I believe the most trying times in life can be the most beneficial. The brushes with death, the potential of loss, and the realization of mortality, have, in my life, been vital experiences upon which I’ve created my outlook.
In my early twenties, or as I call them “the lost years”, I really had no direction. I tried the Navy, that didn’t work for me. I tried art school, but all I saw myself becoming was an addict. I worked odd jobs until I got bored and moved on. I was home one week and gone the next. No steady relationships, no plan.
So, at 23 I decided to go back to school. The night I was taking my entrance exams there was a full moon. During the break I stepped outside to have a smoke. I looked up at the moon and there she was, bright and beautiful. I shut my left eye and the moon vanished. Open, there’s she is, wink, she’s gone.
I had my mom take me to the E.R. that night. They had no idea what was wrong. The next day I found out my retinas had detached, in both eyes. My mom flipped out and started crying, but a strange sense of calm came over me immediately. I had a plan.
The next day I had surgery on my right eye, ten days later on my left. It was incredibly painful, and I couldn’t see beyond a few inches.
I learned to identify who was home by the sound of their footsteps; I became adept at finding things by touch. And with the few inches of sight that I had, I started creating art again.
As my sight slowly returned (after two more surgeries) I gained a huge appreciation for what I had taken for granted: the simple beauty of everyday life. I couldn’t drive so I watched the world from bus stops; I was captivated by light playing off hubcaps, by crows’ flying who knows where at dusk. I was fascinated by the fact that I can see, and I still am.
I got a job that I stayed with for years. I met a wonderful woman, fell in love, and got married. I went back to school, I’m studying art, and I think I’ll teach.
I have direction and motivation in my life now. I know what’s important. For me it’s not wealth and material possessions. What’s important to me are the gifts I’ve been given. I appreciate the simple pleasures. I’ll continue to do all I can and to be grateful for what I have. And it’s all thanks to the harsh bits.
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