Stranded In The Yard
In late 2019, I left California to escape the cold and try my luck down south, in Texas.
On the way, I stopped and camped at State and National Parks; Pinnacles, Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon and Lake Mead. It took me 10 days to get from Bay Area, California to Houston, Texas.
There, I got to cross out bucket list experiences when I worked as a waiter and toured NASA – I even got to work there for a few days. I worked other first time job roles too; bussing tables, cleaning and preparing food in the kitchen. I also appeared on my only stage performance that year on a show in Houston. Best of all, I got to spend time and the holidays with my mom and family.
My sojourn in Texas ended after 4 months when I ran out of funds. I headed back to California where I placed my hopes of finding opportunities to fund my next adventure.
Back in the yard, I’d sent over a hundred job applications online from adult store attendant, farmer, to actor, and had interviews for positions as funeral arranger, behavior therapist, balloon pilot apprentice etc but none materialized to money.
But then a time of massive uncertainty came as fear and hysteria swept the land.
People were panic buying. Businesses were closed. Workers getting laid off. Tensions and death count rose dramatically.
The world was on a health crisis.
Covid 19 had spread and put the world on a lockdown.
I was stuck in the yard with an overdraft account in a car that could get repossessed anytime. Then my phone got disconnected but thankfully a friend lent me money and got reactivated.
And then one day I got a call from an employer and a few days later I had a job.
I could not only pay my bills but now I could also save for the next trip.
But just 2 weeks in the job the accident happened.
All of a sudden, all plans were off the window.
Now everything was in question – even life.
The Wounded Soldier
The past 3 days in the hospital had been intense life altering moments, but I thought I had seen it all.
I was alone in my car on my first night in the yard.
As I got in my car, I cautiously ducked my head trying extra careful not to hit my head. Then I noticed the size of the car seemed smaller and started to feel anxious. I started to worry I’d hit my head on the seat or the window or anything.
It was as if my injury was a new discovery and suddenly I was aware and afraid.
As if the wound only became apparent and I felt vulnerable.
My heart beat faster and louder.
Suddenly, an image flashed that sent an intense shock throughout my body.
I immediately covered my head and ducked like a solider shielding from a blast.
My heart raced faster and faster as flashbacks and image of a screw puncturing my skull appeared.
I touched the wound feeling the staples along it making sure it was real.
It had hit me that I was experiencing PTSD.
My heart beat would rise and fall as thoughts far and strange dart in and out while I struggle to keep calm.
These episodes lasted for a couple of days until it slowly died down.
Over the past few years on the road, I’ve been out alone in strange and dark places but I’ve never been lonely and helpless like this in a long while.
There was so little I could do yet everything was so hard.
Meanwhile, more worries started to creep in.
I realized I was now $ to people involved (insurance/employer).
After all, someone’s gotta pay the bills.
I never planned on diving my head to a screw.
Suddenly it felt like I was being investigated.
But all I wanted was for this to be over.
Meanwhile, I had been knocked out below ground zero.
And the only way for me to get better and continue on with my journey was to hope for a miracle.
Problem was, I didn’t believe in miracles.
I was fucked.
If there was a way to navigate in this new situation I knew I’d needed to pick me up out of the hole.
But first, I had to learn how to walk.
In the morning, I sat on the grass while I stretched my aching joints and muscles.
Then at noon, I’d be out in the sun holding the car door to keep balance as I’d stretch my back, neck and legs.
Somehow the possibility of going blind motivated me to push a little extra despite the pain and discomfort.
Day by day I’ve slowly improved and in a week I could walk without getting dizzy.
In 2 weeks I was walking a few miles doing errands to the bank, groceries.
And in a month, my strength and balance had improved substantially I could function without aid and could now use both eyes without an eye patch.
Yet despite the huge improvements, the incident had left a huge dent in me and even a bigger question.
I realized things had changed and will never be the same.
Life will never be the same again, but I’m still alive.
What do I do now?
My Own Everest
When I got stranded in snow and thought I was going to die, in late 2016, I promised myself if I ever make it down alive I’d live a life without regrets.
But when I made it back home instead of living a full life, I spiraled into my worst state of depression and about to hit rock bottom.
Hopeless and desperate I gave myself a shot and committed to change – but if it didn’t work I was allowed to kill myself.
Working on that promise this last 4 years has taught me to take life’s challenges head on – even if it ain’t easy.
It also reminded me how it was possible to dream and live a full life.
It showed me the way out of the yard and into a world of life changing adventures in the wild, in quiet libraries and busy streets, living minimally and fully, soaking and doing the things that matter.
But now, I was nothing but a visually impaired, broke hobo with a fractured skull with a bleak future.
On the other hand, I had never been at this stage in my life nor in this situation.
Despite it all I could not deny how blessed and lucky I am to have been given this many chances.
I may not be able to climb Everest soon.
But there is another mountain in front of me that’s just as massive and perhaps more challenging.
Now that I could walk..
Is there something else left for me to do?
I put on my worn out running shoes.
I looked out on the street and saw a cross-eyed version of my new reality. A distorted image of 2 identical pictures misaligned on top of one another viewed on a fish eye lens. The accident left me, among others, visually impaired.
And I began to walk slowly along a blurry path.
I focused with extra attention every time my foot hit the pavement as I kept my balance until I was walking faster.
And soon I was running.
A massive wave of mixed emotions of excitement, fear, pain, relief washed over me to a sober happiness. As if an old chapter had just ended and a new one was about to start – and I am between the two.
But where would I go?
Did I waste my life away for nothing?
And more questions surfaced. But I was running again and it was all that mattered.
I had ran out of destination and fine with it.
So I kept on running.
And hasn’t looked back.
This last few weeks felt like years packed with intense and unforgettable moments.
Shout out to all the kind and wonderful people who’d sent me love and support during these tough times – to my family and friends. I am blessed and grateful for all your thoughts, prayers and well wishes.
To all the folks who reached out to show sympathy, thoughts, offered prayers and assistance – I hope I can thank you all personally, sometime soon. You’ve made this journey more meaningful and fulfilling.
Special thanks to my sister Elaine, her husband Jay and family, and to my friends Klint, Ian, RR, Tereza. I am grateful for the generosity you all have showered upon me. I wouldn’t be where I am now if not for all your kindness and understanding.
I am recovering and healing well because of your love and support. Nothing would have been possible if not for the inspiration you give me. It has kept me strong and excited for the future.
Thank you so much.
I hope and aspire to share the kindness and generosity I’ve been, undeservingly, given to those who are also in need.