How my Near Death Experience Brought me Closer to Myself

Being my adrenaline-fiend and Aries sun-self, surfing has been something on my unofficial bucket list since being invited to Mary-Kate and Ashley’s Hawaiian Beach Party at a smooth age of five. So naturally, when my spontaneous trip to Honolulu was fast approaching, it was all I could think about. Five days into the trip was the day — my day. It was my day to conquer the most exhilarating activity I would have ever tried — and the day was perfect. I rose with the sun, unable to contain my excitement even in my sleep. I walked to ocean shore for a bit of nourishing yoga with the best view. Feeling mind and body-filled, I rolled a little J for some soul happy and journaled about how I wanted to continue living my life feeling this alive. I had felt more alive during the past five days than I had in months. I made a commitment to myself that I would start to choose the life that I want by surrounding myself with what fulfills me and brings me that indescribable feeling of being alive — just happy to be, simply be. I reflected on why I chased adrenaline-rushing activities and felt that it was because those were the moments that I felt the most myself and the most free. Free from mundane adult life, crippling anxiety, paying bills, coping with stress, doing groceries, feeling sad, my job — I’m just me. During those fleeting seconds, or minutes, or week-long vacations, I am allowed the time to just breathe and feel what it feels like to be here on this journey of life. And that was what was coming next — in the highest form yet, because I was going to learn how to surf! And I was drowning in anticipation.

Despite already knowing how difficult the sport is, in the very back of my mind I wondered if I would be a natural and be able learn with just a few tries. So, I was moderately disappointed when that didn’t happen. But even with my wobbly knees and speedy arm circles clinging to balance — standing up on that board and gliding atop the clear blue ocean water was euphoric. I NEEDED more. More waves. More speed. More one-on-one time with the instructor (I originally booked a private lesson but got kawalled into joining another group for 50% off — always a sucker for a sale). But more of my time was spent laying on the board, floating around, and waiting for my next push down a baby wave by Jimmy-the-instructor. Being fairly athletic most of my life, I kept thinking of what I needed to correct so I could get it right the next time. Don’t forget to pivot my back foot first, push my hips back as I start to stand but still stay low, hug in my lower ribs for stability — I was starting to get the hang of it.

I knew that my next turn was going to be my best attempt yet, and I was so focused on getting it right that I can’t even properly tell you what happened, because I don’t really know for sure myself. All I remember is being struck in the face with more force than I could even quantify and hearing several small cracking sounds — I’d imagine the feeling is similar to being hit right below the eye with a hammer. Everything went black and I felt my body submerging underwater and I simply thought, “Oh, I’m dead now 🙃.” But the excruciating pain and pulsation up and down my face that came after proved that I was still very much alive and I started screaming for my eye (or lack thereof, which was how it felt at the time). I was screaming at the top of my lungs and I couldn’t stop until Jimmy-the-instructor came to the rescue while I tried to remain conscious.

Fast-forward through the dramatic next couple of hours, I was diagnosed with a corneal abrasion, several micro-fractures of the nose, and the big sha-bang, an orbital blow-out fracture — which basically means the bone socket behind my eyeball that holds it in place, was broken. Although highly urgent and severely traumatic, I miraculously didn’t need an emergency operation. After hearing my diagnosis and being left in the hospital bed to wait for next steps, all I could do was reflect on what the fuck actually just happened. It was so surreal, and very Grey’s Anatomy-esque. But I kept coming back to the question, “Did I ask for this to happen?” Yes, I indeed felt very much alive in that moment, but is this some sick joke the universe was playing on me? I really thought I brought the accident into existence by writing all those notes in my journal earlier about feeling free and alive — but this was too much! And that’s when I realized that although I had never experienced anything remotely close to this before, somehow, it was not more than I could handle. There was never a moment in the hospital or en-route that I felt like I was not going to be OK, or that I needed my mom with me or that I couldn’t do this — which I have felt many, many times in past stressful situations.

It then dawned on me how much I had actually grown within the last year. I discovered a new appreciation for my body and what it could withstand, because it had never really been tested in that kind of way before, and I that was really cool to me. But, I also realized that I had officially conquered a fear that I had since childhood, of being hurt in the eye. I was someone who would squeal and cringe at the sight of a friend applying eyeliner, inserting contact lenses, and even just seeing eyelids open really wide would send a shiver down my spine — but now that was completely gone, forever.

Looking at the unrecognizable reflection in the mirror, all the bursted blood vessels, all the swelling, all the streaks of purple and green across my face and I was still OK. I looked like I just got punched in the face by Mike Tyson, but I felt fine. I understood that if I was hit a couple millimetres in any other direction, I could have instantly been killed or paralyzed from the neck down or live with a glass eye forever. Despite that, I still felt fine. I felt more than fine, actually. I felt strong. I felt resilient. I felt like fucking Wonder Woman. And I thought, if I could just experience the literal thing I had feared the most in my whole life and come out of it feeling good and mentally stable (within a few hours), then there is literally nothing in the world I can’t do. I immediately started feeling closer to myself, because I trusted myself in a new way. I trusted my body. I trusted the universe will protect me. And I trusted that no matter how bad things get, even worse than I can possibly imagine, I will always have myself to get through it with, and that is all I need. We are usually a lot stronger than we tend to give ourselves credit for; and on top of that, our Divine universe will always have our back. 

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