November 30, 2016

My certain death experience

When I turned 42, I was pretty darn excited. Seriously, as a nerd, that is THE number to reach. The answer to life, the universe and everything.

If you’ve ever watched or read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you’ll get that reference.

And you know what? 42 was pretty fucking awesome. But not for the reasons you might think. Oh I got cake, an R2 unit and my own set of full-size time lords, but what I got that really mattered was one more day.

One. More. Day.

I had a certain death experience that changed everything for me when I was 42. I was driving home from my first social painting class down the 401 (a major highway in Ontario). I was burned out and debating what to do with my life and career. The social painting was something I did because my creative well was dry.

Certain death experiences are profound. They can shake a person to their very core. You know. You KNOW, in the moment, that you are going to die. It’s inevitable. There’s no way out.

When mine happened, I was outwardly calm but inwardly enraged. I hadn’t even lived yet and now I was going to die. No goals on the bucket list hit. My kids would be without their mother.

I was driving slightly over 100km/h on the highway. There was a car coming right at me, driving the wrong way and in my lane. With cars all around, there was nowhere for me to go. The other vehicle was speeding. Police were behind. I was going to die because an impact like that would leave no survivors.

Clearly, I didn’t die. I moved over in my lane, he/she moved over the other way and we just missed each other.

We never see moments like these coming. We live our lives assuming that the days won’t run out. There’s always tomorrow. It’s a safe and complacent way to live and we all do it. Who wants to spend time contemplating the value of their life or the impact of their death?

I realised that a lot of my creative burnout came from not living the life I really wanted. Facing the moment of my certain death put everything into focus for me.  Crystal clear, no excuses, do-it-now focus.

My journey as a professional artist didn’t start with a bang, but  rather with a miss that hit me right where I live and changed my world.