Until that moment I had defined myself by movement and exploration; the idea of slowing down had never been able to catch up to me. Yet, suddenly and unexpectedly, I was pinned down. Twenty-five, immobile, and hospitalized. I was alive, but barely.
To escape the questions that were unanswerable, I explored the infinity of memories and moments mapped so vividly across my mind. I felt the tickling in my toes tracing lines across the globe, charting where I’d been and where I wanted to go. I felt alive when my mind was traveling.
I was hooked up to a breathing machine but in those dreams my breath was strong. With a deep exhale, I was folding freely with the yoga swamis in Sri Lanka. Rid of a feeding tube, I was in a courtyard in Italy staining my teeth with chianti, sipping on ideas and devouring discourse. I could almost hear the laughter, and I felt alive.
My heartbeat was weak but in those dreams it was unbreakable: fluttering as I danced with a French man under the most romantic moon. Under that sun there was no catheter: I felt myself running somewhere, giggling and guarded by the tall grass. The haze of concussion left me unable to read, but I could feel a book in my palm and the sway of a hammock. From there I could see the sun sinking into the sea, and I felt alive.
While my nurses curiously prodded at my supine body, I could smell coffee beans almost burning and hear the buzz of a cafe in Turkey. In my mind, the whitewashed walls of the sterile hospital room were unabashedly splashed with colour, and I was there again, weaving through vibrant markets in Guatemala in search of something beautiful. Those mornings, I had no wounds, the laceration that took most of my eyebrows was but a smooth patch of skin and my bikini’ed body was flirting with the waves in Croatia. I tasted salt on my lips, and I felt alive.
With no visible signs of strength, I dreamed of the capacity I had to make this world a better place. Empowering people in rural Nicaragua while their kids crowded my iPhone to spot their own reflections. From my wheelchair I dreamed of running marathons in faraway places. Despite broken femurs and knees, I felt the sweat beading on my forehead and heard the roaring support of friends and family. I was winning races, and I felt alive.
At twenty-eight, I am alive: smiling at the open road and wondering what comes next. In rear view, the challenges that I could not escape were the most important explorations of all. They were explorations of self and spirit, and journeys into what lies within, regardless of where on the map my body will move me.
Ahead, a world of possibility.