There haven’t been many days when I’ve wanted to die. Maybe zero.
I felt really bad for a long time after my marriage ended, and I sort of stopped caring. I figured being dead might hurt less.
A little boy and you guys gave me reasons to dust myself off and keep trying every day.
There aren’t many days when I actually thought that I was going to die, even though I’ve probably almost died a bunch of times.
Three of those times stand out above the rest. One was the first day of my life when the docs and nurses told my parents to expect the worst. I don’t remember this, of course, but I’ve heard the story so many times that it feels like I do. Another was a three-wheeler ATV accident when I was a teenager where a little safety bar sticking out from behind the seat probably saved me.
And the third happened last night while driving home from a concert with my 11-year-old in the passenger seat.
I assume I’m not the only one who feels this really surreal feeling when my brain realizes that something bad is about to go down. It’s all happening so fast that you don’t have time to be afraid, so there’s no fear or anxiety, just real-time acceptance that the bad thing is happening, and you just sort of hope things will be okay on the other side, knowing it’s out of your hands.
My son was dozing off in the seat next to me even though the new Volbeat album was playing pretty loudly.
I had just changed lanes from the right lane to the center lane of a three-lane highway at about 70 miles per hour to pass a large semi hauling gasoline, and then exit for home about a mile later.
That’s when a white SUV passed quickly on my left and started merging into the center lane right where we were. I probably said a bad word. A collision with either the merging, speeding vehicle on my left OR the massive fuel tanker on my right seemed like they would end poorly, but I was pretty sure one or both of those things was about to happen.
I knew we were going to have a high-speed highway accident.
I hit the brakes hard and moved as close to the semi as I could. Maybe he saw what was happening and drifted a little to give me room. All I know is I left an epic trail of fishtailing rubber down the center lane of the highway I drive several times per week, I didn’t hear the expected crunch of metal on metal from either the left or the right, and then—miraculously—no one smoked us from behind which could have sent us in any number of directions to some unknown fate.
It happened too fast to really feel anything.
“Did we just almost get in a car accident, dad?”
“Yeah bud. A bad one, I think. Are you okay?”
“Yeah. Are you okay?”
“I’m having a little moment, but yeah, I think so. Did you feel us hit anything?”
“That’s insane. I don’t understand how we didn’t hit something. I was sure we were going to. I guess I did a good job.”
“You did do a good job, dad. We’re both okay.”
[Update: The other driver DID hit us. I have a fancy dent in my driver’s side front fender to show for it, and no means of making the other driver’s insurance company pay for it. I hadn’t had a clear view of that front fender until after writing this. Garbage. On the flip side, the vehicle repair costs are insignificant measured against the gratitude I feel for my son’s safety, and both of us still being here.]
2,000 Days Later
It was about six years—about 2,000 or so days—ago when I used to drive down this same stretch of road imagining a large truck driving in the opposite direction crossing over center and just insta-taking me out in a freak accident. I remember thinking: Do your worst. I don’t fucking care.
Back when I didn’t really know how to smile anymore.
Back when it felt impossible to focus on what was in front of me.
Back when it felt hard to breathe.
My son and I were driving home from an Imagine Dragons concert when I felt certain we were going to be involved in the worst vehicular accident of my life.
The most poignant part of the evening came when Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds intro’d a song talking specifically to kids in the audience about mental health and depression, speaking about the cultural stigma attached to opening up about depression, or about seeking therapy. He was sharing his story to normalize the idea that you can be the lead singer for one of the most popular rock bands in the world, and still need help.
And that that doesn’t make you weak. It makes you strong.
It doesn’t make you broken. It makes you wise.
“Life is ALWAYS worth living,” he said, before they started playing again in what turned out to be the most visually impressive musical performance I’ve ever seen.
The almost-accident shook me. Down in the places we can’t see and mostly don’t talk about.
Presumably because the little person I’m most alive for was right there with me.
And it dawned on me this morning how unsettling it was to think about family and friends—including you guys (if word ever even got to you)—that I was just gone without so much as a goodbye note telling you how much you matter.
How much this matters.
How much life matters.
What Might 2,000 More Days Bring?
Sometimes my coaching work brings me people who were in the same dark place I was 2,000 days ago.
People who are legitimately asking themselves the question: Why am I even getting up today? What is the point of all of this?
The answer to that question is different for everyone. But 2,000 days later, I’m more confident than ever that there’s ALWAYS an answer. There’s always a reason.
Interpret that with as much or as little spirituality as you want. The answer stands either way.
These past 2,000 days represent about one-fifth of my 40 years—about 20%, and I can’t remember the first 2,000, so it’s really more like 25%.
That number shocks me.
You make the decision to breathe. When everything hurts. You make the decision to get to tomorrow, whatever may come. You don’t have to do it 2,000 times. You just have to do it one more time. We can always do things one more time.
Heavy things become lighter to carry. Sometimes because we set a bunch of it down and leave it behind us. But mostly because we become stronger.
Ugly things become beautiful. Not because things we used to hate become things we love. But because we would be so much less capable had we not endured the difficult human trial.
Darkness becomes light. Which is a choice. To light up the darkness. One you feel prepared to make after wandering around in the dark for a while and deciding it sucks enough to do something else.
Every day that we wake up offers the possibility of being the best day of our lives. Every single day. I don’t always remember to, but I choose hope.
I don’t know how close I actually came to dying last night. Maybe it doesn’t matter since it eventually happens to all of us, and time is never on our side. We are not promised tomorrow, and never have been.
But it felt like a thing in the moment. I was shook. Still am. I’ve been in lots of things, and this one was different.
It made me want to hug my son. I’m so glad you’re here.
It made me want to write to you. I’m so glad you’re here.
It made me realize that I’m not the same person I was 2,000 days ago, and that I won’t be the same person in 2,000 more.
And neither will you.
But who will we be?