I went to start writing this post so I put some music on. It could not have been a more fitting song to come up when I pressed shuffle. Playing right now is the song “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz. The song I was listening to when I crashed my car and when I listen to it now I can’t help but smile. When I heard the lyrics, “I throw my hands up in the air sometimes,” I opened up my sunroof and put both hands up in the air and flicked off the police all while driving 120 mph on a flat tire in the snow. Not a good decision, but it turns out that split-second decision turned my life around and put me in a better place now than I ever could have imagined. That is why I smile when I hear this song. It was the start of a new and better life.

The decision came with its consequences, but ultimately the time that I suffered through them during the recovery and the lessons that I would learn in this new life to come would benefit me in ways I would’ve never imagined. Now here I am today with my life spared to share with you what life has taught me and this life has been nothing close to ordinary.

It didn’t take long for me to learn the importance of family and friends. I woke up surrounded by them the morning after. The reality of the crash and the severity of the injuries was hard to fathom, but the strongest force in that room was love and hope which helped to overpower the negativity that was running through my mind.

Collectively my friends and family drove hundreds of hours to be there for me while I was in the hospital. I could not have asked for a better support system. And my God the number of cards, letters, gifts, and the flowers I received blew my mind. I knew from day one that I was not in this fight alone and to have so many people believing in me gave me such a strong will to fight.

You need people to get through life. Life is not something you battle alone. You need love and you need to love others wholeheartedly. You need mentors. You need to learn from those who have already been there. You need to surround yourself with good people. Distance yourself from negative people and keep those around that believe in you, inspire you, and to make you want to be a better person. Instill that same belief in others, tell people you love them, and never be afraid to go that extra mile to go out of your way for a friend in need.

I fully understand what depression is like and you have to understand that it is a real thing affecting so many people. It’s different from sadness in that you can’t really just snap out of it. It is a terrible thing to experience. I have bipolar disorder and I had to suffer through many manic lows in my lifetime. No matter how much you have to live for or how much you have going for you it is so difficult to see anything but the negative. My longest bout lasted for an entire year after I got out of the hospital. I was so down on myself that I was suicidal. I still remember sitting on a dock in Lake Erie in my wheelchair so badly wanting to push that joystick forward and end the suffering. Little did I know how much joy was ahead of me and how many people’s lives I would touch in the future with something much more power than negativity which is positivity. I also have to mention that it took me a year to get my medications right and probably almost 100 visits with my psychiatrist. My meds are something I will never forget to take.

I shed so many tears that first year. I was in mourning of the physical life that I had before and the loss of independence that I had. The tears slowly stopped falling when I put my emotions, my new life, and the story of how I got to that point in writing and put it all out there for all of you to read. Little did I know how much my vulnerability would help those reading what I put out there. I put things into perspective for people and made my fight public. That’s where the support came. As I helped people just by being vulnerable it gave me something in my life that I had not had in a long time… hope. Not hope that I would walk again, but rather hope that I had a purpose. Vulnerability saved my life and now I always challenge others to be more vulnerable. Don’t stay silent.

I thought that restoring my physical body was the only way to happiness. I was wrong. I found out that the way to happiness was through helping others.

After a few months at Ohio State through intensive therapy I came to the realization that I was losing the fight to regain my physical self. The wheelchair was likely to become a part of my daily life from there on out. I just couldn’t take the depression anymore. I live at a place for people with disabilities and each person coped with their disability differently. Many had moved on, but seeing those people bitter decades after a life-changing accident made me make a promise to myself to accept my disability, embrace my second chance, and most importantly just keep a smile on my face no matter what life threw at me. I realized that the worst times were already over. I was ready to take on anything. I was ready to prove to the world what I was capable of despite having a severe physical disability. I started to believe in myself. My writing became more positive and that positivity became infectious and soon enough I had an army of people behind me.

I now knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to change lives. I wanted to make an impact. I wanted to get people to believe in themselves. I wanted to provide hope. I wanted to be an author. I wanted to be a speaker. Most importantly I just wanted to help people.

I spent seven years to get a Civil Engineering degree. Nothing I learned in the classroom compared to what I had learned in the last year and a half. I was told to get a job. I didn’t listen. I wanted to follow my own path.

I started speaking for free and I loved every last second of it. Fifty speeches later and I still had not earned a dollar, but I was ready to make it a career. I can’t believe that I get paid to do something that I would do for free. I followed my heart and did something I love. I started to hear from friends that were making good money that they were unhappy because ultimately they felt like they were not making a difference. I knew that money was not the key to happiness.

If you’re not doing something you love then you need to make a change. The risk is worth the reward especially if it’s something you’re passionate about. Chances are if you love what you’re doing then you’re going to work harder to achieve success.

The most important lesson I’ve learned is that you always have to be positive no matter what life throws at you. Focus on the good in each day and learn from the bad. You can’t be afraid of failure. You can only learn from it. If you’re afraid of failure from the beginning then you’re not going to get anywhere.

I hear so many people complaining about so many different things these days and it drives me crazy. Stop complaining and start to appreciate everything good in your life. So many of you have gone your whole life with always having a place to sleep, always being able to find something to eat, and if you’re reading this that means you’re alive so cherish the life that you have. You only have one. There’s no reason to live life in misery or self-pity. We all have our own problems so don’t feel like you have all the problems in the world. Figure out ways to solve them.

Something I never used to have was patience. It’s a beautiful thing to have. I have to sit in bed every morning and wait for someone to get me dressed and get me out of bed. I appreciate it because it teaches me to be patient. Be patient with others. Be patient in your endeavors. Be patient that your dreams will come true. Be patient in finding happiness, but when you find it never let that feeling go.

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