Five years ago, 8/11/09, I lay on a gurney in the emergency room at JPS Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. Pain radiated from head to toe, and the morphine the nurses injected into my IV made me feel as if the room were spinning. I tried to figure out how I’d ended up in the emergency room. I remembered riding my bike, and then ‘waking up’ inside an ambulance. Whatever happened in between those two moments was lost to me. Later, the police would tell me a truck had hit me from behind. Staring up at the white ceiling, worried about the extent of my injuries, I could not fathom the possibility of one day appreciating this accident, but I would. It proved to be a much-needed cosmic kick in the pants.
As for my injuries, I turned out to be quite lucky. A broken leg, a concussion, some stitches, and a bunch of cuts and abrasions. The injuries could’ve been worse. As I recovered, my thoughts focused on that possibility. If myself or the truck had been a few inches over in one direction or another, the outcome might’ve been much different.
I could’ve even died.
After the initial shock of the accident wore off, the realization of my good fortune kick-started a self-examination and evaluation of my life. I’d lived through the accident, but how was I going to live? What did I want to do with my life? Where did I want to go? Who did I want to be? What did I want to do?
The answers to those questions would lead to some significant life adjustments.
Writing. I’d been writing on and off for most of my life, and I found myself in one of those off phases. Nothing else I did gave me as much satisfaction as writing. I determined to write. I didn’t concern myself with publication or even having one person read my writing. I wanted to write and keep writing.
Not sure of where to start or what to write about, I started with the accident. I bought two spiral notebooks and started scribbling. I typed those those words in to a Word document, and later I started a blog where I started posting some of my writing. Wanting to improve my writing ability, I worked with a writing coach who provided me with some great advice.
E-books rose in prominence about that time, and Amazon made it possible for writers to self-publish their own books. I thought, ‘What the heck, I’ll give it a try.’ I published the book on my biking accident, The Accident: A Bike, A Truck, and A Train, and not only did it sell better than expected, but people seemed to like it. The year after I published a book about my Dad, One Last Word, and then last year, I published my first mystery novel, Secrets To Keep. I’ve spent the past year working on a second mystery novel. Three books in five years, and I started with the simple goal of writing. If not for the accident, I might’ve lingered in that off-phase, not doing the thing I enjoyed most of all.
I also had a job I didn’t enjoy. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I didn’t want to keep doing that same job for the rest of my life. Changing jobs and careers proved a bit more problematic, and took more time, but eventually, with the help of some friends, I landed with the company and the job I have now. I’ve almost been there a year, and I haven’t dreaded going to work once.
Thankfully, I didn’t have a list of ten things I wanted to change. Those two were significant enough and required a great deal of energy. I had little things as well, such as being more attentive to my wife and son, and making better attempts to communicate with my parents and brothers.
If anything, I wanted to be intentional about how I lived, rather than reacting to life as it happened to me.
It’s hard to believe the accident occurred five years ago. I would never want to go through an accident like that again, although it didn’t stop me from riding a bike, but it proved to be the cosmic kick in the butt I needed. Life’s too short.
On this five year anniversary, I will treat myself to lunch, nothing fancy, probably a burrito at Chipotle with a book, but as I eat, I will be thankful, for life, and for a second chance.