It’s the middle of April 2020, a significant portion of the world is staying inside their homes to reduce the spread of COVID 19, and I’ve decided to start a blog. I’m sure lots of us are trying to figure out how to balance our time and connect with as many people as possible. I believe this will be mine. I just realized you don’t even know my name yet!
Hi there, my name is Victoria. Welcome to a space I hope to cultivate for any and everyone to share and find something that can help them navigate the unknown world we’re living in. After reading tons of blogs to figure out the best way to introduce myself and seem catchy enough that you will want to keep reading, I’ve been inspired to share an intimate story that has taught me quite a few lessons these past couple of years, lessons that are paying off very well as I navigate stay at home advisories with my family.
Almost two years ago I became complicit in a case that remains unconcluded. The most fascinating element of the story for me is how normal that day seemed until everything drastically changed in a matter of seconds. On June 28, 2018 I awoke around 5 am and stared out the window for a while listening to the birds. I eventually got out of bed, made a cup of coffee, got my sons ready, then cooked breakfast while listening to a favorite playlist. I went about the remainder of my day and got everything done so I could join a friend for trivia and a drink later that night.
I love the rhythm of my life and the role I play in all my relationships, but that night I was just going to be a woman hanging with my friend and enjoying a night out not regulated by being a mom or wife. I finally made it to the restaurant. My friend and I had an amazing time eating, drinking, and playing trivia then parted ways to return to our regular lives. I thought it’d be a good idea to get gas before going home so I wouldn’t have to stop the next morning before dropping my sons off at school since I had a morning appointment. I didn’t make it to drop off my sons nor the appointment. Sometime between my home and the gas station I swerved into the oncoming lane and hit a car.
I have no recollection of the crash. I only remember being pinned by airbags, smelling hot metal and oil, and hearing painful cries. I remember my glasses being smashed on my face and struggling to get out of my car. I remember being asked questions, although I don’t know what they were. I remember having a splitting headache and feeling panicked. And I remember asking repeatedly, “Are they okay? Are the people in the other car okay?” I spent the following eighteen hours in police custody, halfway through realizing I also sustained injuries along with the people in the other car. I had a concussion and many broken bones, but still needed to appear in court the next afternoon to be arraigned before being released on bail.
That afternoon I learned the extent of the damage of my actions. I was responsible for something I never thought possible: death and irreparable harm. I didn’t think I was impaired and unable to drive, and I definitely didn’t consider myself inebriated. But there were better choices that I should have made to save my victims’ lives and my family’s, and there are consequences that I now face.
Before I tell you more about that night, I want to hopefully give you a fuller picture of me as a person. There are so many ways that I could describe myself. I am a woman. A daughter. A wife. A mother. A real estate agent. A native Massachusetts resident. And a college graduate. I am also a person facing felony charges and living with remorse for the death and injuries of two innocent people. Since then I’ve been working to add activist and advocate. Even though it’s been almost two years, I’m constantly evolving through the process of owning my responsibility in the lives I changed as I negotiate how I should live knowing someone else died. It’s also difficult to move forward in the process of acceptance when many parts of my life remain in limbo and I feel constant fear of the unknown. But the tragic events of two years ago motivate me to make every moment meaningful and beautiful. All of these elements are part of my process.
Prior to the accident I lived an offense-free (excluding the speeding ticket I got in high school) life that some might assume was close to perfect. My three sons attended the very school I attended as a child. Their education was excellent, and they were privileged to learn in an environment that valued their minds, bodies, and personal growth. My husband and I built a life together, with him creating a successful contract business and expanding our home set atop a country hill while I became an established real estate broker. I enjoyed leisure time and played tennis competitively. I was one of many proud parents volunteering at my sons’ school and our local library. And the best part was that my parents remained in good health and were fully supportive of the work my husband and I were doing to craft a family in which our children would only feel love and security.
Yet, for as much love and happiness that surrounded me, my family and I had our own struggles and growth periods like any other. As prosperous as business was and as secure as my children were, there were many stressors, pains, and dangers that existed, and I went many years not addressing them. I strove to be the perfect parent and was very hard on myself when I didn’t reach my self-imposed perfectionist standards. My marriage contained unhealthy elements that came to light after the accident that demanded work years before, but we plowed ahead hoping those problems would magically disappear. There were seeds of emotional barriers before the accident that became full-blown obstacles after the accident. I thought if I alone did the work I could fix our marriage, but there wasn’t equal effort to bring us out of our budding toxicity. None of these realities are excuses, but I hate that it took someone’s death to reveal to me crucial elements of my life that needed addressing and professional help. I find myself spending time now wondering how different June 28, 2018 would have been had I addressed long time problems in my life earlier.
I mentioned I’d continue with the rest of story of what happened that night. That requires acknowledging that there are layers of emotional trauma that continue to be felt because the facts of that night don’t tell your loved ones how to respond to a call that you’ve been arrested and others were seriously injured. Those facts don’t tell others’ loved ones that they were being rushed to the emergency department for another driver’s negligence and may not survive the next morning. My husband got a call that I was being detained, but other families got calls that their loved ones were in a terrible accident and they were being rushed to hospitals. I got out on bail. One woman never left the hospital and her family had to grieve her untimely death. I was never prepared for that worst-case scenario because I never thought it’d happen to me, nor my family, nor the victims, nor their families. But it did.
Yes, the road was unlit. Yes, it was foggy. Yes, the weather conditions were unideal for driving. But there were other factors: I was impaired, distracted, and shouldn’t have been driving. Those are the factors that led to someone’s death, someone’s lifelong injuries, and my felony charges. Those are the factors that took two innocent children’s mother away from them. Those are the factors that put my children in jeopardy of losing their mother. Those are the factors that put tension on my marriage and incessantly worry my parents. Those are the factors that ended some relationships because people didn’t want to be associated with me. Those are the factors that leave me detached and sullen around the 28th of every month. Those are the factors that shattered the light I once saw in life and leave me grappling in darkness.
There are many elements of life I have struggled with this past year, most of which center on reckoning with still being alive and another mother being dead. My children still have me physically present in their lives, but other children will never see their mother again. I also struggle with how I relate to the image of a “criminal” and what that actually means. I would assume that when people think of the average middle-aged, middle-class woman in the US, they don’t think of someone capable of felony charges and killing. In fact, I didn’t think of myself as a “stereotypical criminal.” I didn’t think of myself as a criminal at all. I’m the middle-age, middle-class woman in the US who doesn’t have the capacity to kill someone in a tragic car accident. But I did, and that is the power of my story. Anything can happen to anyone. There is no stereotypical criminal. There is no image to which the mind travels to put people in a box that labels them negatively without the assistance of social conditioning from a system that sees dollars instead of people. And I learned that there is no way I could continue to navigate this experience and create a “me against them” divide because I’m here, I’m telling my stories, I’m learning of so many other stories, and I’m learning the power of all of us doing good and working to overcome the shame we place on ourselves and the shame we assume from society. And I now live my life aimed at doing good for people who find themselves in my position and for people who find themselves in the position of my victims.
Every day since the accident, I have carried the victims’ death and injuries and their family’s pain in my heart. I’m constantly seeking ways to dedicate my life’s actions and choices to their memories, and I know I will continue that honor and burden for the rest of my life. There is an immense power in the number one. One moment. One action. One anything changes everything forever. Two years ago, one drink, one extended glance from the road, one distraction got me here. But I hope my newfound purpose as one person will change many people’s lives for the better.
If you’ve read this far, take a deep breath and let out whatever you’ve been holding in these past few minutes. There are lots of things you’re probably thinking, like what does this have to do with COVID 19 or why is this lady telling us this? Well I hope you come back for more posts as I share those answers and welcome you into all sorts of conversations. What I can say now is thank you so much for reading and getting to know me a bit. Until next time.