Getting nearly killed by a car, or anything else for that matter, can be a magnificent blessing in disguise. It is way, way too easy to go through life assuming that we’ll get around to everything that we want to do someday, halfheartedly fearing death as a result of a vestigial survival instinct or flawed personal philosophy. Routines grow comfortable for better and for worse, and we find ourselves dulling our goals and desires in order to create contentment in the situations that we’re in.
And there is nothing wrong with that—indeed, there is much virtue in seeing the nuanced beauty of the Plains as utterly equal to cliffside vistas in Big Sur, the swamps of the Southeast every bit equal to the Rocky Mountains’ majesty. But it is one thing to practice acceptance and appreciation, and another to simply numb ourselves to problems through a repeatable pattern of actions and distractions. I had undoubtedly fallen into a pattern of comfort and base aspiration prior to waking up in an ambulance a month ago yesterday.
The changes that have ensued as a result of that accident have been numerous and span the gamut of emotions, from exceedingly positive to bittersweet to dreadful thoughts that wake me up at night. But, as I’ve seen more with every passing day and interaction, the overwhelming gratitude of being alive is infectious. Even in the midst of heartbreak and headache, we are finding reasons to be thankful and to let the benefits of one avoided tragedy be reaped by many.
I’ve had two hour phone calls with friends I haven’t seen in five years, refreshingly frank conversation with siblings and parents, and a renewed desire to achieve things that had been placed on wistful and complacent backburners. It is hugely encouraging to be encouraged by others and to be told that I’ve encouraged them.
New Friends and Old Cars
Since the wreck, I’ve returned to many of the things that define me and my story but had been buried under layers of life. One of those is cars: my first love and totally autonomous interest and the real reason I got into writing at all. Growing up reading car magazines, the likes of Peter Egan, Gavin Green, and David E. Davis showed me that it’s possible to write about purely enjoyable endeavors while discussing much more meaningful things. Their sensory descriptions and knack for capturing the immutable human joy of engaging with another person’s creation captivated me and had me hooked on writing. Being an automotive journalist was instantly my dream job.
The coolest part? Writing is a creative endeavor just like designing and engineering a car, and drawing on our unique sensibilities to craft sentences and stories results in something that has an individual or team’s fingerprints all over it just like cars, bicycles, guitars, and paintings. It allows readers to engage with creators while creating their own meanings and inferences in the cadence of the words and the unspoken secrets between the lines.
I love finding the ways that virtually everything on earth intersects, how each of us has a unique set of interests and abilities to find the beauty in myriad niches. Mutual appreciation for one subject can lead to education about seemingly disparate ones, which ends with a gorgeous cross-pollination of hobbies and interests, backgrounds and stories. To create well, we have to consume wholeheartedly. And I am full of desire to do both, and to make new friends and catch up with the old. And to willfully embrace discomfort and uncertainty and to learn from the minor and major challenges they present.
On the Road Again
All of this rambling can only lead one place: it is time for me to hit the road again. This website was started on my first trip, several years ago when I packed up a couple of panniers and assembled a rickety touring bike in Saint Augustine, Florida before pedaling my way west.
Whether you’ve been following along since then, joined somewhere along the way, or just landed here after the life-affirming Bring a Trailer auction and conversation, I couldn’t be more nervous or excited to announce that I’m about to take to the highways and byways of America in an air-cooled Porsche, armed with a few essentials, a road bike, some cameras, and an ever-growing list of people to visit.
The conversations I’ve had as a result of simply winning the bidding to buy the car have already proven life-affirming and worth the price of admission. From Bozeman, Montana to Charleston, South Carolina, and everywhere in between, people young and old have extended sincere welcomes and encouragement for my idea to live out a dream after being given a new lease on life thanks to a very scary day.
I Should Write a Book
These all-too-infrequent blog postings always lead to such sincere and kind words, encouragement that I should write a book, and the guarantee that I’d sell at least a handful of copies. I’ve finally advanced beyond the wide-eyed denial phase where I simply shrug off the suggestion that I could ever write a book worth reading. That discredits the vulnerable, earnest words people give me (so much more on that later, probably in said book. #meta) and sabotages my own dream in a strange and masochistic way.
Just as biking across the country provided ample headspace and desire to create, I know that meandering across the map in a car with minimal creature comforts and meeting people who share one famously passionate interest (air cooled Porsches) to learn more about who they are, what their stories are, and how one common thread can lead to a thousand different individuals. Of course, I’ll be meeting plenty of non-Porsche people, too, but this is a fun new subplot! As I was typing this, I received yet another email from a helpful follower and commenter providing me insight into shopping for insurance and an invitation to get dinner in Phoenix. This is a beautiful life.
In case it hasn’t been made abundantly obvious, I am an ardent believer in manifestation. I’ve gone from reluctantly whispering about this trip to a few close friends to publishing it on the worldwide web, and the next step is to acknowledge that I want to use it to meet as many people as possible and create as much original content as my heart has in it.
And a Story
Ultimately, our lives are stories. And while we don’t control everything that happens in them, we do get to choose how we tell them. We might perceive negative events as transitions towards positive outcomes, or perhaps we let them haunt us for years. We decide whether we regret choices that led to tough times or believe that they were a piece of a narrative that’s led us to exactly where we are and everywhere we’re going. Even when we have no idea where we’re going, we get to choose whether that’s exciting or nauseating, whether we cling to control with fists full of folly or faithfully embrace the mystery.
At some point, we all get to choose whether we want to spend life mitigating risk or mitigating regret. There is, of course, a healthy balance to be found somewhere in between, but in some cases a definitive stance is called for.
I have been so encouraged by the vivacious people around me, whether they’ve been the devils—er, angels—on my shoulder telling me that this very specific but open-ended road trip is a great idea or the ones who silently demonstrate the power of a great story through their own lives. The ones who remind me that I’m ok when I feel like I’m not, who point out the best chapters and the silver linings in the gnarly ones. And sometimes, I get to turn that around on them, which is one of the greatest privileges of being inclined towards writing. I have friends who believe they are risk-averse who I have gently reminded are much better at spurning regret than they ever realized.
All of that said, I’m in the plane on the way to LA to pick up this car for the first chapter of what’s poised to be a heck of a ride. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.