I’m boarding a train in a foreign country. As I scan my ticket to confirm my destination and its tricky spelling, I sling my backpack over my shoulder and step high up onto the train as it starts to rumble out of the station.
I’m walking through my old San Francisco neighborhood towards the tall trees of Golden Gate Park swaying in the gentle but persistent coastal breeze. I see my old neighbor on his way to work and wave at him as he walks on by and greets me from across the street. “Been a WHILE since I seen you man! How ya doing?”
I swing open the door to the restaurant and hurry excitedly up the narrow stairs. I enter into the dining room and see my friends gathered towards the back, ready for the birthday celebration. I can’t help but notice the tantalizing cocktails neatly handwritten on the chalkboard behind the bar. I decide that after months and months of preserving my recuperating nerve cells by avoiding alcohol, it’s time to order a drink…
We all know what flashbacks are, memories from the past of a specific moment that we remember clearly that are brought back into present consciousness. Similar to flashbacks, I have “flash forwards” that I’m sharing here now. Much like flashbacks (which we remember for certain reasons), my flash forwards are complex, rich in detail and as vivid as any memory. Thinking of them places me in those exact moments, my senses come alive with what I’m surrounded with and I feel as though I am experiencing that moment in real time. My smell (the sense that is most linked with memory) is heightened with the scents that I take in and I can realize the absolute realness of my flash forward.
Having studied psychology in university and always being interested in how the brain functions, I have read a lot about the damage and difficulty of painful flashbacks for some people. With or without a trigger, someone may relive a particularly challenging memory and become traumatized by the larger impact of that flashback. It’s not to say that all flashbacks are negative memories, far from it in fact, but I suppose I just don’t hear of many people talking about their flashbacks of positive memories very often.
My flash forwards are incredibly helpful for me. They fuel my recovery, they give me something specific to work towards, and they represent a light at the end of the tunnel in some ways. They show me what life can look like when I’m not on the dark side. They provide specific details of situations that I can’t presently experience. They remind me of what is most important to me and why I’m fighting so hard everyday to regain the physical abilities that I lost in my accident. Instead of trapping these experiences into history and saying that they’re a part of a past that I won’t ever see, I place them in front of me, in my future, with the utmost intention of realizing these flash forwards.
They are NOT wishes, they are NOT dreams, they are NOT aspirations or hopes. For these reasons, I can’t tweak them and change them around as I see fit. Much like memories which are based on facts of how things happened, flash forwards are structured the same way, as inherent truths, based on facts of how things WILL happen. That’s why they come to me organically and vividly and I have little control of how I see them. I just choose to accept them and see them as a glimpse into a definite future.
I’ll leave you with one more flash forward. As I have mentioned on this blog, just three days before my accident, I had one of the most amazing experiences of my life on a backpacking trip in the mountains with friends. For months, I have struggled many times wondering if I will ever have an experience like that again, if I’ll ever feel the joy of carrying all of my material needs on my back and venturing into the beauty of the high mountains…
The weight of my backpack feels heavier than it used to on previous trips but here I am again slowly hiking up the narrow trail surrounded by the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains of Eastern California. I’m definitely putting more weight on my hiking poles than I was expecting but I’m still stepping up the gravel path in anticipation of the alpine lake at the top. My steps are a bit crooked as it becomes apparent by looking at my footsteps that my left leg is still a bit weaker than my right, but I feel strong nevertheless. The air two miles high is thin and cool and I’m panting regularly but the sun radiates through my entire body, warming me through from the inside. I’m enjoying each step I take in my rugged hiking boots and I smile and realize I never knew that this moment would come again.