First of all, I think only I would start off a post about second chances by accidentally publishing an empty blog entry! I suppose I need a second chance writing this entry! I can’t even blame that on it being a Monday morning.
I think that we often get second chances, in life, in love, in business, and in many other areas. I always feel so very fortunate when I am given the grace of being able to have a second chance….. and I like to believe that I rarely take those opportunities for granted.
In September of 1997 I was given a second chance at life – on September 27, 1997 to be exact. I was driving home from my job at a small school in northern California when a tire blew a few cars ahead of me. This caused all of the cars to need to break suddenly, with very little room. Unfortunately, the vehicle behind me was not paying close enough attention to the events unfolding with the cars ahead. I believe he said he had turned his head to comment to his passenger, and in that split second the accident occurred. He was driving a one-ton truck, and he hit my Nissan Pathfinder at 55mph.
I could not speak in complete sentences for @ 6 weeks and I mis-conjugated verbs for almost a year. I had post-concussive syndrome, otherwise known as MTBI (Mild Traumatic Brain Injury). I reversed my letters, writing Zs and B’s and other letters backwards. My brainstem and my frontal lobe were affected by the accident……. the brain stem injury caused issues with my blood pressure and it would go from 160/100 to 90/60, sometimes in a matter of minutes…… I was exhausted all of the time and literally could not be awake for more than 6 hours at a time…… I would then need to sleep before I was able to function for another 4-5 hours – I slept over 12 hours a day as my brain slowly repaired itself.
I also suffered neck and back injuries, with over 250 physical therapy and chiropractic appointments needed in the first year after the accident, but the brain injury was the most difficult for me to deal with. The crazy thing was I looked perfectly okay after the accident – all my injuries were muscular or internal… which made it hard for people to understand how hurt I was (it would have been easier if I had a big cast on my arm). They were not always patient with my sudden fatigue and my inability to follow conversations or instructions. I was also not patient with myself – it was very hard…. how could I go from Mensa member to incompetent overnight? It happened so fast.
Most days were really bad at first…… then I was lucky enough to have one good day in a week, a day when I almost felt normal for an hour or so, or maybe even for three or four hours. Over time I increased to having 2 good days a week….. it was a long process. Suddenly my main goal was to make it through a full day without feeling like I was going to pass out from exhaustion.
It took about five years of healing for me to get to the point of functioning close to the levels I had been pre-accident and ten years to make an almost full recovery. I have a permanent small disability (5%) in my neck and when I am sleep deprived I can still mis-conjugate verbs or use the wrong words in a sentence.
My life today is much better than it was when I had that accident almost 15 years ago. The experience was highly traumatic, but also a huge lesson in perseverance and appreciation for the fragility of life. In a split second reality as we know it can be shattered. When it is, we learn how thankful we are for the little things… like speaking in complete sentences and writing Zs correctly. While I would never ever EVER want to go through that experience again, I am grateful for the appreciation for life that it gave me. The important life lessons we learn are usually not gained in moments of serenity – it is the moments that challenge the depths of our soul that build strong character and bring us to the place where we either break, or learn how to bend and find ways to adapt and grow into our new reality.
Today, 249 days ’til 40, I will always be thankful for second chances. Thankfully, I seem to learn from each experience life has given me and as I have learned and grown I have found more happiness, more joy, more love, more purpose, and more meaning. Has life given you a second chance?