the brain is such a complex and mysterious part of the human body, able to do things that we may not even be consciously aware of at the time. i’ve always been fascinated by this, aware that while i carry on my day-to-day life my brain is busy processing information and filing it away based on it’s usefulness (or lack thereof). yet, the other day, i realized just how powerful the brain can be, especially in traumatic situations, without us even being aware of it.

i was having coffee with a friend from high school, who i hadn’t seen for 4 years, catching up on life and work and school and everything else that happens in 4 years of not talking. somehow the conversation came around to the vehicle i drove (an ’05 volvo s40, by the way), and i started talking about how i had been in a really terrible accident during my sophomore year of college and my old bmw was totaled, hence the current volvo.

to my surprise, he grinned and told me that he already knew all that, and he reiterated how bad of a crash it was. i was, obviously, quite confused. i hadn’t seen this guy in 4 years and yet he knows about this? come to find out, he was in the ambulance that came to the scene of my accident, and i had no idea.

i did not remember him being there at all. i didn’t recall seeing him out of the corner of my eye or hearing his voice or anything. and yet, he was there, avoiding me (because at the time i definitely wasn’t his biggest fan), but there.

i remembered the terrible crash, my car spinning and being hit by two cars, lots of shaking, and then standing off to the side of the scene in shock with my best friend john and my parents (when they arrive on the scene). my mind was overcome with emotion and all i wanted was to cry and have john hug me, nothing else mattered to me at the time. yet my friend remembered something different: driving up to the scene, seeing my car totaled, and then seeing me off to the side, physically okay but clearly emotionally shook up. he thought about saying hi, but decided against it, and so he continued on with his job. two very different sides to the same story.

looking back on my accident now, two years later, it’s probably for the best that i didn’t notice him at the scene. i was going through enough already, and at the time i couldn’t stand him, so seeing him there in the midst of all the chaos could have just made it worse.

it’s amazing to me how, in moments when everything threatens to overwhelm us, our brain will toss out any details that aren’t deemed necessary and pertinent. i think that it’s something we often forget, these defense mechanisms that are hardwired into the way we function. it’s bewildering, and amazing, and so unbelievably complicated.

this all makes me wonder, now that i’m even more aware of the tricks our brain plays, how many other people have i completely tuned out? not in a bad way, but in more of a “i’ve got enough stuff happening in life right now and i can’t really be bothered with you” kind of way. i don’t know, but it’s got me thinking about how i need to work harder at taking in my surroundings and recognizing those who are around me.

you never know who you might run into.