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headlights

{One year ago, my life changed. All I saw before it happened was the flash of headlights.}

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If you need someone to blame, blame me. It was my fault. I know that. Wrong place, wrong time, yes.. but I failed to yield. Other people assume to know what happened; they assume that it was simple. It wasn’t. They assumed I was fine, but I wasn’t.

I’m not.

One year ago, I was involved in a head-on collision in which a woman I did not know lost her life. I will never, ever forget. I can never, ever forget. I never, ever want to forget. I am reminded every time I open the door of a car, every time I put on my seatbelt… every time I see headlights ahead of me.

Headlights. My worst nightmare and my largest terror, seemingly harmless guides into the darkness of that long stretch of highway. They remind me of the worst night of my life,  the life that was lost, the lack of control, the tears, the ambulance, the hospital, the bruises, the nightmares…. everything from the night when everything went to hell. They flash me back, every time, to the moment before my world turned upside down and inside out.

I’m not writing this for pity, or for self-reassurance, or to appease the masses. I’m writing this because I need to. I don’t know what else to do. I’ve had one year to bottle up my feelings and fears and all the things I’ve learned.

One year. I’ve cried at each milestone since that day, praising God that he allowed me to be here through it all… my high school graduation, my 18th birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas. I cry today, because I wish I could go back to one year ago and change everything. I cry for the life that was lost and the part of mine that changed so drastically.

One year. So much has changed. I am not the girl who climbed into that driver’s seat that night on February 20th.

I lost my sense of ease. When you’re driving down an empty stretch and singing to the radio… I’m tense, watching for anything that can go wrong. When you’re grabbing your keys to head somewhere even just a few blocks away, I’m waiting around for someone else to drive so I can hop in the back seat. When you have your feet up on the dash, I’m sitting at the edge of my seat and gripping my seatbelt. When you’re heading home for the weekend, I’m staying behind only to avoid being in the driver’s seat. When you see headlights, I only feel fear. I close my eyes. This is a common response to fear… if you don’t see it, it must not be real… right? But this… this doesn’t go away. It’s the endless loop of my highlight reel of the worst moment of my life. I lost my sense of adventure. With every adventure, fear looms over like a dark shadow on my carefree plans. The thought of being inside a car, a deathtrap, sucks the air from my lungs. I lost so much of myself, that it was hard to climb back into my body as I hovered above watching myself carry on with my mundane tasks and asking God “Why? Why did this happen to me, to her, to all of us?” I lost touch with Him, feeling sick at the thought that this is what he had determined necessary in my life at the age of 17. Why he had taken her, but left me here to deal with all of this?

365 days ago, I hit rock bottom like I had never before experienced. Rock bottom is where I began to build up the solid foundation that is the rest of my life.

I have gained a love for life unlike any other. I will never stop being grateful for the opportunity to live and breathe and walk and talk and just be ME every single day. I love life. I have learned to love deeper, to laugh often, to form connections, and to cherish every single moment, because I know that at any moment it can all be stripped away.

I have gained strength. Sometimes, it’s not easy to put on the face that everything is ‘okay.’ It’s just not. I had to deal with the whispers around my high school, but I mostly had to deal with the realization that some people just really didn’t care. Instead, I focused on the people who did. (♥) I have suffered and conquered the nightmares, the flashbacks, the endless anxiety. I fight these battles each day because I am stronger now than I have ever been. I am too grateful for life. I conquer these fears as my debt to pay for the ability to love life each day.

I have gained thoughtfulness. I have realized that each person has their own personal version of hell, perhaps unseen from outside. I have given my words a second thought and my actions more consideration. Each person struggles, and we must realize and combat the negative in our world with the opposite.

I have gained faithfulness, which I like to believe is the root of the rest of my gains. After my accident, I lost touch with Him and I felt as if no God who truly loved me could let me go through this and continue to feel the shockwaves of self-loathing and regret for months to follow. Of course, however, He has a plan for me. After months of healing, I came to realize that God showed me, that day, to look at the bottom of my boot (as Woody did for Andy in ToyStory 2) and claim me as his own once again. My faith has never been stronger. I have never been more connected to Him. He has utilized me to do his work and to lead a better life.

If I could go back and change it all, rewrite the past, I would… but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have the right to feel each and every emotion that I am feeling. Anger. Love. Loss. Despair. Sadness. Hope. Faithfulness. Strength. Fear.

The worst day of my life happened exactly one year ago… and I am continually learning and growing from that day. I am learning to conquer my fears, anxiety, and struggles of that day that remain with me. I have made it one year, and I hope to continue, one year at a time, for the rest of my life.

LOVE, STRENGTH, THOUGHTFULNESS, and FAITHFULNESS will stay with me every day for the rest of my life. I will remember that night and the life that was lost alongside these four ideas. These four ideas will be the headlights of my life, guiding me through the unknown.

Someday, headlights will only brighten the path and will cease to fill my heart with dread. Someday, cars will take me to new places and will cease to trap me and stop the adventure. Someday, these fears will be replaced with new, scary things in the world.

I am not fine. I’m working on it, though. I will be.. someday.

~

Thank you to: my family. Mom and Dad, Blake and Mason, who guided me through tough times with hands to hold and shoulders to cry on and nothing but unconditional love.

Thank you to: the friends who cared, the ones who never left, and the ones who have joined along the way and pushed me to overcome my fears and also let me carpool.

Thank you to: the people who reached out to me one year ago, that I couldn’t bring myself to thank back then. Your words jumpstarted my mental and physical recovery.

Thank you to: the big man upstairs.

Thank you to: the people who’ve read until now. My blog is really personal for me, it’s not exactly easy to publish your innermost thoughts on the internet. Thanks for allowing me to show you my struggle. I truly feel a slight weight off my shoulders. Communication is very important to me, and I feel that by telling my story I am somehow doing the work that I am meant to do.

Wear your seatbelts, always say I love you, and always remember that every day should be cherished. Let the headlights brighten your path.

•••

“Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.” James 4:9
“As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more.” Psalm 71:14

Rest in peace, Marcella Larsen. (2/20/15)

 

significance

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sig·nif·i·cance

/siɡˈnifikəns/
noun
1. the quality of being worthy of attention; importance.
2. the meaning to be found in words or events.

This word came to mind yesterday as I looked at the scene pictured above. It’s not a sky full of stars, but a sea of cell phone flashlights shining in the darkness at the concert I attended last night. Before I took this photo, I had my flashlight on as well, shining and singing and swaying to the music. Before that, however, I wondered if it was really worth it for me to pull out my phone. My one phone against this sea of people… does it really matter? I wanted to soak in the moment…. but I also wanted to ADD to the moment. I pulled my phone out, and I smiled and swayed and sang. I became a part of the moment.

 Significance. If each of those people across the way had decided that their light wasn’t worth shining, I wouldn’t have gotten to soak in the sight of hundreds of lights shining like stars in the night. I wouldn’t have gotten this photo, which I now adore. Those people may not have realized it… but in turning on the flashlight, they illuminated my smile.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. This day has different meanings and feelings evoked in nearly everyone. For some, it’s just another day. For others, it’s a day to love. For some, it’s a day to stay in. Others, a day to go out. Some, to cry or mourn or mend. Others, to laugh or sing or dance. In that way, it’s the same as every other day, but for some reason, this one day can make people feel incredibly strong emotions. “Significant other” comes to my mind as I write this… why is this a term? What is the origin?  If you can’t tell from the photo above, I believe that everyone has significance. Even if you don’t see it…. maybe you’re creating a gorgeous glimpse of a night full of stars for others across the way. Your significance isn’t created by someone else. It can be appreciated by someone else, of course, but not created.

 Never feel like you are insignificant.

 Yes, Valentine’s Day is a day of love. My challenge is to make every day a day of love. Make everyone feel significant… and remember that you are significant. You are the light in the sea of darkness, shining like a star and bringing a smile to the face of someone you may not even know.

…and maybe that girl has a blog. 😉

•••

“Your success and significance in life is tied to the unleashing of the greatness in you.”
― Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha

Our true significance lies not in the endless comparing of ourselves to one another, trying to see who is the fittest, using scales of evaluation and meaning that differ in the heart and mind of every individual; no – it lies in our deeds alone with the time we have.”
A.J. Darkholme, Rise of the Morningstar

“You’re one in a million.”  -Hannah Montana 

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my post-graduation hair cut

haircut

I wasn’t a person who loved high school, despite the fact that I immersed myself in fun activities, loved my job, and had enough good times to keep me upbeat for the most part.. I wasn’t satisfied. I wasn’t satisfied with mediocre, or sometimes happy, or attempting to fit the status quo, or feeling lonely, or any of that. I was satisfied with one thing, however… my hair.

Today, I posted a selfie. (yeah, I know.) In the photo, I was surprised to see that my hair looked so long. I cut my hair, about 8 inches, just a couple of weeks after graduation, ridding myself of some weight I had been carrying around… both literally and figuratively. I loved it. I loved the freedom and maturity I felt with it lightly dancing on my collarbone. I loved my tiny little pigtails that I wore while hiking and I loved throwing on my hat and letting my hair do whatever it pleased underneath. Some people told me, “You were prettier with long hair.” or “I miss your long hair!” or “How could you get rid of all that beautiful hair?” But I had to. It was my “big jump” into adult life (or so I thought) and leaving behind my security blanket of hair was a simple part of the transition.

Recently, I’ve been growing my hair back out.. with hair that grows relatively quickly, it has slowly crept towards the length it was back in high school. I can now do the things I missed doing: messy buns, a simple braid, et cetera. But as I was looking at myself, with hair that feels and looks so long to me now… I flashed back to high school, where the end of my hair was much closer to my belly button than my collarbone. I remember a rumor that had been started about me once… that I had gotten extensions. I remember being so bothered by this, the fact that someone had the time of day to think of such ridiculousness… I remember being confused as to why anyone would care. I remember being asked, “Why did you get extensions?” I remember thinking that my hair had been this long for a long time but NOW people are noticing because of a rumor that this hair is fake? I remember being hurt. That’s a feeling I remember a lot from high school.

This rumor, along with so many others, plagued me during high school. But the purpose of this blog is not to hate on high school or complain about my experience. Instead, I have risen from the ashes… or the hair that scatters on the floor post-haircut. I have grown miraculously since graduation. The weight I carried around wasn’t just from my abundance of hair, but it was from all the negativity in my life. As I grow my hair longer and longer, I can’t help but feel a bit sad that I look more similar to the girl I was in high school. But that’s another thing you learn in college: appearances mean nothing. I am NOT the girl I was in high school. I am NOT the girl that is defined by others. I am NOT hurt, or lonely, or satisfied with mediocrity.

I am happy, healthy, changed, and love myself more than I have ever before. And today… I had a good hair day. {More than that, however, I had a good day. I’ve had a seriously fantastic string of good days lately.}

To the girls that are considering the post-graduation chop in a few months: hair is hair is hair, no matter what the length. YOU are the one who will continually surprise yourself with personal growth!

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