Think back to the person you used to be in high school: what you valued the most back then, your style, and your outlook on life. Are you cringing yet? Even within a year, we often experience changes to our lifestyles that we don’t even notice until we reflect on them. On the other hand, we have the big changes. The grand-slams and the strike-outs in our lives that affected us deeply, whether we wanted change or not.
Confucius once said, “We all have two lives, the second one starts when you realize you only have one.” Be it a near death experience, a crazy ex, or simply finding a passion, these anecdotes reveal the unrelenting force of change that brings about our second life.
1. Road to Freedom
I had been working an absolutely horrendous job, high stress, low pay, and terrible hours, all because I needed the experience it gave me for my career. At some point I realized, “I don’t have to be this miserable.” I rage-quit, bought a bicycle, and cycled across the continental US for two months. I found my center and my confidence, and started treating myself better. Not to mention I met some of the most interesting, out-right crazy, and most honorable people along the way.
Best decision I ever made, and I still treat myself with the respect I feel I deserve.
2. The Achilles Finger
I had a woodworking accident just over two years ago. It wasn’t huge. I only lost my left index finger but it kind of punched me in the gut. Makes you realize you aren’t invincible.
3. A Painful Thought
At nine years old, I got my first migraine. I slowly realized my life was going to hurt going forward no matter what, so enjoy the moments you are physically able to.
4. Love Lost
I played guitar for the last five years, and it has become one of my biggest passions. But six weeks ago, everything changed for the worse. I lost my footing while climbing a platform and I’m fairly certain I have permanent tendon damage in my left hand. It didn’t sink in what exactly had happened, until I was in my car after the doctor’s appointment.
I will now spend more of my life with this faulty left hand than when it was fine. This is now the rest of my one life. My passion’s gone, I have zero activity in my life because I’m afraid of everything, and I’m slightly more useless than before. I miss the ignorance.
5. An Alarming Change
January 13, 2018. I was in Honolulu, Hawaii during the false alarm ballistic missile strike. I called my parents to say goodbye, and waited for the impact in the basement of our hotel with my fiancé. It took way too long for them to correct the mistake and let people know it was a false alarm. We were visibly shaken all day, and upon returning I decided that I would request three months off work for my honeymoon instead of two weeks.
We traveled the world and remembered how important family is compared to work. I still need to remind myself about it every so often though, because the grind gets to you.
6. The Power Behind Words
One week after being told I have prostate cancer at 47, I decided I needed to get fitter and healthier. But honestly, my heart wasn’t in it and I was on the verge of depression. It was 5:40 am and I was idly drinking tea before going to the gym, but was 50/50 about going back to bed, and pretty much giving up on life. Scrolling down Facebook, I saw the quote “A man has two lives, one before he realizes he is mortal, and one after.” I stared at it like it was a revelation. It’s no exaggeration to say this moment changed my life. Something I can’t describe lifted in me, I drained my tea and went to the gym.
Almost exactly one year later I am fit (officially), I have lost 15Kg, with another 13 to go. Six mornings a week I row 10 kilometers on a rowing machine and lift weights once a week. My last scan showed the cancer hasn’t changed one bit in a year, and will now be monitored for two years to see if it’s stable. If I do need to have it removed, I am in the best shape for a successful operation.
7. No Matter How High the Mountain…
I used to think that life just sucked for everyone, and the “trick” was to fake your way through it. That “faking” was what I thought other people’s happiness was. From puberty to after my 40th birthday, whatever moment of happiness I had was weighed down by an ever-present depression and lack of self-esteem. I know this is small compared to what most people go through in life, and that’s exactly the mentality that kept me from getting help.
It took a bit. After talking with a counselor once a week for a few months, being referred to a psychiatrist with an initial diagnosis, and working with my psychiatrist to find medicines that work, I finally feel what I can only assume is normal. I wake up most days with an underlying happiness that’s never been there before. Moments with my kids are not darkened by thoughts that I don’t deserve them, or that they wouldn’t love me if they knew me.
Don’t be like me. Even if your mountain seems small compared to your view of the mountain others are climbing, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t use some help finding the right path.
8. Mormon No More
I grew up super Mormon. My life was dedicated to being the perfect Mormon girl. Church for three hours on Sunday, seminary for an hour five times a week, mutual on Tuesday nights, service project all day on Saturdays, Book of Mormon study every morning and for an hour before bed. The church also completely determined what I wore, how I spoke, who my friends were, my political beliefs, etc… the Mormon church is all consuming.
They even get 10% of your pre-taxed money. But this is all ok, life is just a test. We’ll have all of eternity to do whatever we want, if we can just dedicate this life to the church. Plus, if we don’t, you’re doomed to an eternity of suffering and you won’t see your family in the afterlife. One day I found out the awful truth: the church was all a mess. All of it. It was started by a scam artist.
I went from fully believing Mormon, to an atheist in the period of 30 minutes. That was over 25 years ago. I realized I only have this life, and I need to make the best of it! I’m happily married now, and I’m raising three little heathens while trying to make each day count. The weekends are for being outdoors.
9. The Right Push
I had been in numerous bad relationships (mostly because I was childish, lazy, and selfish) and was thoroughly unemployed with only a GED to my name. I had been taking classes at our local community college, but had no specific goal.
I was used to ex-girlfriends telling me to “get a job” and “grow up,” but when I met this one woman, she was different. She pushed me, but in a loving way. She challenged me to be my best. We got married right after I got my Master’s Degree. Absolutely none of what I have achieved would have happened without her. I am so thankful and grateful for this second life.
10. A Reminder to Keep Living
In my sophomore year of high school, I heard people whispering and thought it was just high school drama and rumors. First hour started. Then the teacher walked in. She told the class the terrible truth. A student had passed away by suicide. I thought it was a joke. I knew the name. I knew his sister. I played soccer with her for years.
As the day continued, it became more and more apparent that he was really gone. The whole school’s atmosphere changed. People that didn’t even know him were crying in the halls. Kids I knew since kindergarten were missing from school, mourning his passing. I came home that day and just sobbed in my room. It didn’t seem real, and honestly, it still doesn’t.
I didn’t know him well, honestly. I just knew his sister. When we were younger, we attended the same church together, but it still hurt knowing that he was gone. After that I realized that I had to keep living. Depression had controlled my life for years and I was close to taking my life on several occasions. But after this, I realized how many people would be devastated. How many people I had to stay here for. It’s still hard sometimes, but I don’t want to leave this world anymore.
I still think about him sometimes. I hope he’s in a better place now.
11. Plane Context
I was reading about a plane crash while I was at the hospital, volunteering. I didn’t think much of it. Once I got back home, my aunt was crying. My younger sister came up and whispered that my uncle was on that plane. It really changed my outlook on life, and how death can come out of left field.
12. Life, the Video Game
I’m in my early 30s, and my doctor noticed my resting heart rate is high from lack of exercise (it’s 100 right now, sitting at my desk trying to get in the groove for work – I am 6’4 200lb, I am not tiny and I am not overweight). I just sit at home all day writing code for work, or playing video games and have not had regular exercise since high school.
Monitoring my heart rate has been a huge change for me, it gave me a measurable goal to optimize myself for, and to monitor my progress—it’s like a playing a game. Now I am getting regular exercise to make my heart stronger, and extend my life expectancy as well as changing my diet. My uncle-in-law died a few months ago in his sleep from a heart attack, he was like 5’4 300lb and used to joke about being pregnant because he had that much of a belly. It just blows my mind now after seeing how out of shape I am, how he could let himself get that bad.
13. Pushing Through the Pain
I originally took an office job because my body couldn’t handle working in a retail store. I was constantly spraining my wrists and elbows, and my hips and feet hurt a ton. A chiropractor told me my leg bones were sliding up into my hips from standing so much, and probably from lifting heavy things as well. Three months after losing/quitting my job, at the age of 20, I got the news I was dreading. I was diagnosed with Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
Suddenly I had an explanation for all of the pain I was in, all of the intestinal problems I had, and how weirdly my bones/joints/tendons move around. I learned that a person’s skin doesn’t always hurt to the touch. But in the last year and a half my condition worsened significantly. At first I was extremely depressed, spending lots of time in bed trying to feel better, learning about my body and the horrifying things it can and shouldn’t do. After seeing a good doctor, things started to look up.
The hardest part about all of this is that I am 23 years old, female, pretty, and other than my super dark eyes and bruises I look completely normal. I even have great muscle mass and tone, because I’m held together by them. I cannot tell you how many times doctors, even school nurses, didn’t give me the care I needed because I looked fine. There’s more but I hate thinking about it.
There are medical researchers working daily trying to at least find the gene that causes this, people who also have my illness giving advice to others, and even yoga/Pilates instructors with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome posting videos online. People have developed lists of supplements and medications that work for them. Communities try to spread awareness and hope. I suspect this is the only life I’ll have, and if it has to be this hard then I have to be stronger, even if it’s just mentally.
14. Making Moves
I lived with my schizophrenic ex-boyfriend for a long time. I wasn’t working and couldn’t drive, and he wouldn’t teach me. I also lived too far away to regularly learn from my parents, so getting and keeping a job was really hard. I think I could have done things differently to be more independent, but I didn’t question it much at the time.
Towards the end of the relationship, I was more or less prevented from leaving the house at all because he was afraid that the government was coming for us and stuff. It ended up getting super scary. I was really isolated and had minimal support because we lived so far away. I also felt ashamed and didn’t want people to know what was going on.
I ended up leaving him, and jumped a few states away. I went from a college dropout with no job, who was living in a constant state of fear, and got into tech support stuff. I now have a great job and husband, with a wonderful friend group. I think I did a lot of things in that past relationship that made my situation worse, and I also don’t think that my ex was a bad person. Mental illness is really hard, and having limited power in that relationship I was really at the mercy of it for a while.
I feel like a different person now, and that I used to live someone else’s life. Very weird.
15. A Heart-Stopping Change
Last week a co-worker had a gigantic heart attack, and instantly died right there in the cafeteria. I didn’t know him, so while it was a horrible thing to witness, I’ll eventually get over it. What shook me more was the fact he was only in his early 20s, just about younger than me, and wasn’t much more overweight than I am. Seeing first-hand how suddenly all my bad decisions can just erase me from existence, and the fact I’ve had a couple of small chest pains and ignored them in the past…
I threw out everything remotely sugary the instant I got home.
16. Know Your Worth
I had a terrible job that started just after college, and continued for seven years. I never had a corporate office job before, so I thought everything that went on there was normal. Big. Mistake. They underpaid me by 30-40% under the industry norm in my city, gave me fake promotions (more work, fake title, no more money), worked me 60-70 hours a week, lied to me a lot, and gaslighted me if I ever questioned any of it.
When I finally left, most people were like “Okay, well good luck!” I had basically ruined my own life and happiness all the time for these people to get work done for them, and they just shrugged and waved me off. That was the day I decided to never give anything more to a job than what was written expressly in the employment contract.
I do my work, I do it well, and I try hard in my 40 hours per week. But after that, my time is my time. I take my vacations, I raise my hand and ask for help prioritizing from management when my workload becomes too large, and I don’t answer communications outside of work hours. And guess what, no one is dissatisfied with my work! I’ll likely never be anyone’s boss or any kind of director or executive, but I feel like a whole person again with a full life outside of work. Life is too short not to be happy!
As a beekeeper for a few years, I discovered I was highly allergic to bee stings. This resulted in my heart stopping a couple times in an ambulance. One of the last things I remember from this experience was the amazing feeling of not having any pain, discomfort or stress. It was euphoric. As things faded, my thoughts drifted to my kids, my world, and that I was sorry. Of course, this was all in my head. I woke abruptly with one of the crew doing chest compressions and the other giving me a shot. I heard my wife in the front seat crying.
As the EpiPen and whatever else they gave me kicked in, feeling started to come back. A short stay in the ER and I was able to walk out fine. This event made me a better father. It made me appreciate my wife more. It also cleared away my fear of dying, and the great unknown.
18. Fear of Missing Out
My childhood wasn’t easy. I got deathly ill and was bedridden as a kid. My view of the world and the people around me changed drastically. Basically, my friends abandoned me and treated me like I didn’t exist. I got news from the doctors that I had a month left to live, and I just decided to get up and walk. Miraculously, I survived. But I live with the side effects of that time.
I guess I’ve been cynical about the idea of death, and I made jokes about my declining health. It just meant nothing to me, because I felt like my life wasn’t really what “living” was supposed to be like. I had no friends; those people would only look at me like a ghost now, and I carried resentment towards them for how they treated me.
I was never able to get over it.
It’s been 10 years. I dragged myself through all that time and suffered more emotionally than I like to let on. It wasn’t until I reconnected with someone (my current partner), that I started to really open my eyes. I finally got some closure. I haven’t been this happy in over a decade. My “second life” began when I realized I didn’t want to die anymore.
19. Hop into Action
Choking as a child at an IHOP. A doctor saved my life by performing the Heimlich maneuver, then nonchalantly sat back down to finish his meal, while my grandma was still flipping out. I wanted to be like him.
20. Quality over Quantity
My father was diagnosed with an advance stage of a rare cancer, and he fought for over a year with traditional chemo and radiation. Sometime early in the year 1999, a radical trial surgery became available for him in Philadelphia. The whole family left on a road trip to the hospital where the surgery was scheduled. About half-way to Philly, we stopped for lunch. At the end of our meal, my father made a chilling announcement.
He decided he didn’t want to go, and that we should return home. He said, “I want to have fewer good days with you, rather than more bad days.” We then turned around and went home.
I will never forget that day.
21. A Flood of Emotions
The day my house was destroyed by a flash flood. My brother and I were washed down the river, and we held on to a pole until we were rescued. When we were rescued, he insisted I go first. I didn’t think about the fact that he put my life before his, until days later. So thankful for him and that experience. Even though we lost most of our possessions, our family got way closer.
22. Drawing the Line
I was 14, and I finally had enough of my parents and the mud-slinging, bitterness, and character assassinations that came from a divorce/custody battle that first started when I was three. I told them both, this is it. A line has been drawn in the sand. I cannot pass judgement on what either of you did in the past, because I was a kid. But I can pass judgement on what you do now.
I don’t want to hear it; I don’t want any part of your arguing. Leave me out of it. It is not my place, as your child, to take sides so you have to stop trying to make me. That was the moment I realized that I was an adult, and my parents realized I wouldn’t put up with their ridiculous drama.
23. Diagnosis Unknown
Every day for six years I suffered from migraines, insomnia, heart palpitations, stomach pain, nausea, panic attacks, crippling depression, and a slowly degenerating spine. The symptoms were all treated by individual doctors, none of whom could put together the full picture. My primary diagnosis? Bipolar disorder.
Eventually, my primary care doctor found a benign tumor and related all of my symptoms to the condition. It seemed impossible. How could one tiny tumor cause so many issues? At that point, I was on a high dose of anti-psychotic medications, and sleeping up to 14 hours a day. My life was a haze of naps and doctor’s appointments. I had given up on the possibility of a future that included graduating from a university or raising a family.
The conversation with the pre-op nurse went like this:
Nurse: “Have you ever been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or severe depression?”
Me: “Yes, Bipolar disorder.”
Nurse: “Mood swings? Insomnia? Severe depression?”
Nurse: “That will go away when the surgery is done.”
Me: long pause “…What? Really?”
Nurse: “Yes, most people feel better in a few months.”
Me: “Can you please say that one more time?”
She did. I silently cried through the rest of the call. It was the end to a nightmare.
Today I am off of all of the medications I used to take, and am in good health. I am also back in college. My dreams are possible again, and it feels amazing.
24. A Breath of Fresh Air
When I went to visit my older brother in Montana, while he was volunteering with a non-profit conservation group. Meanwhile, I was living back east. I was working a soul crushing office job, floundering in a miserable relationship, and flustered by complacency. My brother and his crew were working in Glacier National Park. The people I met in the program were all so genuinely kind and warm – I decided I ought to apply.
I was accepted into the program, quit my job, broke up with my boyfriend, and learned to put on my positive mental attitude. I spent six months working with some of the most amazing people I have ever met. On a day to day basis I found myself enveloped by mountains (the forest was my office), and each day was new and exciting and filled with meaning. Can’t wait to return for another season!
25. Manly Tears
When my son was born. It wasn’t just that a new life, of my own making, had come into existence. Prior to his birth I had often wondered how men pass out, or can’t handle the experience of child birth. I consider myself fairly “manly”… I never would have predicted the wave of emotions that came over me, and made me cry like a little girl in front of the doctor and nurses when my son was born.
It was truly amazing. It was one of the first times I felt totally out of control with my own body, and emotions. It made me feel mortal… vulnerable… and human. I now realize that I don’t always have control over my life… sometimes life just controls me.
26. Swallow Your Pride
I was working a very embarrassing job as a shot girl, at a dive bar on Bourbon Street. I saw one of my old professors there, and almost hid in the back until he left. I didn’t want to be judged (I have a master’s degree, and was making money by wearing revealing clothing and flirting with drunk tourists). Well, I swallowed my pride and walked over.
I couldn’t believe his response. He was very kind about it. He understood that the economy sucked and all that. He then asked, “Have you met my friend?” and introduced me to the man that is now my amazing husband. My whole life changed. He saved me from that awful job, and our life now is like a fairy tale. I’m now pregnant with our first child.
27. A Different Kind of Special
I was always way behind the other students in elementary school. In fifth grade we had to take a math aptitude test and the results would determine if we were to be placed in the ‘special’ (lowest grade), average, or advanced level the following year. I took the test, and just hoped that I wasn’t going to be the only one in the special class.
The results came back and the teacher announced to the class that three of the 22 students would be going on to the advanced class. The first (unsurprisingly), was the smartest girl in the class, and the second was the teacher’s pet. I had pretty much tuned out at this point, and had moved on to turning my mechanical pencil into a rocket ship with some folded paper when I heard my name. I was so surprised, that I thought I was in trouble. Apparently, I had gotten the highest score in the class, and I would be going in to the advanced class.
From that day on I had more confidence in my school work, and my grades improved in other subjects as well. I skipped another grade in math by high school, and I even took calculus from the local community college before graduating. I went on to get a degree in electrical engineering, and am now an engineer and enjoy the work that I do. I can’t help but think that without that aptitude test, I probably would have continued school as the below average student that everyone, including myself, thought I was.
28. A Telling Grin
Picture this. I am sitting on this gross yellow couch in the shared living room of a three-bedroom apartment. I’ve only known the people that I’m living with for maybe two months. Random roommates I found online. My boyfriend is sitting next to me. I kiss him and cuddle up to him. It’s been a very long, hard day. I am tired. He says, “We need to talk.”
I look up at him, he looks down at me. With a big grin on his face he says, “I slept with Kathleen last night.” My roommate. I got up, walked into my room, shut the door, and told him to leave. He begged me to open the door. For an hour I’m packing, and he’s begging my forgiveness from outside the door. But there’s one thing I can’t ever un-see: that smile on his face. He was happy to be breaking my heart.
I left the next day. Moved back to my hometown. It was only supposed to be for the summer, until I found a new place to live near school. But a week later I went on my first date with my husband. Sometimes even the worst situations turn out to be huge blessings.
29. The Other Side of the Story
I’d been friends with one girl since the first year of university, and in the past three years I watched her chase people out of her life and continue to attack them long after they left her. For three years I was only getting her side of the story, so I believed that these people had crossed her and done unimaginable things. Her and I had our little spats, but I never thought I would become one of those people she chased out of her life and repeatedly tried to reel back in.
Recently, there was a moment when I realized that she was chasing me out of her life – just as she’d done to those other people – and I suddenly began to understand why everyone ignored her threats and slanderous texts. It was a very emotional moment, realizing that someone I could once call my best friend had completely turned on me, but with time, I’ve realized that I’m better off without the drama.
30. Luck of the Draw
I was adopted when I was one day old, and without a doubt, my parents choosing me was life changing. My parents have always given me everything I’ve ever needed (and most everything I’ve ever wanted), paid in full for my college education, bought me a car, stood up for me whenever I’ve been picked on, and done everything in their power to help me be successful.
Had I been adopted by another family (or not adopted at all) my life could have been completely different, and most likely without all of the privilege my parents were able and willing to give me.
31. Life’s Volume Knob
My entire family stood around my mother’s hospital bed when she passed away. I was 19 at the time.
Life’s volume did seem turned down for the first few months, there were no emotional highs, just varying degrees of emotional lows accompanied by an ever-prevalent knot in my chest. I still went out with friends, I still laughed, but even when I was having a good time that feeling of sadness always lingered, and that lingering feeling alone was exhausting.
It wasn’t until almost half a year had passed, when summer had just begun and it was a particularly beautiful day outside. I went to a park with a few friends and had a great time. After an hour or so in, I realized that the lingering feeling of overwhelming sadness that had been so prevalent those last six months had completely gone away.
Since then, life’s volume has been turned way up and I’ve felt that experience of loss has made me a better person. I’ll always miss her, but I haven’t been truly sad ever since.
32. Belated Gender Reveal
After six years hiding my true feelings and self, I finally told my parents the truth: their son wanted to be their daughter. It’s all changed for the better. After the initial wave of emotion, I genuinely felt like I’d lifted a massive weight off my shoulders. Everyone so far has been accepting and supportive, and I actually just started hormone replacement therapy earlier this week.
33. The Big Brother Advantage
The moment I decided volunteering with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program in high school would be the easiest way to get my 100 hours of volunteering before graduation. They tell you all about how you’ll be changing the life of a little kid, but they never tell you how much they’ll change your life.
I was from a wealthy, white, suburban area and if I hadn’t made this one random decision, I probably would have ended up right back there in a typical job with a typical family. It made me realize how much I had to offer the world, and how it was my responsibility to use the advantages I’ve been given in life to help those that were less fortunate. As a 17-year-old kid, I couldn’t change the fact that I had opportunities this little kid couldn’t even imagine, but I sure as heck could make sure I didn’t squander them. And from that point on I never have.
34. A Whisper of Change
I had selective mutism at school from the age of 12. One day when I was 14, I decided to take action. I realized that this wasn’t the best situation to be in, and my dad had said that if my situation wasn’t starting to improve that day, he’d start looking at new schools for me. I asked (wrote a note to) a friend to stay with me for a few minutes after school, because I just wanted to make that breakthrough.
We stood there for about 15 minutes, and she waited patiently while I struggled to force some words out. My determination to say something was strong, but the anxiety that had always been there and that I’d never been able to explain, was stronger. Then she said, “Do you want to whisper it” and before I could think about it, I whispered “Thanks for doing this.”
I started walking away instantly as the anxiety caught up with me, but we were both smiling massively. She walked after me and said “If you ever want someone to talk to, you can talk to me.” From there, I started talking to her more often, then talking to her friends, then one year from that, I’d built up enough confidence and comfort around people to begin speaking in all my classes, so my mute days were well and truly over.
Five years on, I have a decent number of friends, I’ve done short presentations at university to big groups of people, and recordings of me singing are on the internet. All of which were nowhere near imaginable back then.
35. The Anti-Capitalist Method
I had a conversation with my dad about winning the lottery. He asked me if I would go to film school if money wasn’t an issue. I of course answered affirmatively. He told me to go for it. So, I just up and did it. Here I am in my first semester as a film student, living the life I want to. Life is good right now. I’m not making compromises.
36. And from Nothing, Came Something
I woke up one morning, and things were different. I don’t know why. Nothing spectacular happened. I wasn’t visited by angels; I had no near-death experience where I miraculously survived. No epiphanies. And for all of that, things still had changed so much for me, that you’d think that there would have to have been something spectacular like that. I’m still bewildered by it.
37. A Good Bro
When I was a kid, one simple gesture changed everything. My younger brother, thinking I was already asleep, gently put a blanket on me so I wouldn’t be cold. From that moment on, I realized I had the best brother in the world and I promised myself to look after him for the rest of my life. We were teenagers then, and we sometimes fought over trivial stuff, but not after that.
38. The Many Sides of Love
Watching my grandpa at my grandmother’s funeral, I really got an insight into one aspect of what love is supposed to be. My grandmother was nuts. Growing up I got the impression my grandpa was a pushover, just letting my grandma walk all over him, and letting her be “The one in charge.” Then at the funeral, there was this instant where I replayed every interaction I’d seen between them, but from a different point of view.
I realized my grandpa was being my grandmother’s anchor all those years, that he’d seen something in my grandma worth loving, nurturing and protecting and stuck it out. My grandpa was on the receiving end of way more bad times than good, but sometimes that’s what love is. Or, more accurately (maybe), the risk love makes you willing to take?
39. A Crashing Realization
When I was seventeen, I was in a very serious car accident. I broke my femur, dislocated my ankle, shattered my jaw, broke a lot of my teeth, and collapsed my left lung. I was life-flighted to the nearest hospital that had an ICU, and was in surgery the next morning (I got to the hospital at around 7 pm). But it got worse.
When I woke up, about a day later, they removed my catheter and told me I needed to pee or else they would put it back in. I tried, and tried, and tried, and I couldn’t pee in the plastic urinal in my bed. When they came back to check on me, I asked (painfully through my freshly wired jaw) if they could help me. They brought in a walker to hold myself up with, and one nurse held me upright and another helped me with the urinal. I was so weak I couldn’t do the deed by myself. I felt… humiliated.
When they helped me back into my chair, I just stared at my reflection in the television. My face stitched, my teeth wired shut with steel, bloodshot eyes and nostril filled with dried snot and blood. A deep depression came over me. I felt so alone, even though I was in a building with thousands of people. I felt like I had died. As I stared at my battered figure in the television screen, I thought about my life. I was a horrible person. All I cared about was myself. I thought I was independent. Now, I sat in a hospital chair, barely able to move or speak, and full of metal and stitches.
I decided that this was my wake-up call. I did my best every day to get a little better. It was slow and painful, but today I’m 23, and life has changed for the better. I have such a different outlook on life, and had I not been in my accident, I probably would have ended up leading a terrible life with no friends and no family.
40. Turbulent News
A tornado hit my home town. It was one of those really bad ones. It destroyed a huge part of the town, ended up on the news, and even the President visited to support in the aftermath. My mom was a nurse at a nursing home. A police officer told our neighbor that the nursing home was destroyed and that everyone died. The neighbor then came over and told us, which was incredibly stupid since our dad wasn’t home and it was just my sister (ninth grade), me (seventh grade) and my brother (fourth grade).
She wasn’t actually dead—in fact, no one at the nursing home died, though we didn’t find that out for hours. But it completely changed me, because I realized that terrible things can happen to anyone. I lost that sort of “protective child bubble” where you think nothing bad could really happen to you.
The whole experience of the town cleaning up after the tornado, the fact that I knew some kids who had died, and knowing people who had lost everything would have been an impactful event alone. But thinking that my mom was dead for hours was life changing. It also changed how I viewed my stepdad, who was cold and often cruel, but I saw him cry like a baby.
41. A Blessing in Disguise
I was 23 in October, 2011. I got fired from my store manager position at GameStop on May 2nd, 2011, then my son was born on May 15th, 2011 to a girl who became pregnant just three months into our relationship. I was renting a house with some friends at the time who didn’t want to live with a kid, so they all agreed to end the lease. I had to move back home with my dad—girlfriend and new baby in tow.
With no degree, and severely overestimating how impressive being a retail general manager is, I took a job putting inserts into magazines. I completely shut down emotionally and just went through the motions. One night around 2 AM I got really, really angry at myself and overwhelmed with despair on my son’s behalf. I looked at him sleeping in his ratty pack and play, and thought of his Christmases, his birthdays, his field trips—a collection of future memories where I would disappoint him.
It wasn’t at all fair to him. Something just… clicked and I was determined to do something. Some old customers recommended that I apply for a job at an insurance company’s call center. I ended up getting a job in sales, a cheap apartment, then a nice one, then got a job in claims, and bought a house. 10 years later I’m still with the woman I got pregnant three months into dating. I honestly cannot even believe how lucky I am.
42. A Nameless Hero
I had a quite minor accident on a bicycle, but I ended up in a very unfortunate place, knocked unconscious. The spot where I fell was behind a slight curve, on a rural road where speeding (100 kph or 60 mph) semi-trucks at full capacity were a usual sight. I was invisible to them, until the very last moment.
Luckily, some car driver found me before the first truck came, and drove me to the hospital. I woke up about three hours later. I know what happened because the car driver told the doctor, and the doctor told me. No idea who picked me up. The fact that it was such a minor crash is why I realized how close death is on an ordinary day.