YOLO/YALA

It’s 3AM on a particularly foggy night in November of 2012. I’m driving through southern Ohio and I’ve got three other passengers in the van. I’m the only one awake, which makes sense considering the fact that we spent the last three exhausting days competing in a mock trial tournament somewhere in the Northeast. I’m the only one who can keep my eyes open at 3AM, so I’m assigned the late night shift. I’m driving about 40MPH on a 70MPH road because it’s so difficult to see. I have the music on, a cup of coffee, and the air conditioning on high to keep me awake.

It’s such low visibility that I didn’t see it coming at all. Next thing I know, there’s a deer running in front of the car and the van rocks as I hit it. There’s a sickening thud. Everyone  jolts awake, and they’re asking things like “what happened? was that a pothole? is the car okay?” I respond with “well, that was a deer and I’m pulling off at the next exit to make sure the car is okay.” We pull into a gas station. While another team member calls the police to file a report, the other team members and I observe the damage. It’s only a broken headlight, but it still looks somewhat gory. The broken bits of headlight still remaining have a good amount of blood and fur on them and I can’t help but wonder if the deer got away.

Now it’s a particularly sweltering night in August of 2013 and I’m on the balcony of a high rise NYC apartment somewhere in the Upper West Side. I was there with a friend of mine, Patrick*, and his fraternity brother, Ron. Patrick and I had been friends all summer but I had only just met Ron that evening. Anyway, what I remember most is the view, and it was dizzyingly beautiful. High rises lined the whole street and lights lit up the sky. Ron looks out at the building across the street and points at a balcony. He says “see that balcony right there? Some woman was on her first date with this guy and she actually fell off the balcony all the way down to the ground.” I had to ask. “Well, was she okay?” He laughed and just casually said “nahh, she was most definitely dead.” I just stared at him, stunned at his nonchalant attitude towards the poor woman’s death. Ron went on “I mean…imagine being that guy. Go on a first date, and she falls to her death. I’d never go on another date again.”

These are the two stories that first come to mind when I think of those particular periods of my life. Immediately after I realized this, I was utterly horrified. Why was it that I picked out such morbid memories? Am I a complete psychopath? Last time I checked, I’m quite normal as far as normalcy standards go.

Thankfully, there’s another explanation. My greatest fear is death, which is also probably common in the general population. We exercise, wear seat belts, and find religion all in the hopes that we can stop death from happening or that we will continue on afterwards, whatever that may look like. I grapple with the idea that my lifetime is only limited to a mere 80 years, 100 if I do things right. The way I see it, there are two ways to treat death: confront it or avoid it. The only way I can confront it is by writing about it. It’s my truest and most fluid form of communication and writing about it is a lot less daunting than talking about it. On the other hand, I also use escapism as a way to avoid it. That’s where reading comes in. I do A LOT of reading. Sci fi and biography are my favorite genres because they seem to be the most potent when it comes to escaping the real world. I have the chance to think about someone else’s life entirely or imagine a place where living forever is a reality.

Of course, I realize the importance of taking action to confront something so difficult like death. So many before me in much more trying situations have done it, so it shouldn’t be so difficult for me. That’s where this last semester of college comes in. It’s a major time for me to consider the habits, friends, hobbies, and ideals I’d like to continue having after college. It seems that time is of the essence, especially since I’ve lived about a quarter of my life out. But the truth is, it’s almost debilitating to make those choices.

So…YOLO? I don’t really know. Maybe I should just take some advice from M.I.A instead.

*Note: names were changed

2 thoughts to “YOLO/YALA”

  1. Gabriella, I believe your reflection highlights the two aspects of death people often find so frightening: its certainty combined with its uncertainty. As you alluded, since it’s certain we all must die, things like exercise, medicine, and safety devices only delay the inevitable. At the same time, as your story about the balcony demonstrates, it’s uncertain where or how we will die.

    Paradoxically, it seems like death makes us think about what’s most important in life. I think this famous quote by St. Gerard Majella does a good job of putting things in perspective:

    “Consider the shortness of time, the length of eternity and reflect how everything here below comes to an end and passes by. Of what use is it to lean upon that which cannot give support?”

    Although it’s an uncomfortable subject, I think it’s good that you’ve decided to confront death via your writing as opposed to avoiding it–and the deep questions it brings to the surface.

  2. Gabriella, I briefly spoke with Lauren about your blog post before reading it and she mentioned how weirded out you were about your two topics in general. I think the ideas that both topics do classify some form of death aren’t necessarily bad or good, badly good or in a good way bad. The beauty of both situations are your abilities to escape the reality of life and go into an atmosphere where what matters more importantly is writing. I think it’s a good idea that both aspects of your past and current writing self have emerged from distant, animalistic qualities to more subtle analyzing qualities. These things show your growth as a writer. Now do deers run in the middle of the road, yes. Do people experience so much trauma in their lives that they commit suicide, yes. But what do both of these things have in common? A story, that’s what. A remarkable story, or a blog post that opens up a chapter in your life that relates to why you continue to write. I think this is what you did: brought in two cliff-hanger stories. Great ending.

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