…but I am grateful that I can.
I woke up this morning and had a strange feeling that took me a moment to place. The back of my left hand started to itch, and then it hit me…today, March 8th, 2022 was the 7th anniversary of my head on collision with a wrong way drunk driver. In some ways, it was like my seventh birthday, as my life was changed in dramatic ways because of that crash.
The scar on my hand was the only physical reminder I had from that incident, I walked away from that high-speed crash with just that little reminder of that fateful morning. But the emotional toll this took on me was far more significant, and that has been a work in process ever since. But a lot of positives came out of that event as well, and I prefer to focus on them versus the bad stuff.
First, I began pursuing my dream of Public Speaking as a result of this event. I had always toyed with the idea, but had never pursued it to any degree. The closest I got was a boot camp of sorts approach to being a keynote speaker. I did this many years ago, when I didn’t really have the money to attend an event such as this. While I felt like I did a decent job during that three-day event, I just wasn’t convinced that I had a story to tell just yet. I was a Professional Racquetball Player, a very small sport in the grand scheme of things, and I was never the number one player in the world. I was a top 20 professional, and if I had played tennis, that would have “meant something”, or at least that I how I viewed it at the time. I know better now, as time does tend to bring clarity. Everyone has a story to tell and from that story aa way to help or influence others. I just didn’t see it at the time. But the crash is a story that far too many people can relate to in one way or another. Statistically, one person dies from a drunk driving incident every 50 minutes in the U.S. Yes…reread that incredibly scary stat again. I was lucky to say the least.
Second, I became debt free after this crash. It didn’t happen right away, and it certainly didn’t happen because of a settlement or lawsuit. At the time I wanted this incident to be behind me as quickly as possible, and I treated it accordingly. My car was totaled as a result of the impact, so the 2013 Toyota Camry that I was driving became a slightly newer 2014 Toyota Camry after receiving the check from Geico. I repeated the patterns of the past that put me deep into debt, to the tune of almost $70,000, and no, this did not include a mortgage. I had a bad relationship and a lack of understanding of money, and I made one last error before I changed my ways. I took that check and instead of buying a car in cash and being out from under monthly payments and higher insurance premiums, I jumped right back into the game that no one but the banks and the car companies ever win. I used it for a down payment on yet another car that I couldn’t afford unless I was buying it over a lot of months. Luckily for me my wife finally talked some sense into me, and we began the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover program. We followed it to a tee, and I am proud to say that we are debt free except for our house, and that will be paid off within the next 18 months.
Third, and maybe most importantly, I am far more grateful now that I ever have been. I saw an interview with someone that hit the nail on the head with his statement. I never really made the connection, but his words crystalized my thoughts hiding just under the surface. He said: “When you stare death in the face and live to tell about it, very little really matters to the same degree as before. Who you are, what you have, it all becomes enough. Everything else is just details.” Boom…perfectly stated. I couldn’t agree more, and I have lived this way ever since. Of course I still get irritated about petty little things on occasion, but nothing close to the level I did before. All I have to do is look at the back of my hand and see that little scar and say to myself “you’re still here…” and that tends to snap me out of it in a hurry.
Despite what you may have heard, your body does not replace every single cell every seven years, but many of the cells that were present in that crash are no longer within me. In some ways I find that comforting, as it helps me feel like a brand new version of me is here to face the world and share the message of that morning. In other ways, I am glad not everything is truly replaced, as that scar is a good reminder for me to be grateful, and to remember that tomorrow is promised to no one. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you deal with it. Remember that, because all of us will have adversity knock on the door. In many cases you don’t have a choice but to answer, and deal with what is left at your doorstep.
While I hope no one else has to deal with this type of scenario, if (when) you have something serious happen in your life, remember to find the positive in it. Take it as a growth and learning opportunity and eventually wrap your head around the lesson(s) that you needed to extract from it. Otherwise, you will be doomed to repeat your errors and life will probably “afford you” another learning opportunity soon.
I wish you luck in your endeavors.