08. Every day can be your last

Hurry up, get lost! Move it, move it! I blasted through town like hunted game. This road-pirate was in a rush, and the jam-packed rush hour didn’t change that. After a working day filled with commitments and deadlines, the head must be emptied. So keep on going, more power to the pedals! It was lovely to blow off some steam after hours of sitting behind the computer. Enthusiastically, I was breaking records on my usual (stealth)route. To avoid a busy intersection, I ghost-ride a one-way cycling line (as usual). Just for a short stretch, but still. This persistent habit saved me two to three whole minutes on the journey. So worth it! It’s quite a considerable gain of time, one that’s definitely worth the risks. I always made it home without any accidents or fines, so this reckless, self-overestimating cheater didn’t know when to stop. Poor visibility, traffic jams, passing cops, heavy traffic, fines; it all didn’t matter. How clever. It was waiting for the inevitable – and unforgettable – big bang. My time had finally come on a gray spring day. Then, I personally proved that haste makes waste.

From the corner of my eye, I saw a car approaching at lightning speed. Braking, accelerating, steering away: it didn’t make any difference. Oh, shit. It happened in a flash. I didn’t even have time to look like a deer in the headlights. The collision swung me away for several meters. Memories between collision and whacking the floor are lacking, that’s how quick it went. I was hit from the right and smacked the pavement over the entire right half of my body – including the head. Because of the hard blow, I temporarily lacked any sense in my body. It was all numb. Apparently the scene looked dramatic. God knows where they all came from so suddenly, but I got surrounded by bystanders in no time. This wasn’t the kind of airtime I was looking for, neither for asking for the sake of asking. A bystander wondered how I was. Well… bloody fantastic, best day of my life. Good thing I couldn’t get it out of my throat. After all, you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

After some minutes, I could move again with pain and difficulty. The by now arrived emergency services brought me into an ambulance for inspection. Although I was battered and bruised, nothing turned out to be broken, torn or crushed. I rolled the dice and got away without any serious injuries. The paramedics and bystanders could hardly believe it. They emphasized how incredibly lucky I was, as the sidewalk was shielded by concrete barriers. Ironically, her hurry – she wanted to quickly go past approaching cars – was my lifesaver. Because of the extra speed, I got launched over the obstacles. I was also lucky that the impact was spread over my body, especially since I didn’t wear a helmet. Despite clear explanations, I couldn’t grasp it. Too much happened in a short amount of time. It all went past me; there was no time to process the event on the spot. After a final check, two policemen dropped me off home – a few hundred meters away. They accompanied me to the front door of my student apartment. After answering their questions, they went with the wind. The door shut. So that was it: a short yet intense action-movie with a blazing start, surreal twist and abrupt end. Oh, and a protagonist who doesn’t want to be one. Luckily no one was filming, as far as I know.

Still pumped with adrenaline, I tried to rest on my bed. What the hell just happened? Something like that always happens to others and never to yourself, until it does. My cracked brain filled with all sorts of “what if…” scenarios. The bizarre amount of luck finally struck me. Spontaneously, I felt shivers, sickness, goosebumps. Suddenly, I felt so hopeless and vulnerable. Immediately, I saw myself as a transient bag of blood, bones, flesh and water. Logically, I didn’t think of that at all before. Until the accident, it was a day like thousands – one dictated by routine, the autopilot and the issues of the day. It was such a typical, busy day in which the impermanence of life passed by completely. Yeah. All these truisms, I knew them. You can only live in the eternal now. Small mistakes can have large consequences. There are no guarantees. Every day can be your last. Seize the day. Bla-Bla-Bla-Bla-Bla. All pearls of wisdoms, though it’s just semi-intellectual drivel without the accompanying actions. They’re not worth a damn that way. Knowing something is one thing; acting on it is quite another.

Everything hurt like hell in the evening. My body wasn’t the only thing that had to deal with a whack: my mental constructions got their turn as well. The illusion of compulsively trying to control everything was unmistakable. In one firm swoop, everyday matters became irrelevant side-issues. Obligations, deadlines, expectations, status symbols, desires, worries, plans, possessions, titles, diplomas, payslips: they didn’t matter. I was wondering how I would judge my life once it’s nearly over. Have you made the most of it? Have you lived the way you’d like to? Do you truly know yourself? What do you leave behind? Numerous questions came up. The confrontational train of thought was paralyzing. Suddenly, I was afraid to be alone, to choose, to follow my path. Like a child, I longed for a safe and familiar environment. So I asked my father to pick me up. How nice it was to be together, to be back in the parental home for now. Inner peace made a comeback. It all became clear in my old room. Despite ‘the mill’s blow’, this stubborn Dutchman keeps cycling around without a helmet. That remains the same. However, what changes is something fundamental:

From now on, I no longer take my health for granted; I will be grateful for every day and experience them more intensively.

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