On May 1st, 2011, I was in a serious motorcycle crash, one that nearly killed me and left me with a paralyzed right hand and arm. That having been said, this diary is less about the circumstances of my accident and more about what the accident revealed to me about the core of who I am versus who I thought I was. While I've mostly lurked on DK with the occasional diary or comment for a number of years, my best received writing was when I wrote about an event in my own life and the lessons contained therein. This diary is another in that vein. More after the jump...
First, the nuts and bolts of what happened. According to the accident report, at 7:15 pm on Sunday, May 1st, a black Honda sedan turned left against a red turn arrow in front of my bike, causing me to crash into the passenger side of his vehicle at 35 mph. The driver then fled the scene and was subsequently apprehended 3 hours later. Later investigation showed the driver was likely drunk at the time, but due to the amount of time between the accident and eventual arrest, reasonable doubt on the drunk driving charges existed. Those charges were moot in any case given his involvement in a felony hit-and-run. Had it not been for the couple in the truck behind me chasing him until they got a plate number, he might have gotten away with it altogether. God bless their decision to go after him.
As for myself, I have only three fragmentary memories of the accident. The first is the reflection of my headlight in his passenger side window, then things get all kaleidoscope-y. The second is being asked my name by the paramedics and me responding by rapping out my name and DOB like I was in the military [never have been]. The last and, in retrospect, hilariously funny, was looking up and seeing acoustic ceiling tiles and two people in surgical masks and gowns. I asked "Where am I?" and the doctor (I assume) says "Mercy" [Hospital], to which I respond in an utterly flat, deadpan tone, "Oh." [long pause] "This can't be good." He said, "No, it's not." then it's lights out for me.
My personal stream of consciousness picks up Friday morning when I wake up in a state of euphoria and see my dad reading next to my bed. Given he lives in Tennessee, this strikes me as unexpected and rather remarkable, so I exuberantly say him, "Hi, Dad! When did you get here?" He says, "_, I've been here since Tuesday." to which I respond by asking what day it was [Friday]. Have to say, mighty good painkillers they have these days. Now the unusual thing in this was my emotional state when I woke up. I woke up happy! Not cheerful, not "ho hum, it's another day," but honest-to-God happy. Now, the euphoria I attribute to the pain meds, but the happiness, the general state of cheerfulness I woke up with and which I experience my life now has continued long past the time I stopped needing any pain medications, which leads me to the revelation, the lesson if you will, of my accident.
For most of my adult life, I've considered myself a bit of a pessimist. Any expressions of optimism or happiness were always tempered by the knowledge that sooner or later, the universe was going to yank the rug out from under me. The most recent evidence I had to this effect was in 2008 when I graduated from college with a degree in accounting after returning to school at 45, landing a good consulting job only to see it evaporate 6 months later in the crash at the end of '08. In 2009, the Big 4 accounting firms were letting go of staff along with many other employers, so an accounting degree without experience wasn't worth much. I worked tax season in 2010 for a retail tax return preparation chain [who shall remain nameless], then landed a position with a small CPA firm for the tax season in 2011. Later, due to an opening, I was offered a position for the off-season which was scheduled to begin May 3rd. My crash was May 1st.
Before my accident, I would have said this litany of failure and frustration was just how life is so don't get too excited because someone or something is just going to rain on your parade anyway. After my accident, circumstances didn't matter to me anymore when it came to my personal happiness. What got stripped away in that collision was the veneer of cynical despair that was who I thought I was. Buried underneath those gray emotional layers was my natural joie de vivre, my natural optimism. Interestingly enough, throughout everything, blame has been utterly absent as to the other driver, the circumstances surrounding my injury, and my employment prospects. What is present is a deep and abiding sense of happiness, even contentment. When all is said and done, I directly experienced the fundamental truth inherent in the adage "you are responsible [as in "able to respond"] for your own happiness." For me, this is not a state of positive attitude requiring effort to maintain, but a natural state of being.
It is said in the fire of life's adversity, our inner character gets revealed. The gift of my accident and recovery is this - who I really am is a happy man, a cheerful man, an optimistic man. I believe this principle applies to nations as well as individuals, that the partisan conflict and national angst of democracy is the fiery forge in which our national character is continually being created. Finally, my wish for you who have made it this far is this - may the challenges in your life guide you to your true path and reveal to you your innermost truth. In the meantime - illegitimi non carborundum!!!
5:00 PM PT: I forgot to mention the extraordinary support I received from my employers at the CPA firm, as well as my friends and family. I just finished the 2012 tax season with the same firm, although the off-season is looking thin. The supporting cast of all the other folks from the DA's office to the various insurance company personnel were very supportive [I know - insurance companies! - but the people were great]. They all deserve a hearty "Thank you!"