16 Again: Freedom, Independence, and Looking Forward

I’m sure you all remember that day. When you were 16 years old and you got to take your car out on the road by yourself the very first time. You finally had your freedom and independence. No longer did you have to rely on your parents for rides and now you could go pick up your friends and go wherever you pleased. I’m sure that was one of the most satisfying feelings for you in the world.

Well for me it feels even better than turning 16. I had already been driving for six years and then that independence was taken away from me. I got used to people driving me around. I got used to being a passenger. I was used relying on others to take me places and for the longest time I was content with that. Just last week I got back behind the wheel of my van. It was even better feeling than turning 16 because I knew what it was like to have that independence and freedom. After three years it was finally given back to me.

It was such a strange feeling to be alone in my van for the very first time in three years. I used to take naps every day just to pass time until the next event that I had scheduled. But driving now has awaken me. Right now I’m sitting down by the river overlooking where I uses to waterski all the time. There is something calming to me about looking out into the water. I’m sitting in the exact spot where I used to park and grab my slalom ski out of my trunk and carry it out to the boat. I appreciate simple moments like this much more than before.

Nearly every night before my accident I would take a lap downtown before I went to bed. Now, once again, I can finally do that. I’ve always lived my life with a laid-back attitude where most of the times I did not have a care in the world. Of course there used always be the pressure of school but I never let the pressure get to me. Now I feel even less pressure than ever before. Everything in my life is falling into place.

This past week has proved to be one of the most memorable weeks of my life. My editor finished with my book and I got to read through it. I am so happy with the finished product and I cannot put into words how satisfied I am. Some of the stories were left out to make it a more cohesive narrative. I plan to share those stories with all of you through this blog.

Publishing a book has been a dream of mine since I was 23 years old. Four years later the dream is finally going to come true. I thought I had a story before my accident but now I realize that the story had just begun. Next Wednesday it will be three years since the date of my accident and it’s hard for me to believe how far I’ve come in those three years. What I had written before the accident was mainly a string of funny stories. What the story was lacking was a significant message. The many chapters that have been added since my accident have created a message that I think relate to everyone.

I’m glad the book that I was writing before the accident never came into fruition. Most of the 150 pages that I had written have been thrown in the trash. It’s because what I believed before is not what I believe now.

I really like the person that I am today much more than who I was before. My life has changed in so many different ways for the better. More than likely I will never ski on these waters again that are in front of me. But I admire their beauty much more than I did before. When I stare out at the water it does not bother me that I will not ski on it again it only brings back the good memories that I had before my accident. It reminds me how truly blessed I am to have had those experiences.

What I want from you is I want you to look at the world differently. When you look at something like a river try and think of all the things that you can do on it. You can learn to waterski, wakeboard, drive a boat on it, or simply just swim. When you see a bike path remind yourself you could take your bike out and go for a ride or a run. If you go to the beach be thankful for every step that you get to take in the sand or that you get to go swim out into the waves. Some of these things I’ll never be able to do again but I’m thankful that I had those experiences. Some people never will get those experiences. I don’t want you to be one of those people.

Look at the world differently and don’t see things like driving as just a way to get to work but as an adventure. Find something thrilling or exciting to do in your life. Be happy for all the little things that you do every day. Once your ability to do those things is taken away that is when you realize that you wish you would have done more. Although I am happy with all that I experienced in those first 24 years, if I were to do them again you could not wipe that smile off my face. Try to keep that smile on yours.

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