Apps like Facebook and Timehop are great for reminding you of times gone by, or perhaps forgotten, that were meaningful to you when you initially posted something about them online. There are some dates that you remember on your own, but forget some particulars of, or some days that are burned into your mind forever. For me, February 8th is that day (and not just one of- it is THE day).
For those of you who haven't heard this story before, I promise you'll be interested. For those who have, well, I'll try to keep it fresh!
Three years ago, I was at Grant MacEwan University about to play a leading(ish) role on our main stage (The John L. Haar Theatre) for the first time. I was doing a ton of prep work, and had come down with the worst sickness I had ever had in my life (and I don't think I've been as sick since, either). We in the Theatre Arts Program referred to it as "The Plague"- the sickness everyone gets at that time of year. I got it much later than most of the other actors, and for the only time in my life, I actually lost my voice. Good thing I had a famous five-minute song to perform all by myself to a paying audience in three days!
So, I'm ill, not talking, working on the show, being upset over my recent breakup which led to the collapse of my friend group, and working on this essay for another class that is due opening night (thanks, university). Preview arrives: I sound terrible. I resolve to do whatever it takes to be better for opening night.
After rehearsals on opening day, we have a few hour's break before the show call. I decide that I am going to walk the one block it requires for me to get home and finish my essay before I have to b back for call. I'm texting my mom about my latest frustrations. I go outside, it's sunny but slippery. I have one narrow, low traffic street to cross, which I do easily, and then I am faced with the main thoroughfare of Stony Plain Road. Four lanes in total, and speeders galore. I go up to the crosswalk. To my left, the first two lanes are completely empty. To my right(ish), the final two lanes are completely full as far back and forward as I can see. As traffic is all stopped, I begin to cross the street. Then I realize that the vehicle ahead of me that has been looking to turn left onto Stony Plain Road has gunned it. I heard their engine go and I knew that the driver must not have seen me. I am already in the street, and the ice makes running dangerous. I suddenly realize that if I end up under the wheels of what I later learned to be a Jeep Wrangler, I would be crushed. So I take a few halting steps and put myself at where I predict the vehicles center will be, and I prepare to jump. I do this without conscious thought or decision making- purely by instinct. As I knew from the moment I heard that engine rev, the car is going to hit me.
I make an attempt of some kind to get over the car. I slam my elbow into the hood, leaving a four inch dent in it, and try not super successfully to jump, again, not as a conscious thought but gut reaction. I make eye contact with the driver, who had been looking to his right in the hopes that no one was coming and that if they were he could do something about it (which he couldn't have), as he hits me. I begin to fly.
Know what's weird? Spinning through the air with your eyes wide open. "Why is the 7-11 sideways?" I thought, "Did we knock over the sign?"
Not even when I hit the ground do I stop moving, but I skid 6-8 feet along the exposed asphalt on the side of the street before halting when my body nearly reaches the curb. I still remember what the world looked like when I landed, where every cloud was, where all of the snow had melted away in the IGA parking lot in front of me. I've landed on my back, and as soon as I realize where up is, I sit up and begin to scream.
Keep in mind, my voice has been gone for many days. It came rushing back to me. It was like every unsaid angry word and frustrated thought that I hadn't been able to give voice to since my breakup a few weeks previous was finally pushed violently out of me. All the rejection, the beginnings of the understandings that I had been raped and that my friends preferred my rapist, the frustration with my cast mates, my insecurities as a performer, my questioning of why did you make this essay due on opening night, all of these emotions that have been pushed to the side in favour of the show explode out of me, pushed by one predominant thought: I have to be on stage in three hours you mother fucking bastard.
All of it came out of me at once, and was articulated in three exceedingly long bursts. "AAAAAHHHHHHHH!" Not high pitched and not low, but loud. Louder than I thought I was capable of, ringing through the street to make the world stand still. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" People are moving, I realize, and the guy gets out of his car. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH-" I am cut off as a hand gently but firmly pushes against my shoulder, forcing me to lay back on the ground. I haven't cried yet, and the off-duty paramedic who had been stuck in the traffic starts to ask me questions. Only at the realization that my parents don't live there do I start to get upset. I cry big, slow tears, no sobbing or difficulty breathing, just a constant leak that persists over the next four hours. I ask someone who has (from what I remember) tucked something under my head to make sure my phone isn't broken and to call my mom. She says the phone is fine after she fishes it out of my pocket, but tells me she wants to wait for the police to arrive before calling anyone. Five people place calls to 911, and only one gets through, from the IGA across the street. Days later I go in and try to thank whoever is there, but I can't quite get it past the lump in my throat.
Asshole who hit me is waiting to get through to 911. "Oh fuck" he says "Fuck shit fuck fuck fuck". I want to punch him in the mouth and make him grow the fuck up. The paramedic asks me where it hurts.
Um, where it hurts?
I have to think about it. I had entered my brain so intensely that I had no idea what was happening to my physical self. "My back, I guess, and-" oh my God, I can't move my right leg, trying yields no results, only a strange discomfort and a sudden feeling that maybe I wasn't going on stage in three hours. "And my right knee. It hurts" and suddenly it hurt so much that I can't bear it and the medical teams arrive.
That's about half of the story. The rest I will sum up, so as to keep you engaged. I was in the hospital for four hours, missing my opening night entirely. Officer Daniel Hofstra was one of the nicest people I had ever encountered and let me use his phone to call my parents. I laid on my side while a nurse picked bits of the street out of my back. My roommate came and got me, and took me to McDonalds. I began to tell jokes about what had happened to me. I hoped I would be back in the show the next day.
In total, my injuries were: a cut on my head that bled profusely and left a huge scar, which explains the worried looks above my eyes that I had been getting that day. A cut on my thumb that left no scar, a bruise on my left arm that impressed all sorts of people, road rash on my back that left a series of scars, and, most severely, a fractured right knee.
I never got to perform in A Little Night Music. I could not even walk properly, let alone dance. I was worried that they would kick me out of school. Luckily, I was able to finish my last two months of school and earn the significant-to-me distinction of having only attended school in my teenage years and not at all in my twenties.
My legs turned an impressive yellow and purple. My back looked like it had been hacked at by both a cat and a windshield scraper. I didn't take pictures of these things. Part of me is glad and part of me is sad about that. I did, however, create a movement project for the following Tuesday (accident was on a Friday) that involved me stripping and revealing my injuries to my class. Only they will truly know what I looked like then. They were also the people who watched me heal- slowly, but surely, I was able to walk again by the end of the semester. I stopped bringing my crutches to school. I started standing to perform again.
I never took any painkillers and I missed only one day of school because I am a badass mother fucker.
Looking back on this shows me how much and yet how little this event has affected my life. I went through five months of physiotherapy. I talk about it all the time still, people seem fascinated that this happened to me. I remember everything so vividly that sometimes when I remember I lose my breath and have to take a minute to remind myself of where I am/what's going on. I've tried to make the story into a play, and maybe I'll keep trying. There are a few things in my life now that I can directly attribute to my accident.
I got away from my first rapist.
I mean, I had gotten away from him before that. But he had gone to see the show on opening night. I don't know why, it may not even have been about me at all as he continued to be friends with people who I was no longer calling friend, but when he found out that I had been hurt, he phoned me and left a message. "Your safety is my number one concern" he said. And in my tired, shocked, stressed-but-relieved, confused, and utterly shattered state, the only thought I had space for was "No it isn't" and I didn't miss him, from that moment on. I learned through the coming months to call what he had done rape, and I stopped looking for his approval as I had been up until that point. Sometimes I think even that, in itself, is great enough to make being hit by a car seem like a fair trade.
I got fearless
This is something that has continued to expand throughout my adulthood, but when you're suddenly, violently, confronted with your own mortality, you stop caring about shit that doesn't matter. I stopped being afraid of things and started to become who I genuinely was at my heart. I didn't understand this change until someone else, over a year later, articulated it to my mother, and she, in turn to me. "Your daughter is fearless," they had said. "That's me" I replied to myself. "Fearless"
I became a better actor
My emotions were much easier to access after the accident, in a genuine way. I also got much better at being understanding of things. I went through a period of great anger and resentment, which are periods that I go through from time to time, but I came out the other side with a much better sense of how to be respectful in a rehearsal hall. Being forced to sit and watch while your classmates are doing, you start to see from the instructors perspective, and that allowed me to know better how to behave so that we could all benefit from a rehearsal. I also just got much better at sitting alone and not speaking- a great skill for long Q2Qs. I also had to learn to dance from a different perspective, because I had to do written dance exams and some choreography as opposed to something movement-based.
I began my journey of exercising and being healthier
I underwent five months of physio therapy and started to value my health a lot more. One of the things I had to do as part of physio was run. I have continued to grow and expand in this journey, but running has been a part of it. Mostly, because sometimes I remember that I can, after a period of time where I couldn't. It feels pretty incredible.
I have stopped apologizing for taking care of myself
My body is important and although I do make a lot of sacrifices to work as much as I do, I have a greater understanding of the importance of caring for my mental and physical well being than many of my peers do. I believe it's because I was forced, at 19, to make daily check-ins with how healthy I was, what I was capable of doing, and I also learned that sometimes you have to say "I can't go any more today"
I now appreciate my friendships more
The day after my accident, I sat in the green room with my best friend Tyler and we held each other and cried because I was still alive and that was a beautiful thing. I still cry when I think about it. I now am a better friend because I know that I have to value people for the here and now because it can all go away tomorrow.
I could write about this forever, and perhaps I will, but three years down the road and I am feeling like the biggest success I could possibly be! Thank you for reading and for all of your support!
While I still have not played Petra in A Little Night Music (besides preview), I continue to perform The Millers Son in the cabarets that I produce. It's the role that got away, and yet, will stay with me forever.