Turns out my reaction was, in part, caused by chronic stress stemming from PTSD thanks to an incident from 1999. Articles like this are a great way to understand my reactions to situations over the years, which has helped me get better. But if you’re coming here from r/portland, you’re not here to read this part, anyway. Have fun misinterpreting my story, which is about me recognizing how ridiculous many ingrained prejudices are.
As it turns out, you can’t believe everything you see in movies.
The neighborhood I usually run through is rumored to have one of the highest non-violent crime rates in the city. It’s filled with mostly poor, Hispanic families whose kids spend many nights running and playing in the streets. I often see stray dogs and very young children, unsupervised, whenever I plod through at the end of my run.
It’s the kind of neighborhood most people would avoid. There’s nothing to see, no restaurants to eat at and no real draws except a church and and elementary school. The cars are either beat-up sedans or blinged-out SUVs covered with Olde English writing and rims that have to cost more than many of the homes.
It is these SUVs that frighten me. From my experience, anyone driving a tinted-window, chromed-up SUV is either a too-rich Scottsdale douchebag, the owner of a car detailing shop (there are a few around here) or a bunch of thugs looking to defend their turf.
Thanks to Hollywood, I assume that any of the aforementioned SUVs, when stopped in the middle of the road talking to some kid on a bike, is, when filled with young men, also laden with enough pistols and small machine guns to stage an impromptu drive-by. These type of SUVs are best avoided, especially if you’re someone like me that likes to check things out and runs the risk of paying a little TOO much attention.
Tonight, as I crossed the street and then turned westbound down a side road, I saw one of these SUVs. It was parked about 100 feet back from AZ Avenue, facing east on the south side of the street. The cyclist was leaning against the driver’s door, chatting it up with one of the heads I saw inside.
Keep calm, I thought to myself as I ran past in barely there running shoes, short as all hell running shorts and a wrist and headband. Be cool, I muttered as my brain screamed at my body to run faster, to run away, to do ANYTHING but run right past them.
But run past them I did. Pit, pat, pit, pat my feet went as I covered the ground between us, my eyes focusing on the ground immediately in front of me. It was a bit dark, forcing me to look down more than usual so I could see what not to step on. My body ignored my brain’s requests.
Then the back, passenger-side window rolled down.
My lizard brain went NUTS. LEAVE LEAVE LEAVE LEAVE LEAVE. My body kept pit patting along.
This was it. I was about to be gunned down a mile from my house and I could have very easily avoided it by turning the other way. I could have run on the other side of the road, I could have crossed the street, I could have turned around and went backwards. I could have not run right past the blinged-out SUV possibly filled with gangsters looking to gun me down.
But I didn’t. This was the route I had chosen to take and I needed to turn right and go around the block to get to my 5k goal. I needed to go this way and there as no turning back.
The window finished and instead of a gun erupting in staccato bursts, a little kid stuck his head out. A kid. Maybe 10 years old. He stuck his head out and stared at my shoes. I smiled to myself, turned left a bit later and left the SUV.
No one shot at me. My life was never in danger. I didn’t die today.
I had never considered what it would be like to die today before. Previous runs have had my mind imagining my parents dying, my siblings passing away or even Katie’s life ending (not the actual dying, but rather how my life would change because of it), but never my own. But this time, I imagined my mortality. I imagined what it would be like to lay on the ER bed, body filled with holes, blood dripping onto the floor, pain overwhelming me.
I thought about what I would think about, what I would regret and what I would die wishing I had accomplished.
I regret nothing. Not a damn thing. I don’t regret screwing up my chances at IgniteASU for refusing to change my presentation to meet their language guidelines. I don’t regret torpedoing my chances of ever working for an agency in the area. I don’t regret running PodcampAZ, attempting my own ‘camps, recording a podcast, not having a “real” job and I certainly don’t regret losing friends because they didn’t like me for me.
There’s a lot to be said for a normal life. Go to grade school to prep for high school, high school for college, college for a job, a job for a family, a family for a sense of importance and the ability to leave a legacy through both what you’ve built/achieved and your children. I get that. I understand that it’s important to delay some gratification so you can be comfortable later in life, but how long are you going to continue preparing?
How long are you going to live for tomorrow?
Had I died today, I would have died poor. I would have died owning a laptop, clothes, hard drives and a scooter. I would have died knowing I’m loved by a few, liked by a bit more and known by many.
Had I died today, I would have died with a smile on my face. I would have died content in knowing today was great.
Had I died today, I would have died knowing that authenticity was never a problem. I would have died knowing I don’t pretend in hopes others will like me.
Had you died today, would you feel the same?
If not, why the HELL not?