A Speedy Recovery

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| This is the 425th story of Our Life Logs |


The crowd cheered as I crossed the finish line, a blur of color and churned up soil. I came to an abrupt halt. My heart was in my mouth as I pulled the helmet off my head and raised my arms into the air, celebrating with the crowd. I gazed around in disbelief. I’d done it. After years of training and competing, I’d finally won first place in the Baltic State Championships. It was a dream that I’d been chasing since I was a child. But sometimes, the dreams we have can’t last forever.

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Now, let’s start at the beginning.

My life started in Riga, the capital city of Latvia in 1980. Sadly, my dad died when I was only 18 months old. My older sister has memories of him, but try as I might, I cannot form the features of my father in the deep recesses of my memory—too young to remember. Mom brought us up Catholic, but by my teenage years, I moved away from religion and its rules.

Instead, machines became an integral part of my life.

From a young age, I liked discovering how things worked. I’d take mechanical objects apart, examine their pieces, and put them back together for fun. My mum would despair as she watched me take the vacuum cleaner or toaster apart—yet again—to see how the pieces moved and grooved together. She could see how happy it made me, but she began to worry about leaving me at home by myself. I couldn’t blame her. She had no idea what I’d get up to next! She feared it was only a matter of time until I electrocuted myself. Her solution to keep me safe? A metal construction kit. That way all the tweaking could be secluded and I could leave her appliances alone.

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My mechanical interests eventually grew to bigger machines, mainly motorbikes. I became an expert on how they functioned and how to maintain them. By age 12, I was competing in the child’s races at Zelta Mopēds, The Golden Moped.

I will always remember the thrill of my first race. The atmosphere, the people, the noises—it was a rush! The split second when your bike is in the air above the dirt mounds feels so…expansive. There were so many times in which I never knew if I was going to crash or stick the landing! I loved every minute of it. And on the days I won, I felt like a celebrity.

I began to dream of one day competing in the Baltic State championships, the big leagues. I decided that getting there was my purpose. And so, I committed myself to nothing else. I left school at 16, to not only race, but also train to be a mechanic.

• • •

Let’s fast forward through the years and years of non-stop racing, shall we? All you really need to know is that the Baltic State Championship was always in the back of my mind—and it all paid off! When I was 21, I competed in the championship and nabbed first place!

For weeks, I lived on the high of my success, beaming with pride. At the peak of my racing career, I met my girlfriend Evija and we fell madly in love. Everything was going great.

But sometimes, what goes up must come down. My low point came the following year, when I raced in the championship once more.

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Everything was going well at first. The wind was whipping around me, and I was passing all the other racers. I was going to win again, so it seemed.

Then, I took a corner too sharply and was thrown off my bike. I tried to stand up quickly but couldn’t. My bike had pinned my leg to the ground. Then came the pain. The feeling of all that weight crushing every bone it touched. The entire left-hand side of my body stung from the road burn. I tried moving once more and screamed.

And then…I watched the backs of rider after rider dart past me. I watched them take the turn that had buried me in the ground.

• • •

I was taken to the hospital where I spent five days recovering. My ears were ringing, and I felt dizzy and nauseous. I was later told that was from a concussion I’d developed from the fall. There was nothing to do in that hospital bed but think. If I were going ever faster, I could have been killed. What would Evija feel if anything happened to me? The realization terrified me.

A few months after my accident, a fellow competitor whom I had trained with fell off his bike and later died in the hospital from his injuries. My friend was so young. He had just gotten married. He had had his whole future ahead of him. I didn’t want the same thing to happen to me.

For the first time in my life, I wondered if it was time to give up racing. But then…what was I going to do? Racing was my life. I felt like it was the only thing I was good at. Without racing, what did I have?

I started to think more about life and death. Why was I here? What was my purpose?

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I spent the next several months in recovery. To help get through this existential crisis, I turned to God. I hadn’t had much interest in religion as an adult, but my girlfriend was a devout Jehovah’s Witness. She had tried to invite me to bible study with her in the past, but only when I felt like I had no direction did I finally agree to go.

Through religion, I found peace. I learned that life was a precious gift from God that I shouldn’t take for granted. My purpose was not contingent on racing. I didn’t know what it was, but I was destined for so much more.

Trying to salvage pieces of my broken dreams, I went back to my certification as a mechanic. However, even away from the track, I still felt that I was part of the sport by fixing racers’ bikes. All I was doing was helping others risk their lives. Finishing on a bike was always a bittersweet moment because while it was fulfilling to finish the job, I often thought about the rider who would be racing on the bike. I pictured the rider losing control and crashing or being thrown from their bike; hospital rooms; blood.

Images like this began to flood my mind, and I started to have disturbing dreams. I began to dislike this career path too. But if I wasn’t working on bikes, I felt purposeless once more.

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When Latvia joined the EU, in 2004, I had some friends who decided to move to the UK. As I enjoyed traveling and seeing new places, my girlfriend and I decided to go with them. I hoped to find a deeper purpose there.

At first, I worked in England and had various jobs, but eventually, Evija and I wound up traveling around Scotland for a month. We visited the Highlands, Loch Lomond, and the Isle of Skye. No inspiration had struck yet, but I kept an open mind.

Then, our car broke down one afternoon on a remote road. Smoke flew up to the heavens and my heart sank. I popped the hood of the car and almost instantly identified the problem. I grabbed my bag of tools and got to work.

I couldn’t believe it. Each tool I lifted felt familiar in my hands. Even the gears felt like old friends. On the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, I felt like a child again, picking apart a machine and putting it all back together.

It wasn’t long before I got the car going and we were on our way. As we pulled away, I knew exactly where I would find happiness again.

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My girlfriend and I decided to stay for a week in Glasgow and to our surprise, we were both offered jobs! On a whim, we decided to stay and settle into Scottish life. By 2007, we got married and had a daughter in 2011.

Looking back, I have lived a full and adventurous life. I am grateful for the opportunities I had to race but am also happy that I found God when I did and realized that life is precious. I mourn for the friends I’ve lost to my once-held dream.

Sometimes, the dream changes with you as you grow. I may not be racing, but I am still tinkering with machines. I altered my dream to fit the life I live now. I think that’s possible for anyone. Dreams don’t have to be stagnant. They can change with you.

 

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This is the story of Josh Ndrevata

Josh currently resides in Glasgow with his wife and daughter. Josh lived a fast and exciting life as a teenager and young adult, taking part in motorbike racing. He was fearless on the track until a bad injury left him questioning if risking his life was truly worth it. During his recovery, he discovered Jehovah’s Witnesses through his girlfriend and discovered the value of life. No longer wanting to risk his life, he quit the sport and eventually became a car mechanic. Josh discovered that in life you sometimes have to alter your dreams so they grow with you. In his spare time, Josh enjoys hill walking and football.

 

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This story first touched our hearts on June 14th, 2019.

| Writer: Abi Latham | Editor: Colleen Walker |

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To protect the privacy of the storyteller and those involved in this retelling, some of the names may have been changed. (1)

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