During Finals, Don’t Wish to be Hit by a Car.
I often hear students making jokes about getting hit by a car in order to skip their finals. You do not want this to happen. Trust me – it happened to me.
Almost two years ago, on December 7th, 2016. The first official day of finals. And in typical Montreal weather in early December, it was gray, humid, and some sort of half melted snow was falling from gray clouds. The type of weather that reflects your mood during finals. Gloomy, unpleasant. The ideal weather for procrastination.
I was on my way to hand in my final take-home exam for my class early in the morning. I had a final the next day, so I wanted to give it to my professor as early as possible so that I could go back home and study for the rest of the day. It was early, some minutes past 8 am. I was walking fast, as usual. I always walk as if I am in rush. But, in this situation, it was the case. I lived a half-hour walk away, I had forgotten my phone and I had to study half a semester of classes for the next day. I needed to get back home in less than an hour, just in time to get to the library, staple my exam, and give it to my professor, and quickly walk back to my apartment to start working.
I was getting closer and closer to campus. I was about to cross the street. I could see a car slowing down, as if to anticipate the stop sign. I engaged onto the road. The car would not stop. I continued walking, but the car was accelerating. Suddenly I realized it would not stop. And it was too late for me to avoid the impact. I curled up and let myself slide onto the windshield. A stabbing pain in my right shoulder, a blunt hit on my right butt cheek. I slid on the side of the car, landed on the cold, wet asphalt, a few meters farther I let myself lie on the floor, and I cried. Not because I was in pain. Because of the implications. I realized my life had just been put on hold the moment my shoulder hit the windshield. I had finals. I knew I would need push through the aftermath of this injury.
People came to me. I asked for help with my backpack, as it was thrown away during the shock and my shoulder hurt too much for me put it back on my own. I first refused to call my mother. Then I asked for it. She did not answer, unsurprisingly. She had an exam and I was calling from a stranger’s cellphone. The driver proposed to call 911. At first, I said yes, but then I realized that I had no time for that. I had an exam to hand in. I had another the next day, and another the following day, and a paper on the following Monday. Also, my injury did not seem that serious. My shoulder hurt, yes. I was traumatized, yes. But my life was not on the line. I did not want to bother medics for a situation as benign as this one. Moreover, I did not want to stay with that man. I did not want to see his face ever again. So I said no. Right before he made the call for an ambulance– the stupidest decision I have ever made, and, trust me, I am no smart cookie. My head and my legs would work. I was functional enough to go to university and do what I had to do. He offered to drive me. No way. I took his contact, the license plate, and I walked closer to McGill with the student who had helped me. She was on her way to an exam. Yet, she helped me. She gave me her phone number so that I could get her testimony. We partedways. I started sobbing and crying uncontrollably until I got to Redpath. I stapled the paper, went to Leacock, and handed in my paper to my Professor. Turns out, I was early. He said, “Stay safe and warm.” Ha. Ha. Ha. Too late.
I cried on my way home. I called my sister in France, telling her what had happened. My father heard it. He yelled, pointed out my stupidity. Breaking news, Dad. I did not want to go to the ER. But getting yelled at was a pretty good wake up call. I took my notebook to study while waiting in the hospital. I called my mother, calmly telling her what happened. She left school to meet me at the hospital. Once there, I emailed my professor, saying I might not be able to go tothe exam the next day, but I was trying to study for it anyway. He replied that I should defer my exam. Of course, I should. Yet, I was reluctant to do that.
My mother got to the ER. I could not speak anymore, the shock overwhelming me. And then, all feelings disappeared. The only think I felt was pain. The pain in my shoulder. They gave me medication. The X-Ray looked normal. So they sent me home, giving me an appointment for a sonogram. The painkillers did not work, so they offered opioids. I refused. I had exams to complete.
Let’s fast forward a little bit. I defer the exam happening the next day, but I hand in the take-home exam on the deadline and the paper a week late. I barely sleep. I need to apply to graduate school but I have no energy. Two months later, the doctors find that my humerus is severely broken, that I have blood in my bone. That’s why the X-Ray looked normal. A year later, I finally could see the fracture. A big “Z” on my bone. Pieces of bone have merged in my tendons. A year and 11 months later, the physical pain is still here.
And the mental scars, too. It took me a while to realize the impact of my accident on my psyche. When I told my friends about the accident that day, I had a very “shit happens” approach to it. But it certainly scarred me. Scars that remain to be massaged, because they are still so vivid. I became aloof, yet pushing myself to go back to my life as it was before the accident. I went back to boxing only two months later. I studied hard, despite the pain. Ignoring my disregard for my own life and existence. I would drown it in readings and shielding myself from my friends, becoming complacent in my own self-pity.
I got into graduate school and moved to Kingston. Close to a year after my accident, I got diagnosis – depression. Not surprising, regarding my history of anxiety. They gave me medication. SSRIs. Anxiety mixed with depression, I tell you, is an explosive cocktail. I am tired all the time, I want to stay in bed all day and put my life on hold, but my crushing fear of failure and self-hatred force me to work until it is time to go to bed.
Now, fast forward to November 2018. I still have mild flashbacks, which remind me of my vulnerability. I still feel my body hitting the car, being overtaken by this huge Honda CR-V. I crawl back into my skin every time.
But today, I realize, I am angry. Angry at myself for having spent the semester preceding my accident wishing to be hit by a car. Angry at the driver who was most likely on his phone. Angryat myself to let myself feel hurt, both physically and mentally. Angry because I am still in pain, physically and mentally. Because I am, every day, reminded that this happened. Angry that my shoulder has not come back to its old self. Angry because my muscles still bear the aftermath of the shock. If my muscles were a person, I would rip their head off. Angry at the people who dismiss my pain. Angry at people who remind me of it.
I am angry at people who make jokes about getting hit by a car to avoid finals. It is not a joke to me. It is not a joke to any of the people who have been hit by a car. It is not a joke to be in such stress and distress that you would put yourself in this much pain rather than sit through exams. You would think it would allow you to get a break from all that whirlwind that finals are. I disagree. Imagine yourself in my position, sitting in the ER. Was recovering my priority? Not once did I think “I need to recover; my finals will wait.” Instead, I was thinking: “I do not want to have to write 6 papers and write an exam next term.” And so I deferred one exam and wrote my two other papers within the deadline. Dealing with the pain of a broken shoulder without any medication.
So, trust me, you do NOT want to be hit by a car. Not during midterms, not during finals, not ever. The pain is not worth the hint of relief you think you would get.
Trust me. I hoped to be hit by a car. And then it happened to me.