Like everyone, I've made plenty of mistakes in my life. Some were embarrassing flubs like tripping in front of my seventh grade crush. Others were funny blunders like when I cut my own hair in high school. But then there were the scary scar-filled seconds that star in my sinister night time slumbers.
Like many people, I learn best through making mistakes. You might call it the hard way. I think of it as the memorable way. Through attempting many wild and varied things and messing up at nearly all of them, I’ve blundered into some amazing experiences, miraculous achievements, and a bunch of wounds.
SKIING FAST / NO HELMET
One day I woke up in a hospital with a giant volcano on the back of my head without any memory of the day. All the nurse could tell me was that the ski patrol had picked me up from the middle of a slope. Hours later, my friends and their dad showed up, relieved to have found me.
I wish I could say this was the first or last time I earned a concussion. It most definitely was not.
Likewise, this wasn’t my only skiing-related accident. I once ran into a rope with my face. I sprained an ankle because I was too lazy to tighten my boot at the end of the day. I dislocated my shoulder when I kept skiing and the pole strapped to my wrist stayed behind in a crevasse. Years of skiing moguls landed me in knee surgery at age nineteen.
ROCK CLIMBING WITH AN IDIOT
While rock climbing in Norway with my old roommate, he forgot to belay me because he was eyeing a couple women a little ways down from us. The fifteen-ish foot fall wasn’t the scariest part. The two inches of exposed bone definitely won that prize. Amazingly, the Norwegian hospital fixed me up and sent me away with a row of Franken-stitches in record time and for free. Lesson learned: choose your partners wisely.
I grew up in a redwood tree forest and as a tween I climbed them like other kids climbed normal trees. Being the least safety-conscious person on the planet, I climbed these hundred-foot tall trees without a rope, all alone, and sometimes in windy conditions. Inevitably, I fell. Luck chose to save me at the cost of a dislocated shoulder several branches down. If I hadn't caught myself, death would have found me that day. Fortunately, my shoulder popped right back in and Mom didn’t find out for about twenty years.
Swings seem so innocent. Weeeee! But in the hands of a daredevil like me, any toy could be a dangerous toy. One day, my brother and I were jumping off a tire swing overhanging a steep slope. We jumped toward the uphill side so we were ten feet at launch but only a few feet down on landing. Gotta love momentum. About twenty minutes into jump after jump, my foot got stuck in the tire and the swing dragged me back out, dangling upside down the whole way. I fell when I was fifteen-ish feet off the ground. I am happy to report that I only had two broken arms.
This was not my only swing-related incident. In fifth grade, a friend and I “stress-tested” the swings in the playground by going as high as possible. I found the limit of the chain. With another concussion volcano on the back of my head, I slipped in and out of time for days.
Like anyone who ever saw Goonies, my brother, some friends, and I wanted to make our own zipline. So we scavenged some rope and one-inch PVC, then walked out into the woods. We slid a foot-long section of PVC over the rope to act as our handle, then attached the rope to the base of one tree and the midsection of another tree. You'd think I would have gotten hurt on the maiden run, but it went perfectly. My brother and friends tried hollered on their turns too. When my turn came again, friction from the rope had burned out the inside of the PVC handle. On my descent, the PVC melted through, and I found out what severe rope burn feels like. Unable to hold on, fell far enough to be deadly. My brother thought I was dead. Before he could dash to my side, I popped up and howled with joy. I still have a scar as a keepsake.
Don’t be like me. Don’t do stupid things. Nah…