ve done differently.
And who knows, maybe I will. Luckily, the chance is still available to me. I’m very happy for that. Thinking about it now, my life could use some more breathtaking, awe-inspiring moments, if for no reason other than to say I lived. Like, truly lived.