Ten years ago I skied into a tree. A group of my dearest friends from college and I were in the middle of nowhere Indiana because we were young, impetuous, about to graduate, and didn’t know when we could make such fun and foolish decisions all together again. So in the wee hours of the morning I strapped on some skis for the very first time and took my ‘athletic’ self down an icy hill. My success was thwarted by nature. An X-ray in said middle of nowhere Indiana ‘hospital’ showed a host of issues, so they emergently placed a chest tube and helicoptered me off to Cincinnati.
It was chaotic there for a bit–and painful. The accident consumed a lot of my life, and then it didn’t. I have the plates and screws of titanium that grit and grind at just the right rotation, and I then I have my scar. If you’ve never seen it, just imagine a five year old grabbing a rose-tinted crayon and a flesh-toned piece of construction paper…then watch her draw a slightly curved, large carrot outlined in dots. She would grab her trusty glue stick, slather some on my right shoulder, position her carrot just right, and step back to admire her masterpiece. It’s completely ridiculous and fabulous, makes me thankful for life and healing, and is a constant reminder that a splash of caution in this adventurous life is okay.
Shortly after the accident and a month before graduation, one of my beloved professors asked me where I saw myself in five years. My eyes opened wide, brows furrowed, and my mind that was weaning off of both Morphine and Percocet became even more blurred. “You mean 2010??” I had no idea. I didn’t think I wanted a husband or kids by that time. Maybe I’d be doing non profit work, maybe living in a different country. I was focusing so hard on not sneezing (broken ribs) that making any kind of future plan was just too much.
Now ten years down that road (2015??), I want to tell that twenty-two-year-old sitting in the chair that God’s grace is sufficient for her. She would make barrels of mistakes, hurt herself and others. She would also see the world, learn how to love others better because she was so well loved. She would cry a lot because in just ten years she would see more death than most do in a lifetime–both through profession and the fact that so many of her people would lose their people. I’d let her know that laughter is still her favorite. Turns out that it is right next to love as the most necessary element of true life.
I’d advise her to still get that tattoo the day after graduation even though an upcoming movie would identify the placement she would choose as ‘tramp stamp’. ‘Shalom’ would still be the lens through which she hopes to see and understand all things, so she will excuse the unattractive and ill-placed tatt.
Oh, and that she’d be thankful. And that thankfulness would be overwhelming. She would know that the college friends that followed her to the middle of nowhere Indiana and Cincinnati hospitals would still be the ones she’d have in times of fear and crises. She would be surprised to know that she’s a nurse (excuse me?) and that her job not only challenges her everyday, but is also good work. And oh my stars would she be thankful for the man she married. Sheesh. Beyond.
Of course, I would never dream of letting my younger self in on such secrets. The unknown is the most beautiful and heartbreaking reality that weaves together our existence. So my forty-two-year-old self needs to go ahead and keep her mouth shut.
It’s February 2015. Andrew and I are still homesteading in the Airstream. We truly love it as home, but for the sake of our sanity, we plan to have something a wee larger this time next year. It has allowed us the freedom to pay off loans and travel. In fact, we left Nashville and our beloved Cruiser this week for New Zealand. Two 12-hour layovers and three flights totaling 21 hours later and we made it to the largest outdoor playground.
Never could I have imagined what my life would have looked like five–or ten–years post accident, but it seems wildly appropriate that I’m spending my tenth anniversary with the tree exploring the ends of Middle Earth with my boo.
Since traveling has always been the only steadfast means to my writing, here’s hoping I can maintain some sort of story-telling conduit in this space. For now, I will give this photo to document our first full day in the South Island of NZ. It was epic, we were epically sunburned, and the day was ineffable (doesn’t mean I ain’t gonna write about it later [insert winking emoticon]).