#2 The video and the accident
Sometimes in life, you have to live the lowest of lows. It seems as if you cannot fall any further. In this post, I write about such a low point in my life that ultimately changed everything. I know it was a low point, but if I could travel back in time with all my knowledge today, would I do the same thing? I have to admit it: Hell yeah! What Alise? Another post so soon? True, I kind of felt in the mood for that. So… Let’s do this!
It was the final semester of my bachelor’s studies. I had somehow gotten used to my cycle of getting up, studying, working, and sleeping. I was functioning almost exclusively out of my stubbornness. All I had left to do was pass one exam and write my thesis. Regarding the thesis, I was able to do it at the research institute where I worked; in retrospect, the topic was horrible, it didn’t appeal to me at all, and I found it boring as hell, but my focus at the time was just on getting it -the thesis- done.
I still felt that inner emptinessToday, before writing this post, I realized that a Metallica concert in 2008 was one of the most emotionally intense moments in my life. After an hour, they played Fade to Black. It’s one of my … Continue reading described in the last post, but I thought well, that must be a part of everything – like it was just standard . My primary coping strategy was stubbornness: working a lot and believing that things are supposed to be that way.
During that time, I tried to make mini “breaks”, which are breaks that one somehow has to take to keep things running, like eating or shopping. In retrospect, those weren’t real “breaks”, and all kinds of thoughts often raced through my head. During one of those “breaks”, I came across a YouTube video of an American dancing in front of various landmarks worldwide. Maybe you know it, it’s called “Where the Hell is Matt?” At that time there were three videos from him (2005, 2006, and 2008). Even today, I still love watching the videos because they portray happiness in a special way. At the time, watching these videos triggered an incredible longing in me.
Matt, the creator of the videos, had a website where I subscribed to his newsletter. A few weeks later, I received an email, “Where the hell is Matt is coming to Dresden”. It was an invitation to participate in his new dance video for 2012. I wanted to participate, but Dresden is over 500 kilometers away, and my budget for such a trip was extremely tight. Nevertheless, the idea was stuck in my head. I had just finished the last exam of the 58 performance points and I thought I really deserved a break.
My boyfriend at that time was not, let’s call it, amused about that. Everyone else said I’m completely crazy. Through a carpooling website, I found a ride to Dresden. For the first time, I couchsurfedThe couchsurfer was a friend of a friend who was on Couchsurfing.. Couchsurfing was something that I had wanted to try for ages, but I was always scared. A few days later, my plan started with a 500km ride in the car of a German soldier who was once stationed in AfghanistanLooking at the current situation and how it all ended, the stories from the soldier became even more intense..
On the next day, I went to the Frauenkirche in Dresden – the meeting point for the dance event. I don’t know how many people were there. The event itself was amazing and funny. Matt was not sure whether we are in BavariaFor those who don’t know, Germany has 16 partly sovereign federated states. Bavaria is one of them that is famous for its October Fest. Dresden is in Saxony, one of the remaining 15 federated … Continue reading. Here is my original tiny post about that. I had a lot of fun, but it was over way earlier than I expected, like most fun things. So, I had a few hours to kill afterward until the carpooling ride to a friend. Because of that, I had an opportunity to chat with Matt about traveling and dreams, but also about fears and downtime. At the end -I don’t even remember why- I asked him to write a noteWriting the name in the form of a signature is something I never quite understood. in my notebook. I always have a small notebook with me to this day. Matt wrote: “travel to somewhere strange and exotic where you don’t know anything about. I command you! -Matt“.
On the next day, I was on a slow trainI love trains to this day and just realized that my true passion started back then at this very moment. somewhere between Jena and my hometown. The ride took nine hours in total. I was staring at Matt’s message. Somewhere strange and exotic where you don’t know anything about. Where might that be? After a long period of emptiness, the first thing I felt was being scared: I imagined myself as a grandma in a wooden rocking chair flipping through an atlas. I looked at the maps of many countries and realized it is too late. I’m too old to travel, but I had a great career chasing one step after another alone. I got terrified. And suddenly… I questioned everything: Why am I studying? Did I ever even want to study? Where did all my dreams go? The dreams about exploring the world by train, finding out how places smell and feel, seeing the world with my own eyes? Where did all that go? I wanted this feeling to go away. I didn’t know anything anymore and continued to stare at the message. Somewhere strange and exotic where you don’t know anything about. Cambodia! I always wanted to go to Cambodia and see Angkor Wat. That was a dream I had had for years. A place I had always wanted to go to since I knew it existed. And when I “fell off” the train after 9 hours, I said to myself: I’m going to Cambodia. Although I started researching trips to Cambodia (incl. Vietnam and Thailand), the stress did not decrease, and the plan lost priority.
During that time, I also did a lot of sport. While that helped with stress, sport and stress do not always go hand in hand. About two months after the dance event, I had an accident. I did a cool Matrix-like somersault on an air track and slipped already before the jump. I felt a disgusting cracking and fell. When I looked down, my left leg seemed sideways in a direction where it just shouldn’t be. My kneecap was hanging off the outside of my knee. Shit! I started to panic. People and paramedics came. Someone called an ambulance. For some reason, I still cannot comprehend; the paramedics wanted to move me and straighten my leg. During that, the kneecap slipped back in, which hurt like hell. To fast-forward a bit: I was lucky! Nothing was broken, but I found out about that sometime after the accident because I had to wait for an MRI. Until then, I was at home with crutches, a splint, and the instruction not to put any weight on my leg, making it pretty much impossible to leave my apartment. I couldn’t work, not even on the bachelor thesis, because I needed access to a computing cluster at the research institute. At first, I numbed myself by visits of friends, phonecalls, streaming, reading, listening to podcasts, but at some point, there was nothing more to listen to and no one I mentioned the boyfriend earlier, but that didn’t last, and we broke up shortly after the dance event. to talk to. I was confronted with myself.
So I spent a lot of time in bed with pain starring at the ceiling. I just wanted to escape – run away. From me, my surroundings, from that stupid injury, my work, university, career plans, and everything else. It was no longer just longing; it was an urge to escape – a deep and strong desire. I remembered that moment on the train, myself as a grandma in a wooden rocking chair, and all the questions that were racing through my head. Why am I studying at all? After graduating from high school, I had a two-week break and then went to university. That’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s expected of me. But why did I do that? I didn’t know, or I didn’t know anymore. I just didn’t have an answer to any question. Why computer science and math? Why did I actually go through all this stress with the 58 credit points? Shit, who was I? I didn’t know anymore.
Something hit me: Where did the little girl go, who always wanted to see temples in the jungle, sleep on a train, look at the stars in the desertAs a child, I thought that the desert must have the best stars because no-one lives there and there shouldn’t any light sources., and so much more. I wanted to get in a cab and just shout “follow that car”, stand under a waterfall, or high up in the mountains to stand in a cloud. I had so many dreams, where did they go? Somehow, I forgot them, like Robin Williams in the movie Hook, who forgot that he was actually Peter Pan. By the way, I really love that movie.
It was like I was just a shadow. Unlike Peter Pan, I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to chase it. I felt so empty and inauthentic like a liar to myself. What I had been doing at that time, all the stress, chasing a career, chasing that specific career just wasn’t me. I knew one thing: I couldn’t go on like this. Knowing that took many long stares at the ceiling. At some point, I took a piece of paper to write down things I always wanted to do: a kind of to-do list for my life. The vast majority was exploring various places around the world. When I wrote it down, I made a decision:
I thought fuck the master’s degree, fuck university, I’ll scrape together every cent I can somehow find. I’ll somehow finish this stupid and insanely boring bachelor thesis, move out of this mini-apartment, sell all my stuff and leave everything behind! I’ll travel east and come back from the west, I’m traveling around the entire world! All by myself. I’m doing it! I’m really doing it because if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it.
Even though my injury confined me to my bed and I wanted to finish my studies first -quitting at this point would have been pretty stupid- something changed that day. Suddenly, I had a goal, my goal, something that was right for me. Something I always wanted to do. With my crutches, I hobbled to the Christmas market and bought a ring. Inside I had the following words engraved: Don’t Panic! To this day -except for three months in 2015- I always carry this ring with me. It might seem a bit silly, but somehow I wanted a material symbol for this change. But making a decision and buying a ring is not enough to travel the world.
That was almost ten years ago and that is the time it took for me to everything go. Travelling didn’t solve my issues, it just changed my view and how I deal with them. Today, I still struggle with expectations but less than before. On this blog, I’ll share what happened between the accident and now – the puzzle pieces that needed to happen to let me be the person I’m today: totally satisfied with my job, aware of many insecurities, more accepting of downs and negative experiences.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Thank you for your time. That accident pretty much disrupted my daily life at the time, but waiting for the MRI appointment was the last piece in the chain I needed to, well… wake up. Back then, I was just functioning mindlessly and didn’t know anything anymore. In the next post, I’ll write about planning my trip and my last few days back home, which surely weren’t easy.
I want to end this post like all other posts with the words engraved in my ring: Don’t panic!
P.S.: Have you ever experienced such disrupting events that you wish to share? Let us know in the comments (also works anonymously).
|↑1||Today, before writing this post, I realized that a Metallica concert in 2008 was one of the most emotionally intense moments in my life. After an hour, they played Fade to Black. It’s one of my favorites because I used to play this song on my guitar. I asked myself, why the hell was that moment so intense and deep, and I guess the real reason is that this was one of the rare moments I felt anything.|
|↑2||The couchsurfer was a friend of a friend who was on Couchsurfing.|
|↑3||Looking at the current situation and how it all ended, the stories from the soldier became even more intense.|
|↑4||For those who don’t know, Germany has 16 partly sovereign federated states. Bavaria is one of them that is famous for its October Fest. Dresden is in Saxony, one of the remaining 15 federated states that often “feel” neglected.|
|↑5||Writing the name in the form of a signature is something I never quite understood.|
|↑6||I love trains to this day and just realized that my true passion started back then at this very moment.|
|↑7||I mentioned the boyfriend earlier, but that didn’t last, and we broke up shortly after the dance event.|
|↑8||As a child, I thought that the desert must have the best stars because no-one lives there and there shouldn’t any light sources.|