Chat with Paul Watson: A Motorcycle, an Accident, and a New Perspective
Sometimes when tragedy knocks, a renewed approach opens.
By Truffld Editorial
Paul: I grew up in Russia and at the age of seven or so, and had an opportunity to come to America with a lovely family who adopted me.
Truffld: If you're comfortable, can you share more about the reason you were adopted?
Paul: My biological parents were caught up, I guess you could say, in the drinking cycle. I have flashbacks now of being a young child and thinking back to my toys – in Russia it snowed a lot, so it was sleds – and my parents said, "We're going to take your toys and give them to your friends because they need them," and I was like, "Well, what about me?", and I found out later that all of my toys and everything else that was important to me as a kid were actually sold for liquor. But I'm blessed; I'm doing my life here, enjoying life, and living the American freedom.
Truffld: Were you always interested in motorcycles or was it a spontaneous hobby?
Paul: I got someone pregnant a couple of years ago, and after a year of caring for the child I found out he wasn't mine. It bummed me out when things didn't work out, so I had to look at it as, "Hey, it's a sign in life that gives you a chance to do whatever else you can with your life." So, I just had this feeling of wanting to ride a motorcycle and it was a distraction for me. I didn't want to turn to drugs or anything bad, so I made a choice to do something that would make me happy.
I had a lot of friends who were already riding and I wanted to be part of that family. Even then, they were saying to me, "We know you're a good rider, but there are a lot of people out there who don't pay attention on the road."
I was headed to my buddy's house on June 5th, 2020, and it was during the time the freeway was closed-off during the George Floyd protests. I was in the slow lane, I could see that a car was trying to cut through two lanes to go into the median, but they kept hesitating, coming and going into my lane. I turned my blinker on to get over to the fast lane, and before I knew it, my back tire was already on their car.
Truffld: That must have been terrifying. But it sounds as though you didn't even really have time to feel scared.
Paul: It's funny what happens when you have a split second to think [takes a deep breath] how your brain just suddenly transfers everything...basically, I knew I was in trouble. It's some scary stuff when you know you're about to die, like, "Wow, this is really happening." I just closed my eyes. My entire bike went into their driver's side door and my head went through the window. I was going 45mph-55mph at that time, so the impact of that force threw me back onto the ground, and when I hit the ground my immediate thought was, "Get up and run. Get out of the road." So, I ran into a ditch and laid down with my arms up so that I could breathe.
Truffld: You must have been gravely injured though, so your adrenaline must have been running really high to enable you to bolt like that. Fight or flight.
Paul: Yeah, I didn't even realize both of my hands were broken. I tried to take my helmet off, but I couldn't because my hands were giving out and I could feel the grinding of bones against bones. I broke both arms as well, four ribs on my right side, and then my clavicle. I didn't have family nearby, I work as a mover so I knew I wouldn't be able to work in that condition, and reality hit me.
Truffld: What was your recovery like?
Paul: It was supposed to be six months but I had to get back to work moving houses, so I went back after three, but it was scary during those three months. I felt as though the world kept moving forward and I was stuck in one position. Rent was due as well as my truck payment, utilities – the world doesn't stop for you – and I realized, "Hey man, you were the one who wanted the motorcycle. Stuff happens. Pick yourself up."
Truffld: That's such a great outlook – you weren't healed though. How could you function in a job that requires only manual labor?
Paul: I wasn't healed at all, but it's all I know since I came to America. My whole life I've mowed lawns, worked construction, cleaned carpets. Some people don't appreciate manual labor, but it makes me feel good because two of us can move an entire home in less than a day, and it blows my mind that our bodies can handle and do so much if we put our mind to it.
Truffld: It was a strange, unfortunate route, but life forced you to sit back and rest for a few months.
Paul: Despite the stress of paying bills, I had an opportunity to think more about, "What am I here for, and what can you do to rise yourself up?" I'm not as high strung anymore. You can be the strongest man, but life is life and you're on its clock, and sometimes there's not much you can do to prevent something from happening.
One thing I learned is to enjoy the little things more. Like, I just took my dog to the dog park, and watching him round around like a little kid brought me even more joy than it used to, and I can't even really explain why. My friends' kids yell, "Paul, Paul, play with me", bugging me all the time and even though I might be really tired, it makes me so happy because they're choosing me out of everyone else to spend time with.
When you have something there and easily given to you, you don't really care because it's there for you, but when you have to work for your own life and you really want to live and stay active, it makes you think so differently. Push yourself in life, even if it's the hardest thing you do.
Truffld: Did the trauma of the accident impact your interest in riding motorcycles in the future?
Paul: [laughing] I already bought another one.