In social studies class during 7th grade I could be found passing silly notes back and forth with my friend Ashley. One might say my love of Ireland influenced her a bit, and we passed notes through use of an alias: We were both fairy princesses from the enchanted isle of Ireland. I loved all things Ireland and I really couldn’t tell you why. Perhaps some who hold such beliefs would say my past life took place in Ireland. But a fairy? No, what I really wanted to do was travel the world and in my opinion, Ireland would be the first stop.
And it was. My second year in college at Penn State I felt as if I had accomplished the world. I had perfect grades, fun friends, and a boyfriend I took for granted. On top of it all, I was a member of the honor’s society, allowing me to go on a trip to Ireland, which was not only a dream come true but also a chance to share a magical voyage with my boyfriend and all my friends. At least, they were what I called friends.
I always tried to be a good person but as everyone does , I made mistakes. I took my friends, my family, and my very life for granted. That was, until the night the car I was driving, a 94 Plymouth Grand Voyager minivan, flipped over two times while driving 65 miles an hour on the highway after getting hit by a tractor trailer driving down hill. I thought my life was over and in the seconds when I knew my life was entirely in God’s hands – I realized that I really wasn’t ready to die. So many things left unsaid and the ones I cared the most for would have to do all the suffering. When I opened my eyes to oncoming traffic I vowed to live my life differently.
Weeks following the accident everything was fine. I really felt good about my life after surviving with nothing but a scratch on my pinky finger. Five months later I was planning my trip to Ireland and two weeks after that I was sitting on a plane next to my boyfriend’s friend. Now why would I be sitting next to my boyfriend’s friend and not my boyfriend some might ask. The answer to that question is, he wanted to sit with his friends instead.
My bubble was burst. Ireland turned out to be a nightmare, not a dream come true. My boyfriend broke up with me, my friends deserted me, and I was left all alone in a foreign country to dwell in my absolute misery. It was hell, I’m not going to lie – and when I came back home the trees never look so big and the world never looked so small. I felt as if I had seen the world, but at the cost of my heart.
A year has passed, my heart has healed and I am no longer left with painful memories, rather lessons that have helped me become the person I had always wanted to be. What I have grown to accept is that our lives are what we make them and tomorrow is always another day to start anew. What I mean is we should not look down on ourselves or blame others if our plans go awry or when our best intentions are misunderstood. We should look at these challenges as another obstacle in life to overcome.
After coming home from the hospital after the accident, I vowed to be perfect from then on. That didn’t happen. Half a year after my trip to Ireland I vowed to never let myself feel another heartache again, and that didn’t happen either. What I learned is that in order to achieve real happiness we must not look at every problem in our lives as a fly to shoe away, because there is never going to be a time in our lives when I, or anyone else, is without a single problem.
The secret to life is that lessons happen and it takes time to learn lessons. Yes, I did learn a lesson from my car accident and from my trip to Ireland, but it was not the one I had expected at first glance. What I learned is to take one day at a time, to follow my heart, my intuition. Lessons don’t happen all at once. It takes time to decipher an epiphany and meanwhile we should do what we can not only to help ourselves on life’s adventure, but to help others as well. This is what I’ve learned from my traveling experience as well as my narrow escape with death: Life is a journey, an adventure and a lesson that never ends.
I now have a new perspective on life. I know it must sound cliché but I never let anyone convince me I have no time to stop and smell the flowers. I wear what I want to, do what I want to, be what I want to – but most importantly I know what it means to see something through someone else’s eyes, to walk in someone else’s shoes. I have more empathy. I learned what it means to give the clothes off my back and to turn the other cheek. I learned what it is to treat others as I would be treated. This isn’t to say I never forget, never ignore what I have learned. I have fallen, picked myself back up off the ground only to fall again – but I always come back to the truth or rather, the path I was meant to follow.
No more anger. No more fear. No more hopelessness. No more sadness. This is what I strive for. Our lives are what we make them. Life can be either truly magical or terrifying. It’s truly up to us. This I believe.
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