One year, two months and three days ago. I know, it still hurts and it’s still hard to go home knowing that your grandma isn’t there. I’ll start by telling you this, it gets a little easier, but you’re still going to miss her a hell of a lot, even 11 years later.
Today though, you need to understand what is about to happen. Right now, you’re heading to Knott’s Berry Farm for a fun day with a couple good friends. You’re going to ride a roller coaster with loops for the first time and your best friend is going to give you advice that help save your life later on. She’s going to look at you dead in the eye and say “When we go into the loop, close your eyes. You won’t freak out about being upside down, you’ll feel like you’re flying and it’ll be awesome.”
When you leave the park that night, you’ll be laughing and happy and you’ll have memories to last a lifetime. Brace yourself because the ride home is going to change your life.
That Jeep Wrangler you saran wrapped a couple months earlier for your best friend’s birthday is about to look a lot different. You’re going to get into a horrific car accident. You’re going to get hit in the carpool lane, teeter for a while, spin a couple times and flip. You’re going to end up in the middle land of the 91, some strangers are going to cut you and the other two girls out of the car and make sure you’re okay. I promise you’ll walk away from it with only a few more stitches and some oil from the freeway in your wrist that the ER doctor couldn’t get out.
I’ll show you pictures of the car after the fact, just so the nausea will subside:
This accident will change you. You’ll be fearful of cars and going too far from home. You’re going to pull away from everything you know and you’re going to quit the track team for a couple days. You’re going to develop insane anxiety that you don’t know if you’ll ever overcome and you’re going to hate, absolutely HATE being in the car for a very, very long time. Freeways will always be worse than they once were, and big intersections will terrify you in ways that are hard to comprehend.
It’s okay to be scared, I promise. You’re going to make it and you’re going to do some really cool things in the next few years.
You’re going to start college a week or so after the car accident. You’ll be walking with a crutch and your wrist will be all wrapped up, but you’ll manage to get around the campus just fine. You’ll join the track team and you’re going to have the hugest crush on one of your teammates… those feelings are going to linger for a long time, and you’re not going to act on it. You two are going to be good friends for a while though, and you’re going to transfer to your university at the same time too. You’re going to be amazing at shot put and discus, but guess what? Just like with basketball, you’re going to get hurt and you’re not going to be able to do all the things you want to do because your back is going to be shot. You’re going to transfer to the school that you’ve wanted to go to since junior year and love it. You’re going to become an RA and you’re going to make great friends. You’re going to call that same guy you had that crazy crush on when you find out that your old teammate passed away, and you’re going to go to the funeral together.
You’re going to be insecure about a lot of things, and, as I write this, that one thing you hope will have changed by now will not have changed – I know, stupid right? You’re going to finally find a doctor who cares about your voice and who will listen to you when you tell her all the things that are “off” and she will help you find out what’s up with your body… your body will still frustrate you, but at least you’ll know why and how to combat it.
You’re going to have some TERRIBLE bosses. You’re going to become so stressed out that you lose 15 pounds. You’re going to cry a hell of a lot because of all this, but it’ll get better. Because of that job, you’re going to cross a lot off your Bucket List, starting when you turn 27. You’re going to go to a lot of concerts, you’re going to travel, you’re going to get tattoos and laugh, loudly. You’re going to find confidence in the weirdest places, one of them being a Bikram yoga studio. You’re going to do incredible things that you never thought you’d be able to.
Don’t tread too lightly, regardless of your fears. Stay true to what you know is right and you’ll get to where you want to be, just not on the schedule you want it to be on. People are going to badger you constantly about driving and you’re going to get very angry about it. Do the best you can, keep trying and the anxiety and fear will slowly subside. The part that is going to be hard to get a better grasp on is being in control, not being able to control the people around you is going to drive you crazy. Keep trying though, okay? Even when you think the mountain is insurmountable, keep pushing. Trust yourself because it’ll happen. You’ll still struggle with it at 28, but you’ll be a couple steps away from getting there, not miles away like you’ll feel like. Keep thinking that being in a car and driving is a normal thing, everyone isn’t trying to kill you, and you’ll make more progress than you realize. You’re also going to become a champ at navigating public transportation in just about every city – some people are going to think it’s weird, but you’re going to love it. Especially riding the subway in New York City and DC – yeah, you go to both of those places.
You’re going to become your own worst enemy for a long time. You’re going to be emotionally and verbally abusive to yourself and you’re going to suffer quietly but eventually you’re going to become better and be kinder to yourself. You’re going to refuse to be bitter about the cards you’ve been handed and start creating your own deck. Keep taking those baby steps forward, it’ll be so worth it. You’re going to gain and lose friends that you thought would be there forever, but you’re going to feel a great weight lifted when you move on. It sucks, you know this already, but it’ll feel so much better once you realize how much further you’ve gotten because you don’t have people constantly doubting you.
Keep going. Keep moving forward. Despite your doubts, you’re going to make it through the hard times and you’re going to have a blast.
Don’t give up on yourself, okay? You’re only 18, and it’s super cliche, but you’ve got the whole world ahead of you. Go adventure.