How I Got Hit in the Face & Saved by a Magic Bat
2 Jul 2017
Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash
[This story was originally shared via the Neil Hughes Occasional Email Experience. Sign up for stories like this in your inbox.]
A story about life revelations in three parts:
I: Hit In The Face
Last week I got hit in the face in a pub toilet at 1am.
As a mild-mannered, moderately introverted anxiety-sufferer, I don’t get into many fights…
… so you probably won’t be surprised to learn that it was a bathroom door that hit me, entirely by accident.
Luckily, the extremely apologetic young man who had opened the door into my face as he entered the bathroom turned out to be a medical student, so he was able to determine that all the bleeding (and there was a surprising amount of bleeding) probably wasn’t serious.
Still, we spent an awkward time together with my head tilted back and a tissue to my face as he did his best to help, in between apologies.
Meanwhile, a constant stream of men passed through the bathroom asking who I’d been fighting and then laughing at me.
None of this was part of the plan. I had an 8am meeting the next day. This was supposed to be a quiet early night.
Yet here I was at 1am, stemming blood from my face in a toilet and vaguely wondering if I needed to go to hospital.
And it all felt so much worse because…
II: A Magic Bat Was Hiding My Gloves
The night before the unfortunate bathroom incident I was lying awake, regretting each of my life decisions in turn.
That wasn’t the PLAN, obviously. I was supposed to be asleep.
But sometimes my brain decides to torture me with what-ifs and regrets and cringeworthy moments. And this was apparently going to be one of those nights.
I was resigned to a long unpleasant night when I suddenly had a freeing revelation.
For some reason, my brain reminded me of a few days earlier when I’d had the irregular urge to jump into a videogame.
In the game I ended up playing – a randomised version of a much-loved game from my childhood (A Link to the Past, if anyone cares) – all of the necessary items get mixed up and hidden around the world in a different place each time you play.
So the game gains an additional layer, an extra puzzle where you have to figure out how you can use whatever you’ve already found to explore the world and discover everything else you need. It’s all about quick decisions to calculate the best places to look.
I had recently seen a race between two people who were very good at this game, and it had encouraged me to try it. And I had fun… except as the game went on I became more and more convinced that I was terrible at it.
I kept making what I thought were good decisions, but each turned out to be a total waste of time. As each avenue I explored turned out to be dud I became convinced I’d made some horrendous mistake early on and I would pay for it forever.
But then, as I was on the verge of giving up, I found an item in a very out of the way place, which nobody sensible would have checked before now.*
And this hidden item led me to a magic bat that turned out to be holding the gloves I needed to finish the game.
(I am aware of how ridiculous this sounds.)
When the bat gave me the gloves, I laughed with relief – I hadn’t been making awful mistakes.
Now that I had all the facts, I could see I’d consistently made good, justifiable decisions. Unbeknownst to me, I HAD to make the crazy decision to follow the out-of-the-way chain of events which led to the magic bat.
But at the time I’d believed I was an idiot who couldn’t stop making mistakes, and that I, basically, sucked.
Days later, as I lay in bed chewing over actual life regrets, my brain reminded me of this silly moment with the magic bat from days ago.
And suddenly, I felt better. Maybe – just like when I’d been playing the game – I didn’t need to beat up my past self. Maybe my past self had been playing the cards I’d been dealt as best I could.
* fellow LttpR nerds may wish to know the gory details: this out-of-the-way item was the powder, deep inside red pendant swamp.
III: Life Lessons from Annoying Places
After this revelation I did feel better. But I also felt actively angry at myself.
This soothing moment of revelation came thanks to a non-existent magic bat?! Why do I have to be so constantly ludicrous?!
I was genuinely embarrassed – just to myself!** – about the absurd way my brain had tortured and then relieved itself.
** and now I’m telling loads of people, so I get to be actually embarrassed all over again, yay! 😀
So as I drifted to sleep I decided it was time to be grownup and serious and intellectual and impressive.
From now on, I would cease being a magnet for idiocy. I would Take Back Control (TM) of my brain and my life, and avoid future silliness.
Life revelations from magic bats were for the old, childish me. I vowed that the new, mature me would have no need of such things.
And so it came to pass that I went out for a quiet, sensible drink with a friend, and I told them about my plan for fewer silly things to happen in my life.
[some hours later]
“Hey mate… can you come in for a sec? Yeah, I’m bleeding all over this apologetic medical student in this pub bathroom while passers-by cry with laughter… no, shut up, this isn’t silly at all.”
I think it’s time to accept a few truths.
Sometimes your quiet, sensible plans will be derailed by a swinging door to the face. We can’t control everything.
Sometimes it’s tempting to beat up our past selves, but what if we were doing the best we could? Either way, there’s no point lying awake regretting.
And sometimes, revelations will come from silly places. All hail the magic bat.
Neil Hughes is the author of Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life, a comical and useful guide to life with anxiety, and The Shop Before Life, a tale about a magical shop which sells human personality traits.
Along with writing more books, he spends his time on standup comedy, speaking about mental health, computer programming, public speaking and everything from music to video games to languages. He struggles to answer the question "so, what do you do?" and is worried that the honest answer is probably "procrastinate."
He would like it if you said hello.