The Minivan Reminder
How a distracted driver in a big red minivan reminded me to be thankful for the life I live.
I came to the library with the intention of writing an entirely different post than the one I am about to write. But then, as I was winding my way through downtown streets to get here on foot, I had one of those moments you usually only see in cheesy Lifetime movies: I was one step away from being hit and more than likely killed by a speeding car that ran a red light.
Everything lined up perfectly for my demise: as the light turned red, a bus pulled to a stop in the lane closest to me on the street I was getting ready to cross, and it blocked my view of the other lanes. My light turned green and the Walk signal came on, but a woman at the other side of the street looked hesitant to cross. While I didn’t know what it was yet, I had a sense that something was wrong - but I walked in front of the bus to begin crossing the street anyway.
As I rounded the front of the bus and stepped one foot into the next lane, something told me to stop. Perhaps I heard the whooshing roar of an oncoming vehicle, or perhaps it was the look of pure terror I glimpsed on the face of the woman across the street who still hadn’t moved. Either way, something told me to pause for a split second before stepping beyond the bus.
When I pulled my foot back, a red van sped past the area of space my foot (and almost my entire body) was just in. The driver - an old white man with a phone held to his ear - looked at me in angry confusion as if I had wronged him and then sped through the red light. The light had been red for at least 10 seconds, so it wasn’t like he was pushing through a yellow. He just wasn’t paying attention, and it almost cost me my life.
So, here we are. I am alive, and I am very thankful for it, and I want to write about how thankful I am for all the wild and wonderful things life has to offer.
This experience was a reminder that life can end at any moment. No matter how young, healthy, and prepared we are, we never know when and how our lives will end. I want to take stock of how life has been good to me, but filter it through the lens of my sexuality - since that is what I do on this blog.
First and foremost, I am thankful for the fact that my family loves me and celebrates me for who I am. When I was outed to my parents as a teenager, they didn’t put me on the streets in the most vulnerable moment of my life. They didn’t try to convert me or mold me into the person they decided I should be. I didn’t have to fight for the love I deserved from the people who brought me into this world.
My family has always had my back and I know they always will - and that will always be the brightest light in my life.
My friends, too, never gave my sexuality a second thought. The ones who matter showed me that true friendship means unconditional love, and the ones who don’t matter taught themselves the lesson that building a box around your heart doesn’t keep you safe - it traps you, keeping you away from some of the most beautiful people and moments life has to offer.
I am thankful that I live in a time period and in a country in which my sexuality is not a life-threatening condition. Whether the threat comes from the people who hate me so much that they either legislate me to death or kill me in a darkened ally, or from the people who loved me so much that they passed on a lethal disease - AIDS - that no one could have understood in the ’80s, I am largely able to live without these terrors. I am able to craft a world for myself in which my sexuality largely takes a backseat and does not cripple me.
I am thankful for the privileges that come from the color of my skin, from my gender identity, and from my socioeconomic status. I have never once had to worry about my financial situation, as I was born into comfort. I do not have to worry about people judging me or discriminating against me for the color of my skin or for my gender. I have the privilege of being able to make myself into whoever I want to be because of the opportunities I was born with, and I do not take that blessing lightly.
I am thankful for music, for writing, for art, for the internet, for 70-degree days with clear blue skies, for food (particularly cheese), for Christmas lights and Halloween costumes, for dive bars and rooftop views, for laughter and for tears, for love and fear, for humanity - for life.
Lastly, I am thankful for the opportunity to be thankful.
Life is a constant struggle in ways both big and small, but I spend of lot of time searching for the moments that remind me why it’s all worth it: the sound of my mother laughing so hard that she brings herself to tears; the way the trees burn like fire in autumn, just before they turn to ice for the winter; the first sip of iced coffee laced with cream on an exhausting afternoon.
The list is endless, and isn’t that the point of it all - to fill in the blank pages of that list?
Being thankful for the good parts of your life does not erase the bad parts, and it certainly doesn’t stop distracted drivers from running you over with their minivans - but it reminds you why enduring the bad things is worth it.
I hope you all know how thankful I am for this life, and for all of the people in it - no matter who you are.
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