A teenager died in my city last week and it turned out to be a relative of a coworker. She was driving in her car and her boyfriend was driving caravan-style behind her. I believe there were no drugs or drinking involved, she wasn't exceeding the speed limit, and the weather wasn't that bad. But she hit a patch of ice and her car started fishtailing, and she went across the road into oncoming traffic and was hit by another car. She died later that night.
I didn't know her, but I can't stop thinking about her. She was nineteen and she worked at a bank just a mile from my house. I've been thinking of how you never know what is just around the corner, and I've been wondering what I believe that should mean to me right now. (I believe that will mean different things to different people, and that's ok, but I want to know what it means to me.) I've been wondering about what it's like to be the parent of a nineteen year old who is there one day and gone the next, and how I can honor her life by learning from what has happened and letting that impact mine.
I've also been thinking about how much I'm worrying about my job and other things lately, and I've been relating it back to the tragedy. What if I go earlier than expected? I plan on lasting 120 years and dying on a beach somewhere while reading a great book and sipping a watermelon margarita, with about three cabana boys fanning me. But if it doesn't work out in that exact way, what does that mean for me today? I've been thinking of the question - what kind of life do I want to live? It's important to me. And when I've been thinking about it, I've been getting frustrated because I don't live in a world that really comes together in a way that supports the kind of life I wish I could live. (Assholes at work are the latest people getting in the way of my utopia, but there's no shortage of people and events on that list.) It's hard to describe. I want to be positive, I want to be healthy and have a positive impact on things, people, the world. But I'm just little old me. And never mind the world, how can I really shape my own life? I don't totally understand where I'm going with this and the thinking I've been doing since hearing about the terrible accident, but it's something about taking real responsibility for myself and my actions and not going on auto-pilot.
Today while I was on the way to work, I passed a car that was broken down on the side of the road in about 2 feet of snow. When I drove by it I felt angry and I thought, "I wish I lived in the kind of world where I could stop and help whoever that is." But I know girls aren't supposed to stop and help strangers. And then I thought of the quote that I think Matter introduced me to by openly gay congresswoman Tammy Baldwin. It's something about "If you want to live in a world where you can put a picture of your partner on your desk, put a picture of your partner on your desk and you will live in that world."
Of course, I decided that I was going to live in a world where I can stop to offer help to someone, and I flipped a U-turn and did so. It was a small step, but it helped reinforce that I can continue to decide and create the kind of world I want to live in and the kind of life I want to live. Whether I have 70 years or 7 hours left to go.
New favorite song: Beautiful World by Colin Hay