I was 17 years old when I took my first drivers test. Not long afterwards, I picked up five friends and headed towards a mall. This trip would include getting on the highway that ran alongside our small town. At the time, the highway didn’t have any type of median or divider separating the North and South bound traffic. Vehicles raced past each other at highway speed, just inches from the painted line that ran between them. It was an ingredient for potential disaster. Two additional ingredients would be an inexperienced driver behind the wheel, messing with the radio dials of her parent’s car. As I returned my eyes to the road, I noticed I was heading off the highway. I over-corrected and lost control, veering into the lane with oncoming traffic. We were hit head on by a 10-ton truck. Although everyone survived the crash, injuries ranged from a concussion and broken bones to a coma with short-term brain damage.
I didn’t stay to put the pieces back together again. I ran. I ran from guilt, fear, pain and judgment. At first I ran into the bottle. Then I quit school just two months shy of graduation. Not knowing how to deal with the failure of watching my friends graduate without me, and the guilt of an accident I felt too burdened to heal from, I ran further. I moved 1500 miles away from everything I’d ever known. What followed was a long list of additional mistakes as I fumbled horribly through the process of learning about life on my own. One such mistake was rushing into a marriage to fill some of my emptiness. The marriage didn’t last two years, but it brought a child into my world. That’s when the running stopped.
My son was six weeks premature. I held this tiny person in my arms and my world became silent. There was no noise, guilt, chaos or frets circling in my thoughts. Everything around me became still. I was acutely aware of the sight, sounds and smell of a perfect little being, warm and breathing so sweetly in my arms. It was the first time I can recall being truly present. As I took in the amazing miracle that was my first born, another miraculous thought occurred to me: I, too, had started out this perfect.
From that moment on I started a long journey of acceptance, slowing down to ponder and work through each piece of guilt or let down that I felt I’d created or provoked. As the years went by I noticeably opened up more, breathed more and appreciated more. I not only became more accepting of myself, but also of the idea that all things hold great purpose. This was further anchored into my beliefs when I learned from a town politician that the highway of my accident was completely reconstructed afterwards, providing a wide strip of land as a median. Or that a relative of one wounded friend felt the accident was a blessing in disguise, bringing their family back together after years of separation from prior hurt and disagreements. The very accident that felt like a monster I’d created and could never make right, actually helped shape a list of meaningful events. This knowledge brought such peace into my life.
I no longer run from the things that are fearful or painful to me. I’ve become more aware of the strength, goodness and potential of not only myself, but people around me. Each of us started out as perfect little miracles with a journey to unfold. The very things that seem like a terrible experience can actually be in alignment to a blessing down the road. We’re not meant to stay flawless. I believe there is great purpose in being less than perfect.
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