October 24, 2020

The Proverbial AHA Moment

posted on: Thursday April 18, 2013

Melanie Souchet ’14/Portfolio Staff

People like to talk about that moment in their life when they realized that they needed to step things up. That shining moment when they decided to turn their life around, kick that gambling addiction, write the next great American novel, or balance the state budget. For a lot of people, it happened after a near-death moment. I had the near-death moment, but not so much the revelation. Not at first. It should have hit me in the seconds after the car sideswiped my bike and sent me flying. But it didn’t. There was no moment of my life flashing before my eyes, no revelation that I’d led the most bread-and-butter existence in the history of mankind. In fact, my only thought was “what” and the only thing that hit me was the ground. It didn’t hit me when I was propped up against a wall and trying to figure out why my head was bleeding. That was another textbook time for me to have The Moment, but I was in shock at the time. It’s a bit difficult to come to an existential conclusion when all you can do is stare at the mangled wreck of your bike and wonder how big of a dent it left in that car. It didn’t come in the ambulance, either. Again, it was probably the shock. It was hard enough focusing on the paramedics, all of whom were wondering how I’d bashed my forehead open even though I was wearing a helmet. I had been wondering the same thing. I could only hope I wasn’t bleeding to death. Since they didn’t immediately drag me off to surgery when I reached the emergency room, I figured I wasn’t. The moment didn’t come while I was waiting in the ER, held immobile by my own soreness and a neck brace. I did start crying, though. Some poor nurse stopped to check on me, and when she asked if I was okay, all I could manage was, “That bike was brand new.” Not my most dignified moment, I’ll admit it. I calmed down when my sister arrived. She was taking it remarkably well. “At least tell me the guy stopped,” she said. I had to admit I didn’t know. I’d been too busy wondering what they were going to do with my bike and if the damage was repairable. “Your priorities are really messed up, you know that, right?” she scolded. “You could have died.” Her saying that didn’t trigger the moment. I just shrugged it off. The fact that my existence had nearly been wiped out seemed less important than the fact that my face was covered in blood. I ran the gauntlet of medical procedures, and any one of them could have triggered The Moment. But none did. I didn’t come to grips with the frailty of my existence as I sat in the CAT scanner. I wasn’t overwhelmed with relief and a desire for change as they stitched my forehead shut. Nor did I start to weep for lost time when my x-ray results came back all clear. Before you think I’m entirely insane, I was at least grateful that I didn’t have any broken bones. I didn’t even have the moment as I sat in the waiting room while my sister called the cab. I was over my shock, more fine than I should have been, considering the circumstances, and was about to go home. I should have reevaluated all of my life choices by now, but I hadn’t. I just sat in the tacky chairs and wondered why I was suddenly feeling ill. My mom would later say that it was probably the Vicodin. Apparently, my family has a history of issues with painkillers that no one had seen fit to tell me. I threw up in the cab like a drunken freshman. It was only then, as the driver pulled over so I could lean my head out the door, that I wondered where exactly my life had gone wrong. I guess being hit by a car wasn’t undignified enough for the aha moment. Puking. That was the key. Since that day, I got a new bike, had my stitches removed, and started getting out more. Not exactly the brilliant Hallmark ending one might expect, but it’s a step in the right direction. I just sometimes wish that I could have figured it out without the embarrassment.

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