Facing the Crash

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli
Facing the Crash

I got in my first “accident” just shortly after acquiring both my license and my beloved as*hole, the 1977 Dodge Aspen that saw me through high school and college.

On this particular day, I was leaving school with one of my best friends in the passenger seat. I’m sure we were chatting away about the day as I was backing out from my parking spot in the school lot when suddenly CRASH!!! I heard a terrible sound and felt a sickening feeling quickly spread throughout my entire body. So of course I did what any responsible driver should do: I promptly shrunk down into my seat, trying to get as low as possible; heck, trying to disappear.

My friend shrunk down with me, and as I stared at her wide-eyed, face flushing, I remember crying to her: “What was THAT?!?!”… as if I didn’t know. Half laughing, half sympathizing, she peeked out from over her seat to confirm that I had, in fact, smashed into another student’s car. Still slunk down in my seat, I twisted around just enough to see that driver of that car get out—a boy a few years older than me, slightly rough around the edges, who was at that moment gesturing, shouting, throwing his sunglasses on the ground, and generally making his discontent known.

Sitting in the car for a few minutes that felt like forever, my mind raced trying to figure out how I could escape the situation. When I came to terms with the fact that I couldn’t un-do it, I moved on to the next most responsible thing: figure out how I could make it his fault. Clearly, he wasn’t paying attention to me pulling out—he should have seen me and put on his brakes! Clearly, I didn’t do anything… he must have backed into me! Clearly. Finally, I realized that there was no getting out of it. The truth was plain and simple: I didn’t see him driving right behind me as I backed out, and as a result was responsible for the dents in his car and my ego.

I finally got out of the car. I got out of the car, and I faced it. I endured his screaming and endured the embarrassment of the accident report and endured the horror of having to tell my parents and endured the ever-there-after dread of seeing him in the hallways. It wasn’t fun. But it was endurable. And I went on to have many more adventures, and yes, accidents in that faithful car of mine (did I mention that I eventually acquired the nickname “Crash” by my dad and brothers?).

What strikes me when I think about it is just how hard I tried to disappear. How much I wanted it to just GO AWAY. But things don’t just go away. When it happens, we have to step out of the car and face the crash. Sometimes, we just have to endure the consequences of being wrong. It ain’t pretty, but it’s the truth: if you’re not facing it, you’re not moving forward. And if you’re not moving forward then you’re also not getting past the crash.

Do you have a car you need to step out of? 



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Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.