If you had a chance to warn yourself of a tragic accident, what would you say? Gabrielle Studenmund bravely and poignantly pens a letter to herself seven years ago in “A Voice From the Future.”
“I’m writing to you from your future. And I have some bad news for you. It has to do with your obsession with fitness. It’s dangerous. Don’t you already know that you are fast and strong? Do you really have to push yourself by taking on a half-Ironman triathlon? I know, I know. You are a talented swimmer–your team even won high school state championships. And combined with your new love of running marathons, a triathlon may appear to be the right thing to do. Yes, your dear boyfriend Wayne has indulged your fitness fantasies by giving you a Trek bicycle, just like the one your hero, Lance Armstrong, rides for his Tour de France championships. But you need to ignore those signs that suggest your next race should be a triathlon. Think about it. You finally got what you’ve wanted for all these years: a position as senior editor at a national magazine. Do not push yourself further just because you think it will yield the physique of your dreams and make for a great article to the loyal readers of SELF magazine. Go out and celebrate your three-year anniversary with your gorgeous blind-date-turned-live-in-boyfriend, Wayne. Enjoy a relaxing dinner with him instead of stressing out about having to get up early to cycle with your dear friends Laurel, Ramon, Alyssa, and Crispy. Because here’s what happens. The day after your anniversary with Wayne, you get up early in the morning. You go to meet your friends for a bike ride. And you have a devastating accident. One that will end your life as a prominent magazine editor. One that will end your relationship with Wayne. One that will erase a year or so of your memories. One that will give you permanent brain injury. One that will force you to leave the city you love and have succeeded in. It’s an accident that will end your life as you know it, and that will nearly end your life altogether. You will lie in a coma for ten days with a breathing tube that leaves a lifelong scar. You will shatter your left elbow. It will take you months to learn how to balance again. Your brain damage will leave you with an inability to concentrate, to the point where when you call someone, you hope to remember who it is you’re calling by the time they answer the phone. What I wouldn’t do to be able to actually send you this letter. To make sure you receive it. To warn you…”
GABRIELLE STUDENMUND has written for Self, Shape, Fitness and Glamour magazines. She is a former fitness editor at Self and was an editor at SportsforWomen.com and American Health magazine. After a serious bike accident in 2002, she now earns disability and lives in Southern Pines, North Carolina, with her cat, Lucy. She has recently started writing again for a local publication, Pinestraw magazine. She hopes to get more freelance magazine assignments and plans to one day write a memoir about becoming disabled and her journey to recovery. Gabrielle graduated with honors from the University of Wyoming in 1998, with a degree in journalism and a minor in women’s studies.
NOTE FROM EDITOR: A special thank you to my friend Gabby, who readily agreed when I asked her to share her story for the book, and willingly put up with my many pesky and nosy questions as we worked on this. (Not to mention, for being one of the most enthusiastic contributors!) I can’t wait for her best-selling memoir to hit the shelves!
Read the rest of Gabrielle’s letter, and 35 others, in P.S. What I Didn’t Say: Unsent Letters to Our Female Friends, which officially came out TODAY!