This is a brief story about John, a young man from Cleveland, Ohio:
John was only 17. He never thought much about what life was going to be a few years from then. His main preoccupation was to finish high school and get into a decent college. He sometimes dreamed of becoming a successful entrepreneur, but those thoughts were quickly dismissed for the future. Education comes first, he was often reminded. Four years later he was standing at the graduate reception, honor cords and all lying from his cap. His closest family and girlfriend, Laura, applauding and congratulating him for his effort. It wouldn’t be but a few months that he announced his engagement with Laura, while simultaneously being offered a job for a renewed firm. The debt to pay for his college had convinced him to take the job; it wouldn’t take but a few years to pay it back. His and Laura’s wedding was beautiful. Hundreds of guests attended. The bride’s dress left everyone in awe. The wedding had cost a little more than John and Laura initially hoped for, but “oh well”. They eventually decided to purchase a small family home, in anticipation of the arrival of their first born. With both came the joys and responsibilities of home ownership and parenting. John’s dream of starting a business was never realized as his commitments prevented him from taking on additional financial risk. He also secretly wished that he had more opportunities to travel and go see Europe. His company’s two weeks vacation policy prevented him from taking much time off, so vacations always felt overwhelming, more like a marathon sprint than a relaxing jog. It’s going to be a retirement goal, he kept telling himself.
But he was happy. He knew he had it better than a lot of people. He had a roof over his head. Food was never missing from the dinner table. He was in good health and he had the support of a caring family. He knew no better, couldn’t imagine of anything better, and perhaps there was no better. Life was good.
One tragic day while commuting to work, a distracted driver hit John’s car while cruising on the highway. John’s car tipped in a ditch, rolling over multiple times. He suffered injuries that would be too severe to recover. As he was being rushed to the hospital, time seemed to slow down for him. He started to see his past. He saw himself being 17 again. He imagined what his life would have been like, had he chose different paths. He wasn’t feeling regret for his choices. Just a feeling of blissful inspiration. He never got to open his own business. How would he had felt to go Europe and visit a German castle? All of these questions didn’t really matter now. He was dying. There was no future ahead, and the past was already gone. All that remained was the sound of the sirens and the feeling of vibration of the road. He laughed faintly. A sincere smile appeared on his face. Then there was darkness.