The other day a thought occurred to me as I drove down the road. It hit me just how many times in my life I’ve avoided literal serious injury or death by sheer, dumb luck. These were instances in which no common sense was yet available or, if it was, was studiously ignored. Broadly speaking, these events happened either during my childhood (i.e. when I didn’t know any better) and adulthood before middle-age (i.e. when I should have known better). My subconscious obviously wants me to learn from these experiences and maybe, just maybe, manifest some gratitude that the universe chose not to deal me the ultimate smackdown.
I, as I have remarked in many previous posts, am a middle-aged cisgendered dude. In fact, I’m so middle-aged that I just had to look up the definition of cisgender. As a generation X’er, I was of a generation of boys that were ultimately (unbeknownst to us) the last generation to be relatively unsupervised and, even when we were, safety rules such as we know now were not really a thing. Firstly, it was common for even young children to just go out in the neighborhood, ad hoc, find their friends and play at whatever until they heard their parents calling for them. No organized “play dates” and very little supervision. In those days, if some random adult saw you kids doing something stupid, they would simply tell you to cut it out and you, the kid, would listen(more often than not). Now, granted, in my childhood I grew up in a variety of countries, but the above holds true. We used to fish on our own (i.e. bodies of water, sharp hooks, etc), climb trees incessantly, hunt stuff (mostly birds and lizards) with slingshots and come up with various creative ways of getting into trouble. Even little boys routinely carried pocket knives. During my childhood I’ve avoided a few catastrophic tree falls (hitting a branch on the way down and hanging on), multiple attempted or partially successful dog attacks, running out into the street without looking and narrowly getting hit by a car (more than once), almost being rundown and trampled by wild horses (were it not for a fortuitously placed tree), ducking line drives to the head (I was pitcher in baseball), among other examples. I used to box, kick-box and do Karate as a pre-teen and teenager. It was, of course, supervised but the level of contact we used in sparring back then would make peoples’ eyes water these days. I got my bell pretty well rung on multiple occasions, and did the same to some opponents. I remember once, in a karate tournament, hitting a kid in the midsection so hard with a stepping side kick that it launched him, flying, out of the “square”. Excessive contact? Nope, I scored the point. I remember once when I was 12 going to a town dump (in rural Michigan) to shoot rats. Just a bunch of unsupervised 12 year olds with .22 caliber rifles shooting stuff. Nobody got shot that day which is mind-boggling. Even grown-ass adults have close calls on shooting ranges pretty regularly when they don’t practice strict discipline. As a teenager I engaged in incredibly stupid behaviour as teenagers are wont to do. Hitchhiking. Routinely being in cars that were street-racing. Being shot at with Uzis caused we unknowingly shot bottle rockets at the Israeli embassy. And narrowly avoiding the cops on that one as well. Smoking weed in a country where the penalties, if caught, were very severe…the list goes on.
Later, as young adult until roughly my early 30s, I had some serious luck. In some of these instances it was a case of learning streets smarts on the (meaner) streets of Boston in the mid-80s. Being jumped by multiple teenagers on St. Paddy’s day in South Boston. An attempted mugging in the Boston Financial district at 2AM. I was working nightshift and had gone out to buy a snack at the Store24 near the Aquarium. As I walked up State Street 2 dudes approached me to “ask directions”. My spidey sense engaged and I took off running. I did look back at one point and they were running after me, and one of them had a length of pipe. The freaky thing is they chased me for about 400 yards…they were weirdly motivated. When I was 18 and freshly arrived in Boston, I took an apprentice baker job that was night shift. The kitchen we used was in Faneuil hall. I used to have spikey hair back then. One day, as I was waiting for the other kitchen staff to arrive to unlock, I was accosted by some drunk old dude from the suburbs(40s probably) who just wanted to fight so he used the excuse that I “must be some fucking homo”. He grabbed my sweatshirt with both hands for which he got an elbow to the side of the face and a kick to the side of his right knee. I immediately booked it. Almost getting stomped in a bar by about 12 frat like guys because my drunk friend had spoken to one “their” girls. Now, he was being a perfect gentleman, but he a) should have known better and b) had a Scottish accent and therefore was a goddamned foreigner and should have known better. By some miracle, I was relatively sober and was juuust able to talk our way out of that one. Fighting two druggies who decided to jump me and a friend in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston. Again, their apparent excuse was that they thought we were “homos”. They paid the consequence of getting a comprehensive ass-kicking (remember, they were druggies. Though I broke a metacarpal bone in my hand one hitting one of the fools) but it’s quite frankly shocking to be attacked by strangers. (Yes, Boston was weird and often violent in those days and as you could tell from those examples it was open season on gays. For the record, I’m not gay and neither is my friend – not that it matters.)
And, unfortunately, too many, far too many dangerous episodes brought on by binge-drinking. It would take pages and pages to list them all. Unlike the examples listed above, these were situations what were entirely my fault. I literally shudder to recall some of these instances. I am very, very…I cannot stress this enough, very lucky to have survived some of these episodes. I’m not saying I came through unscathed, only that it could have been much worse. (NB: I stopped binge-drinking in my early 30s. I continued to drink, but I stopped getting mega-hammered. Binge-drinking is unique in that it poses a clear and present danger to the person doing it as well as those around him in that moment.) These are the only instances I regret as they were self-inflicted. I’m going to be Captain Obvious, dear Reader. If you have a problem with substance abuse, seek help immediately. Help is out there, if you have the desire to change. The biggest life hack I can think of is to simply not engage in this behaviour. You want to enjoy life? Pursue excellence, pursue your passions instead of seeking to “check out” of existence temporarily.
Above all, I feel a sense of overwhelming gratitude to have survived. It was all dumb luck. I’m grateful to have escaped serious injury or worse in those episodes that are just unavoidable situations that life presents one with. I’m even more grateful to have avoided more serious immediate consequences as a result of “hard partying”. I’m grateful to have stopped that behaviour and not deal with all of the suffering it engenders. Debilitating hangovers, injuries, mental anguish/anxiety, loss of self-respect and the list goes on. I’m grateful that I can appreciate a beautiful day such as this morning. I’m going to take a walk in the woods, my mind clear and my health (knock on wood) fairly decent. The ability to live in this moment, and appreciate it, is not something to be taken for granted.