One pays a high price for the folly of youth.
Sometimes in life, all it takes is one wrong move to change one's future forever. Of course it's not the end. But in the here and now, it may be perceived as it is.
A few youths, mostly newly graduates, with Andy Ng, 24, behind the wheel, were involved in a horrific crash with another car when they were returning "from a rock-climbing holiday trip in the Grampian Mountains in Western Victoria."
According to the reports, Andy "failed to see "give way" signs and white painted lines facing him at a junction before colliding with a car with the right of way."
All in that split second, three promising lives were changed. Sentenced to 2 years' jail, Andy was acknowledged by the Australian Judge Felicity Hampel as "a young man of exemplary character who had just graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering with honours and distinction and who was about to start a dream with a top international semiconductor firm."
The second victim was Ms Valerie Chu. The judge said: "According to her parents, since being confronted by the realisation that she will not walk again, she has had suicidal thoughts, has stopped communicating, cries a lot and has lost interest in pursuing any activities that might give her some companionship or stimulus."
Valerie was "NUS first-class honours graduate and gold medal student due to start medical studies in July."
And the third victim was Rachael Ch'ng. She too was another university student. The accident had left her with "broken legs and ribs and a punctured lung."
She is still struggling to recover. The judge said that "she has been unable to return to her studies and has had to drop her second major. Her capacity to return to study and to obtain employment appear at this stage to be significantly more limited than her capacity before she was injured."
The judge noted that Andy visited the hospital to see his friends on numerous occasions, acknowledged his courage for doing so, and further noted his acceptance to stop visiting them when he was asked not to.
Lesson? Just one, and it is in this quote by Judge Hampel:-
"She ruled that this was a case of "failure to see something that you should have seen, in circumstances where there was no impediment to your seeing the advisory sign, the "give way" sign and the painted lines, when driving within the speed limit but at a high speed, in a rental car unfamiliar to you, on a road unfamiliar to you and in driving conditions unfamiliar to you."
Three times the judge mentioned "unfamiliar to you". That's about sums up life for the young, the restless and the clueless in a world they have to constantly struggle to navigate, negotiate and make sense of.
Here I wonder, if every youth had the perfect lens of hindsight (as if they were living their life for the second time), what would they have done or said differently? Would they have taken things for granted? Would they have resisted that temptation? Would they have made the right decision at the cost of losing their job, friends or promotion? Would they have persevered with hope to the end? And would they have held on to the relationship even if they have to put their pride and ego aside and apologize and make amends - this time for real?
Sometimes we do learn from our mistake. We make amends. We change for the better. That's not the hard part. The hard part is living with the pain and being haunted by the thought that all it takes is an almost effortless tweak of one's choice and conduct to avoid a life-transforming event.
This is what judge said to Andy: "I accept that you will never be the same person that you were before, and that you will carry the burden of responsibility for these devastating consequences for your friends for the rest of your life."
Alas, we live in a culture of personal responsibility and that is why we have justice and punishment. That is unavoidable. But we also live in a culture of healing and that is why with time we will eventually recover, become wiser, and stronger - the pain and guilt notwithstanding (over time, I sincerely believe they will lose their sting; but the scars of learning and experience will linger as a wise advisor).
I wish Andy, Valerie and Rachael well. I know things will not be the same again, especially for them personally, their parents and loved ones. But they will have to move forward, pick up and re-assemble each shattered piece of their life together.
They may have lost something very dear to them in the accident (that one event), but in their recovery process of moving forward against all odds, they may just gain a new perspective of things that is no less empowering, inspiring.
It will be a long, hard journey of recovery no doubt. Yet, it is a journey each of them will have to take, one courageous step at a time, towards a recovery of the body, the healing of the soul and restoration of the spirit. Cheerz.