“Life is what happens while we’re busy worrying about everything we need to change or accomplish. Slow down, get mindful, and try to enjoy the moment. This moment is your life.”
I was on my way to work. At the time I worked at a bar. It was a Thursday night and my shift started at 8:50 PM. I was running late. I was in a hurry. It happened a block away from my job.
The green light changed and the world stopped. The next thing I remembered I was waking up in an ambulance. The paramedics asked me if I knew what had happened. They asked me if I knew where I was, but everything was a blank.
I don’t remember how it happened. I don’t remember much of anything to this day. Just that I was driving to work, and next thing I knew there was a woman at my driver side window telling me she was calling for help and an ambulance would be there shortly.
I was hysterical. I had no clue what was going on. Why was she calling an ambulance? What happened? Was someone hurt? Reality was split. Some part of me was in the car while the other was eons away. I blacked out.
A police officer came while I was in the hospital. He said I had been hit in the passenger side of my car by a Chrysler Town & Country minivan. There were four eighteen-year-old boys inside. They were all okay.
I started to remember the accident a few days after it happened. I remembered being slumped over in the passenger seat bleeding and crying.
At that time I didn’t realize I was hurt, I didn’t even know what had happened. All I remembered were the thoughts going through my head. Not if I would be paralyzed or seriously injured. Not if I would get the chance to go to college in the fall. All I could think was “I’m going to be late for work.”
At that moment, instead of thinking about the things I cared about, all of my obligations plagued me all at once.
That experience got me thinking, why was it that the first thing on my mind was work, weekend obligations, and chores? Why would my subconscious draw my attention to these things? Why was my boss, of all people, the first person I called? Were my life and my family less important than my job?
I did a lot of thinking about that night in the next few months that followed. It was the scariest moment of my life. Not because I could have been badly injured or worse, but because it was the first time I realized my priorities were all wrong. The things I stressed and worried about didn’t really matter in the scheme of things.
It’s been five years since the accident, but in those years I’ve realized a few things:
1. Everything is temporary, whether pain or pleasure.
My eighteen-year-old brain started to realize this after the car accident but didn’t fully grasp it until later five years later. At the time, totaling my car, sustaining the mild but painful injuries, and having to still be an adult and go to work and family events, seemed like the worst thing in the world. I didn’t want to do any of it. At times through college I experienced a similar kind of grief when life just seemed to pile up and crush me under the weight of responsibility.
Even when the world feels like it will stop, it doesn’t. Life goes on. You figure out a way to move on with it, and the pain it eventually falls away.
2. Always be grateful.
Be grateful even when it feels like you have nothing to be grateful for. Be the most grateful when times are hard because it reminds you how lucky you are when things are good. Learning to accept what life gives you and how to love the journey takes practice, patience, and a thankful heart.
For a while after the accident I went through life feeling really angry. I was mad that I didn’t have my car. I wanted to sue the boys that hit me. It took time but I realized what happened to me wasn’t the end of the world. I had all my limbs and I had the rest of my life to look forward to.
3. If we waste our time stressing about the little things we will always be stressed.
Once coming to the conclusion that all things are temporary it’s easier to let go of the little things because you know that they aren’t worth getting stressed about. Give yourself the five-year rule. If it won’t matter five years from now (and most things won’t matter five weeks from now), don’t let yourself get too worked up about it.
4. We all get the same amount of time each day, and it’s up to us how we spend it.
I had this teacher in high school, Mr. Fails, who stressed the fact that we all get the same amount of seconds in a day, and it is up to us to use that time wisely. We let our priorities dictate our use of time, but are our priorities in order? Do we use our time to improve? To learn as much as we can and continue to grow?
I wasn’t in the frame of mind to do that yet, and I wouldn’t be for the next few years. The more twists and turns my life took and the more I saw people change without growing, the more I thought about the constraints time can have.
I decided that the most important thing I can do with my seconds is what makes me happy, which is seeing myself learn and grow, through writing, through life’s challenges, and through life’s blessings.
When is the last time you did something that made you happy? I don’t mean temporality happy; I don’t mean that summer vacation you went on that was exciting for a second. I mean the kind of happiness that lingers, that you can think about and still smile, the kind of happiness that you get from great love, or doing something you never thought possible.
Too often we base our happiness on tangible objects—houses, cars, clothes, and stupid things that give us a quick buzz of instant gratification. The kind of things that will only give you joy for a blip of time in the scheme of things.
Real happiness comes from using our time in a way that feels authentic and meaningful to us. For some, that might mean making major life changes, But this also can mean spending more time with the people we live, or enjoying the little things that we might deprioritize when we’re focused on work and our goals.
Life doesn’t guarantee much, but it does guarantee that there will be 86,400 seconds in a day. You don’t have a right to those seconds and I can’t guarantee that you will get them, but, with you or without you, they will tick by.
When you are going into your dead-end job every day, when you are in an unhappy relationship that is going nowhere, and when you are spending your time unsatisfied with the life you’ve created, I want you to remember that you have 86,400 seconds every day, and it’s your choice how you use them. Are you wasting your time?
If you are, because you think you have it to waste, or you think that the seconds aren’t as important as the hours and days, if you are constantly telling yourself that you will do it tomorrow, remember this: in the time it took you to read this article…
Someone died in a car accident, someone else was abducted, someone just committed suicide, someone was shot, someone was married, someone had a baby, someone was reunited with a loved one, someone was wrongfully convicted, someone was bullied, someone is crying, someone beat cancer, someone died of cancer, someone cheated on their wife, and someone found hope.
All that and more has happened while you sat there and read this. There are bad things happening in this world, and there are beautiful things happening in this world. You never know what’s coming, so why waste the little time you may have?
Find what makes you happy and do it! Don’t wait for the right moment; it may never come. Don’t make up excuses because there is always a way. You might not be able to make major changes instantly, but you can make tiny shifts in your daily life and take tiny steps toward the life you want to create.
Too many people waste their precious time worrying about what might be, could have been, and will never happen. Be the kind of person that spends their time loving, living, and letting go of what is unimportant.