I wish that I could travel back in time to that day the bullet lodged in my spine. Travel back in time, and when that 5 year old, innocent child lay in a pool of blood, grasping for air, I’d whisper in his ear. I’d tell him that everything was NOT going to be okay. I’d tell him that even though he would survive being shot that the future was going to be paved with physical and psychological land mines. I’d tell him to choose the word survivor and erase the word victim from his vocabulary, because the acceptance of being the victim was like choosing eternal night over sunny days for the next thirty years of his life.
I’d tell him to not be afraid.
The last few years have been a time of great introspection for me. I have finally and sincerely decided to use my life story to help others. Sharing what I’ve been through and what it’s like now has been another step in my healing process, but there has also been an intransigent part of my soul that wants to walk away and push it down, burying my story in the same cold, shallow grave where it stayed for such a long time. The dirt used to fill that tomb is made up of fear, self loathing, solitude… drugs and alcohol.
What I’m doing is right. Right for me and right for the world, right now. I’ve had the chance to share my story on incredible podcasts, which is very humbling because of the inspirational guests that have told their stories before me. Being part of such a special movement is something I have always dreamed of. What didn’t kill me now allows me to make others stronger. Just writing that last line gives me the (good) chills! The thing is? I AM up for the task. I feel that I’ve been blessed with a gift and that the curse was of my own creation. My gratitude is ocean sized. I know that the 5 year old little boy, so wrapped in fear and confusion would get something out of my story.
My hopes are that anyone, at any age, can take something positive away from my life journey.
After the accident, a nun who was a friend of my grandparents would spend time with me. I can clearly remember her soft, paper-like, wrinkled hands holding mine as she would encourage me that everything was going to be okay. That bad things happen to good people, even little children. There is one thing she said that has been rattling around in my brain for thirty years. Something that at the time was far too profound to grasp for a 5 year old. For a long time I cynically transformed these words as simple coddling by an adult used as a tool to help a poor little kid to strive, to get through tough times. Eventually, I began to believe what she said. I began to study my life closely, to see if by chance I was fulfilling her prophecy. She said “You are here for a reason”. Those 5 words have filled my dreams for an eternity. I’ve searched for the reason my whole life. Every day another existential easter egg hunt.
I’ve come to realize that the reason is not close to any of the grandiose ideas that I would create; being a famous musician, a poet laureate, the President of the United States or a famous sports star (a boy can dream). The reason is much simpler than that: to help others. Included in that is to be a great father, partner, son, brother, grandson, friend. To live a life worth living and to never forget that it can all be gone in a millisecond. To always remember that the slightest of winds can snuff out a flame.
Remember that we are all filled with greatness. Remember that we can all get/be better. Remember that we all hold the tools to save a life, the key is to start with ourselves.
“I don’t confuse greatness with perfection. To be great anyhow is…the higher achievement.”
– Lois McMaster Bujold