NOTE: This post is somber and realistic. To avoid the realities of life, visit here.
Yesterday I found out that an acquaintance was snowboarding this weekend and had a bad accident. He will probably be paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life.
I guess I was surprised at how I reacted to this news. The fact is, I haven't talked to the guy for about five years. The times I have talked to him were only ever brief interactions---he was always just a friend of a friend. I even saw him in a ward in SLC over the Christmas break, but really, we weren't even close enough for me to run up and say hello to him. If he'd seen me, we probably would have chatted, but otherwise, there was no reason to seek him out and initiate conversation. We were never that close.
But when a friend IMed me this weekend saying, "Did you hear what happened to ____ this Saturday?" it took less than a second to think both that he just got engaged and that he just died. Instead, I was told that he had an accident and would be paralyzed. It started me thinking a little about mortality and about how strange it is that this guy I knew would now likely spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. I've been thinking about it all weekend.
Of course I have an "it won't happen to me" attitude. I think that most people do. And we also have an "it won't happen to anyone I know" attitude. If you told me that some guy you knew was in a bad accident yesterday, I'd say sorry and likely not think about it any longer than you wanted to talk about it. But hearing that it happened to an acquaintance---and a fairly distant acquaintance at best---has been disturbing and has made me think a little about the fragility of life and about this attitude that I have: It won't happen to me.
Of course, it's better than the alternative. I suggest that having an "it won't happen to me" attitude with regards to freak accidents is much better than having an "it will happen to me" attitude. It's probably a lot healthier not to dwell on the fact that at any moment, you could be wiped out of existence or permanently maimed. I guess it's just where we make conscious decisions for safety that makes the difference. I wear my seatbelt because I could get into an accident. I lock my door because someone could come into my house and steal my laptop and inherit my expired battery problem. I go to the gym because I could actually lose the weight I want to lose. (It could happen to me! It could happen to me!) Moving in that direction, I did enter into a drawing for an elliptical machine (valued at $3500) because it could happen to me!
But I don't wear a bike helmet, even though a friend of mine was killed in a bike accident when he was fourteen. Strange to think about the decisions we make.