Wheelchair by 40
I recently heard a quote last week that really got me thinking…
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” – Hunter S. Thompson
Before moving here, I dated an amazing man who (when referring to my previous job and the many times I would end up with injuries, and also to my failing knee and hip joints due to a lifetime of high level figure skating training since I was 9 years old!), would always joke around with me and say “Chalen, you will be in a wheelchair by age 40!”. At first, I laughed it off, but recently it has gotten me to thinking…
I have always done my best to live life to the fullest. By my mid-20’s, I had already accomplished a “bucket list” as long as my arm, some of the items and incidents / accidents / life experiences on that list being almost unbelievable (such as being hit by a car…twice, and being in the back of a taxi cab as it flew through the streets of a large city in India, then turning the corner and crashing into a real, live elephant!) to those people who don’t personally know me and know my work and personal life history!
Two years ago, I was donating a kidney and the surgeon in the pre-op donation interview (to make sure I fully understood the process and risks of the surgery) said the following (to which my response to his question actually surprised me at first!)
“Chalen, when you donate a kidney, your body makes up for the missing kidney and you live a normal life afterwards. But if you get a kidney-related disease later in life, it may shorted your actual lifespan by about 10 years or so when you are age 70, for example. Are you okay with that?”
To which I replied without hesitation:
“Doc, in my twenty-plus years on this earth, I’ve lived a pretty unbelievable life. I have accomplished SO much more than people even 50 years old could only dream of accomplishing. So 10 years off the end of my life is no big deal to me. Even if I died on the operating table during the donation surgery, I would be perfectly content with the life I’ve lived so far!
Initially, the speed and fluidity of that response surprised even myself. The surgeon was surprised to hear those words of wisdom come from someone as young as I was. But looking back, I would still stand by it.
I think too many people go through life in a risk-averse manner. Afraid to take risks and make change. People don’t like change because change represents the unknown, and therefore the unknown tends to scare people.
In the past few months, I have done my best in order to continue to live by my original mantra: Do one thing everyday that scares you. In doing so, I have met so many amazing people through my travels in Russia and Europe, I’ve gotten to witness the inherent helpfulness of people, regardless of any language barriers, and learned that people are basically good, wherever you go. A smile goes a very long way, and you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar!