Farmington Canyon, Utah, around 10 years ago.
One of the first semi-serious girlfriends I ever had - let's call her Alice - had a really wonderful family, and we all got along famously.
They were work-hard, play-hard, really good people. They were Catholic, and there's sort of a Catholic solidarity in Utah, especially out in the suburbs.
Utah is overwhelmingly of the Mormon religion, and most non-Mormons feel stifled by it.
Now, as I get older, I come to appreciate the Mormon religion more. They're big believers in family, self-discipline, good habits, service, hard work and lots of reflection. But some of the rules are rather stifling to non-Mormons - no drinking, no smoking, no caffeine, no R-rated movies. Also, they're incredibly warm and friendly people, but at least in Utah, there's an undercurrent of being wary about associating too closely with non-Mormons outside of trying to convert them.
And try to convert, they did! If you lived in Utah, you'd be getting invitations to the Mormon Church and given gifts of the Book of Mormon with regularity. I had no real opinion on this at the time, nowadays I think I'd find it flattering because I tend to respect Mormons quite a lot, but I reckon that most of us heathens felt a little bit stifled and judged.
Well, that's not so good, but there is a nice sort of solidarity among non-Mormons, and especially among Catholics in Utah. Minorities bonding together, or something like that.
So I was surprisingly close with Alice's family. We'd known each other for a couple years, and had been loosely boyfriend/girlfriend for a while, and I was very welcome among their family.
And they were a cool family. Big into riflery, archery, motorcycles and ATV's, and generally cool wildernessy things like that. Alice's brother, Matt, was a black belt. Her mother was a doctor, her father did some sort of business, and they were a nice family.
So one particular afternoon, we're at Farmington Canyon. I don't know how or why, but her brother Matt and I always had something like a rivalry. I didn't want it, I didn't plan for it, but it seems like he'd always try to show me up. Alice was a year older than me, and Matt was two years older than her, but he felt the need or desire to compete with me for some reason. It was... mostly friendly, but there was a touch of not-quite-friendly underneath it. Or something? I still can't quite piece it together from memory.
Anyways, I'd been a Boy Scout, and I'd taken quite well to the bow and rifle. Whenever I went off to camp, I'd spend as much time as I can at one of the ranges, and I'd gotten to be a pretty good shot with both.
This pleased Alice's parents quite a lot - their daughter's boyfriend was into frontier man pursuits - but her brother seemed a little bit bothered when I shot well at targets. I mean, he was outwardly friendly, there was just a weird sort of undercurrent of... I don't know, it's been 10+ years, and my memory has faded. Back then, I didn't understand it, but I felt like there was something there, and that sort of intuition is usually right.
Alice's dad had a truck, and they'd hook a towing-trailer to the back of it with a motorcycle or two, and an All-Terrain Vehicle (basically similar to a motorcycle, but with four wheels).
We picked up and moved higher up the canyon trail, I rode on the ATV with Alice driving, Matt took one of the motorcycles up, one of Alice's parents took the other bike and the other parent drove the truck.
Now higher up along the canyon trails, Alice's dad offered me to take the ATV out, and went to hand me a helmet. I said, "Pops, I don't need a helmet, I can handle it."
"Sebastian, take a helmet."
"Look, I can handle it, I don't --"
He raised his hand up in a STOP gesture. I stopped. He says, "Look, you take a helmet, or you're not going on the bike. Period, end of story."
I grudgingly agreed, put the helmet on (it was too tight, and now I couldn't see as well, and I was going to sweat in this damn thing, and I wouldn't feel the wind against my hair, and, and, and...)
But fine, helmet on. I rode off up the canyon on the ATV, Matt came with me, and Alice stayed behind with her parents to prepare lunch.
We get to the top of the canyon, and it's incredibly beautiful. I've always loved nature, and when you reach a high point in nature with a view all the way around... ahh, there's not many other feelings like it.
Matt looks at me, grins, and says, "Race you down!" and takes off.
I take the bait, and tear off after him. Accelerate. Upshift, upshift, upshift. Fourth gear. Flying down the canyon.
I almost catch up with Matt, but then he makes a risky move through a rougher area and moves quickly ahead. I shift up again, fifth gear, now moving fast down the canyon, I'm on his tail, he takes a corner hard, I'm right behind him and take the corner hard and...
...I'm heading right into the headlights of a Chevy Suburban.
There was a very low speed limit in Farmington Canyon, perhaps 15 miles per hour? This was on account of stupid kids like me driving too fast down the canyon.
The Suburban (the biggest frigging mass produced car in the world at the time) was definitely going faster than 15.
They honk, unhelpfully.
I pull the bike right, narrowly miss the SUV.
Or, well, not, because I'm about to head off a cliff quickly now.
I try to pull the back to the left and over-correct... I feel like I'm close to the edge... I make it...
...my front tire is off the ground.
Oh, this isn't good.
Rrrr----------roll thr-crash, thump thump thump thump!
Matt's over me. "Oh my god, dude, oh my god, are you-"
I sit up.
Where's my shoe?
I'd been wearing a pair of blue skateboarding shoes, and now my right shoe wasn't on.
I look around for it. I don't see it.
Matt leaves to get his parents, and I'm still looking for my shoe. Suddenly Alice, Matt, and their parents are there. I don't hurt, but everyone looks scared.
I spot my shoe. It's quite a ways away. I now recognize this condition as "shock"
Alice's mom was a doctor - she was an OBGYN, not a trauma doctor, but she checked to make sure my neck and back was okay before taking the helmet off.
I look at it. It's shattered down the front of it. The little flip-plate that you can cover your eyes with is literally broken in half, hanging in two awkward pieces. There's a crack down the middle of the helmet. That would've been my head.
I bruised, broke, or fractured all my ribs down my back left side, which was, y'know, bad. But that was the extent of the damage, and I healed from it in less than a year. I'd have been dead if I wasn't wearing the helmet.
I learned half of the lesson right then, which is safety stuff and precautions are very cool. I always wear a seatbelt, a helmet, and otherwise pay attention to safety briefings when doing sports or adventuring.
The other half of the lessons - slow down - took me having a knee injury in the gym five years later to learn. I wish I had a little more foresight and didn't have to pay such a high price for lessons, but I'm glad I've learned them. I've unfortunately probably already put more than a normal lifetime of mileage and damage on my body over the years by virtue of exploring and trying a variety of dangerous things, but then, I think I've picked up more than a lifetime of lessons and adventures and experiences as well.
But I still remember that lesson from Farmington Canyon - wear a helmet, a seatbelt, check and double-check before doing anything dangerous, invest in good safety gear, and otherwise do what you can to mitigate the chance of catastrophe. Most of the time it won't matter, but when it matters, then it really matters.
This story is written very well! It definitely gave me a different view of Mormons. I've always thought childishly indifferent thoughts of them, especially being that I knew nothing of them (A flaw we see a lot).
Thanks for the story!
I was seething. I was furious. And I was even more furious that I was furious. Agh, this is so bloody irrational of me, I can't believe I'm getting bent out of shape over this.
I'm transitioning into meta-furious. This is both bad and ridiculous.
I had been waiting for a shuttle bus and met two Chinese girls from Guangzho. Pretty girls, very so-so English, seemed like nice people. And as we were striking up a nice conversation, a very awkward guy jumped in to CHAT!!! Let's CHATTT!!!! HEY WHERE YOU FROM WHERE YOU GOING HOW LONG ARE YOU HERE?!?
Now, I can deal with someone jumping in to a conversation. Okay, maybe it's not always great. But you can roll with it. Usually. But not this time.
This time it was the proverbial Bull in the China Shop.
I've spent my entire life searching for something more. I’ve never found it in any other church. I'd come, I'd go. Everyone just seemed to gloss over the gospel. Jesus loves you and that's it, go in peace. It was a little too easy and I always felt something was missing.
When I moved across the street from my neighbors I'd see them leave for church every Sunday. I'd see missionaries coming over to their house and think "what are they doing? Those people are already Mormon! They're wasting their time! Why aren't they at my door?" I'd wait outside hoping just to catch a glimpse of their happy perfect family. My heart grew envious. They had it all. No they didn't have a huge house or a fancy car. But they had it all. They had everything that mattered and I wanted some of it. Even if it was just a little bit. I feel like my heart had been longing for this church for a long time, but when my mother and I bought our home and it was in my face every day, it was almost unbearable. What made them so different than me? Or more deserving of such happiness? The only difference between us that I could come up with was the fact that they were Mormon. I could no deny the fact that the Holy Spirit was reaching out to me and this was something I needed to take action on.
I went to the website and waited. Nothing. I became so frustrated. Didn’t they understand that this was something I needed in my life? What was so wrong with me that nothing was happening? One day, I ran into a young man at the Wal-Mart in his missionary attire. I pretty much took all my frustration out on him. I basically yelled at him, “Why haven't I got my book of Mormon yet and why aren't there missionaries knocking on my door!?" The poor guy stood there shocked and politely took down my address and phone number. I thought to myself, "Now I'm definitely not getting any missionaries."
The next week, I swindled my mother and my uncle into going to St George. It was a short day trip and they had a Cracker Barrel so that was a pretty easy sell to my mother. But the one thing I really wanted to do was check out the Brigham Young winter home. I heard that missionaries gave the tours and I promised myself I'd be nicer this time. Although in the back of my mind I thought, "I probably already blacklisted, but let's give it a try. If nothing else, I get to see a cool old house and at this point I really have nothing to lose." This sweet old lady gave us a tour of the old house and that's when I finally received my book of Mormon. She also took down my information to pass along to missionaries. I doubted any would ever show since I was so mean to the one boy, but I was at least happy I got the book.
However to my surprise, and despite my lack of patience, God did send some missionaries my way. And because He knows all things and has perfect timing he sent me the most perfect ladies I could ask for. Ladies that loved me before they even knew me. It was pure perfect sisterly love and acceptance. And this is the most amazing journey I've ever been on. I've never felt more at home than in the Mormon Church or when I'm surrounded by all of my sisters in Christ. I've never felt more at peace or more accepted. Or more loved. My heart is joyous every time I come here. I know that God has chosen me to be here now because maybe I wasn't up for the challenge before. Or maybe my missionaries weren't ready for me yet.