I’ve become an avid podcast listener. I’m not sure if this is a side-effect of getting older, or a repercussion of my move to the Silicon Valley, but I’m constantly listening. I listen when I drive to work, when I’m going on an evening walk and even when I’m getting ready for bed.
I’ve now accelerated my ageing and have subscribed to Oprah’s Super Soulful Conversations. As much as listening to this podcast makes me feel like a middle-aged housewife, I actually really love and relate to the topics.
Sometimes, I relate a little too much.
A guest recently came on the show and spoke about his experience surviving the 2004 tsunami. Now some of you reading may know this already but I, too, am a survivor. I don’t talk about it much to anyone really, mostly because I find it hard for anyone to be able to empathize. When I do open up about it to someone, I sometimes see nonchalance in the listener’s eyes; this is fair, because how can I expect anyone to truly understand how traumatic a near-death experience is?
I listened to the guest explain the same sequence of events that are burned so deep in my memory—the rush of the first wave, the confusion and chaos that sprung up right after, the sheer terror after realizing a second wave is rapidly approaching, the feeling of literally running for my life through waist-deep water, the overwhelming dread that my life may end this very instant…
Big, blotchy tears started to blur my vision; I paused the podcast, unable to listen to the rest of it. I turned off my car and sat in silence, unable to move.
The lucid memories from that day all bubbled back to the forefront of my thoughts, and to this day, it is hard to look back on December 26th, 2004 without overwhelming emotion.
Survivor’s guilt is real.
It’s still very difficult for me to comprehend why my family, who was on the beach and sprinting to higher ground while the second wave was crashing on the shore, survived but 250,000 people lost their lives that day. “Luck” can’t even describe our fate that day. It is very easy to start questioning why you deserved to survive…even while writing this, I need to stop myself from going down that dark and convoluted hole.
The only “scars” I have from that day are mental ones: a reoccurring dream of a gargantuan wave crashing over me and a sporadic fear of the ocean. However, I essentially survived unscathed.
Seeing the prospect of death so tangible and immediate probably has influenced how I appraise my time now. I have yet to go back to Sri Lanka, and return to the beach that has a slew of memories, both positive and negative. However, I do hope that one day I can finally make that transition from feeling survivor’s guilt to embracing survivor’s gratitude.