“If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.”
Those are the lyrics from one of my favorite songs, “Help Somebody” by Van Zant. Those words have gotten me through times I didn’t think I would make it through. They’ve helped me understand situations I didn’t know why were happening. The song played on country radio in 2005 when it was first released and was burned on to a CD I keep in my car 12 years later.
It’s also the same song that was playing when rubber hit my windshield while I was driving north of Florida’s Turnpike last Sunday.
I had just spent a weekend at home. I absolutely love going home, it’s almost like taking an all inclusive vacation (thanks Mom!!!). More importantly, I love seeing my family and taking some time away from school. Plus, I’d take any chance I can get to see that adorable little nephew of mine!
But after a few short days, Sunday never fails to roll around and leaves me with no choice but to head back to Gainesville for my Monday classes. So, my mom fills my belly and several Tupperwares with Sunday dinner and sends me on my way. Leaving never gets easier.
I was only a few miles south of Fort Pierce when the motorcyclist in front of me blew his back tire. Debris flew at my windshield but I kept my eyes on the bike’s driver who was now sliding across the two lane highway. His bike tipped over and skidded from the right lane to the median. The motorcycle hit the metal barrier and I screamed when the man was thrown from his bike. His body landed approximately 20 feet away from the bike when it came to rest on the side of the road. Tears filled my eyes as I pulled my car over and threw on my hazards. The man was helmet-less and showed no signs of surviving the accident as his body laid motionless in the grass.
Traffic slowed when I started my sprint across the Turnpike, my shaky fingers dialing for an ambulance. Two other cars stopped made their way to the man as well. I called out to the biker hopelessly, unsure of what kind of response I was looking for. But to my surprise, he lifted his head and looked around. He was alive.
The man stood up as I approached him. He looked around and was clearly disoriented. He could barely stand but made his way over to his bike to examine the damage. He was in his late fifties with a muscular build.
Just then, the 911 operator came on the line, “Ambulance or patrol car?”
“Ambulance,” I said. “Definitely an ambulance. A man on a motorcycle just blew a tire and was thrown from his bike. I thought he was dead.” I watched as he looked at his bike, clearly upset and somewhat disappointed.
“Where are you,” she asked. I looked around. I had absolutely no clue where we were. No mile marker. No exit signs. No landmarks. You know how the Turnpike is.
“I don’t know, I have no idea. We’re headed north on the Turnpike. Maybe by Fort Pierce,” I told her. An older man was talking with the biker and a younger man around my age stood next to me. “Do you have any clue where we are,” I asked him.
“I can drop a pin,” he responded. Alright, no help from him. He ended up leaving less than five minutes later.
I heard the operator typing, so I turned to the biker. “You took quite a fall there, sir.” He looked at me. He had a short trimmed white beard and crystal blue eyes.
“Yeah, that was pretty bad, wasn’t it,” he joked. I laughed and asked him how he felt. He shrugged and said fine.
The operator chimed in. “Miss, are you talking to him?” She was just as shocked as I was.
“Yes, I am actually. He’s standing.”
“Have him sit down. Was he wearing a helmet? Does he have any obvious injuries? Is he in pain?”
“No ma’am, he didn’t have a helmet,” I said. I looked at his jeans and reflective yellow jacket. There was no blood stains and his eyes showed no signs of a concussion. I reported this back to the operator and she noted that he was quite lucky. I really couldn’t agree more.
“We’ll have an ambulance there soon. It may take a little for them to find you but they’ll be there. You’ll wait for them to come, right?”
“Yeah, I’ll wait,” I said. My mom isn’t going to like this whole standing-on-the-side-of-the-highway-waiting-for-an-ambulance-with-a-strange-man thing. “Thank you.” The call ended.
I went over to the man who was now standing with one of his biker buddies and the older man who stopped. I told him that an ambulance was going to come check him out. I expected him to be disagreeable but he nodded. Just the fact that the man was standing was an absolute miracle alone but I knew there could be non-visible injuries that could show their effects later on. He knew that too.
“Hey, thanks for stopping,” the biker said to me. I smiled at him. Why wouldn’t I?
When traffic slowed, I made my way back across the two lanes and waited by my car. The older man was parked behind me and he came to stand next to me.
“I thought he was dead,” he said.
“Me too, ” I replied, looking past the traffic and examining the biker who was now searching for his backpack with his friend. They both has cigarettes hanging from their teeth.
“You were right behind him,” he said turning to me, “You’re lucky you weren’t involved.”
He was right. I was paying attention to the road, keeping a good following distance, and maintaining a moderate speed. If I had taken my eyes off the road for just one second, the accident would have ended differently.
When the ambulance arrived, I got back into my car and drop off. I felt pleased with myself as my car gained speed. I made it just a few more miles when the traffic slowed again and people were pulling off the side of the road, avoiding something. It was then when I saw it, a multi-car pile up. There were three or four bodies scattered on the high way, blood and glass laying on the concrete. Many people had pulled over and were running from their cars to the scene. There were no ambulances on site yet. I thought about pulling over but in my heart, I knew there was nothing I could contribute. I saw flashing lights in the distance and willed them to drive faster.
I safely drove off that day and made it back to Gainesville to continue on with my daily life. I think about how lucky I was that day, but if I was being honest, I wouldn’t quite call it luck. That day, I felt saved. I felt as though that if I had not stopped to check on the biker, I would have been involved in that multi-car crash. After all, I had only missed the accident by a couple minutes at most.
I can say everything happens for a reason, but then I think about the bodies thrown from their cars on the side of the road. I find it hard to see the good in that. But these answers aren’t for me to know. Some reasons are too big for us to understand.
Take some time today to reflect on where you. Your place has meaning and purpose. Make your plans but understand that there is someone else who says, “For I now the plans I have for you.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
If you’re anything like me (and 90% of the country) it’s been difficult to be on social media these past couple weeks. An enjoyable scroll through Facebook is now filled with political propaganda and that distant aunt no one has heard from in twenty years is now the new Aristotle.
I’ve always been a fan of politics on social media. Though it gets out of hand at times, people are protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution to speak freely about politics and the actions of the federal government. The freedom of speech is at the center of democracy and the ability to converse with other citizens creates an informed majority that can then vote accordingly to their views. So if Aunt Aristotle still wants to talk about Hillary’s e-mails, let her knock herself out!
For my fellow Americans who need a brief history lesson, the Bill of Rights are the first ten amendments of the Constitution. They were added by the Anti-federalists at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 to protect the rights of an individual against the power of a centralized government. All the other amendments outline the rights the government has over the people. So cling tightly to those first ten, people! We’re gonna need them!
Odds are you’ve been thinking about yourself. You’ve been thinking about your family, your friends, and those inalienable rights. In time of stress and division, it’s only natural to cling to what’s yours and what’s familiar.
Well today, I encourage you to remove your head from your rear end and see things from a different angle.
About two months ago I was standing in an elevator at the Shands Medical Plaza in Gainesville. I was alone in the elevator trying to remember which floor my doctor’s appointment was on. I’d been seeing a lot of specialists lately and things were blurring together. Taking a wild guess that maybe it was the third floor, I pressed the button and the elevator lifted. To my dismay, I got the floor wrong and the elevator doors closed behind me before I could step back in. I called the elevator again and waited, my arms crossed over my chest.
As I waited for the elevator, a man in a wheelchair caught my eye. He was maybe in his late thirties with long hair and blue eyes. He also had one leg.
I turned my attention back to the elevator when I felt the man pull his wheelchair up close to me. I felt his eyes on me so I looked down at him and lent him a half-hearted smile. We barely made eye contact. I didn’t want to gawk at his one leg. I didn’t want to make him feel any different from me. I tried to treat him like he was any other person standing next to me waiting for an elevator. But, by human nature, you start to feel uneasy when faced with something that is simply different from you. You wish you didn’t feel this way but sometimes it’s just a reflex. I knew that he knew that I was uncomfortable.
I was relieved when the elevator door opened but the feeling quickly fleeted as the man rolled in after me. I was against the back of the elevator and his wheelchair faced me. As soon as the door closed, he spoke.
“You know, if you end up in an elevator with me, you have to either sing a song or say the alphabet backwards.”
A gave him a look. Good one.
“I’m serious,” he said. “Take your pick.”
“I guess I’m singing because I can’t say the alphabet backwards,” I said to him. I laughed. He was easing my nerves but I really didn’t want to sing for this man. I tried to think of a song just in case he pressured me. ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ was the first song that came to my mind and there was no way I was singing that to a one-legged man in an elevator at 9AM on a Friday morning.
“You don’t know how to say the alphabet backwards? What if you get stopped at a DUI checkpoint?”
“Guess I’m going to jail,” I joked with him. He had a point, maybe I should learn the alphabet backwards.
Right when I thought I was in the clear, the one-legged man looked me dead in the eye and sang the alphabet backwards to me. There was nothing I could do but look at him. While he sang, I wondered what I had done to be in this position. If only I had gotten the elevator floor right the first time.
When he finished, I gave him a round of applause. “That’s pretty impressive,” I complimented.
“Well, when I was a kid, I spent a lot of time in the hospital,” he began. “On top of my bed behind me, there were paper cutouts of the alphabet but in front of me was a mirror. So I had nothing to do all day but stare in the mirror and eventually I learned the alphabet backwards. That was the best use of my time while I waited for the doctors.”
I felt like such an ass.
The elevator doors opened and that was that. I bid him a good day and was on my way.
This story crosses my mind quite frequently. Not only was it completely odd, but it just made me see things in a different light. There I was, an able-bodied woman in an elevator, just slightly peeved from a hectic morning. I couldn’t be bothered with a one-legged man, but he bothered with me.I’m sure he’s been in that situation before. Many people won’t look at him or feel uncomfortable starring at his lack of a leg. Instead of subsiding to the fact that some may consider him an outsider, he makes himself the center of attention while easing those around him. He made an uncomfortable situation feel normal.
When you open your eyes, you may just see the beauty in the disaster. You may see the world at a new angle.
You may just learn the alphabet backwards.
Publishing the first piece to my blog felt like word vomit. It took months for me to get to the point where I just wanted to pull the trigger. Many may not see the big deal in breaking the seal, but anyone who writes can tell you that your words are your rawest form. Even if you’re writing for kicks and giggles like me, a part of you is always a little worried about the reception.
Another part of you also doesn’t really give a crap and that’s how I brought myself to press the big blue ‘Publish’ button.
I was kind of just sitting in my room all sick and sad, sneezing on myself because who knows what a tissue is. I was just about to roll over and die when the sun hit me just right and I was revived from the grave that was my full-sized bed. I audibly said “Let’s do it, bro” like any millennial man in khakis would say when his buddy asks if he wants to play golf on Saturday morning. And in a quick burst of genius, I wrote the end of my first post.
It wasn’t initially how or when I planned to get the ball rolling, but it happened nonetheless. Very rarely do things in my life (or anyone’s life) run as planned. I’m sure you’re nodding to yourself thinking about all the shit the universe has put you through just this morning.
On one particular morning, my universe certainly pulled a number on me.
I’m two years into college and every semester I’ve been oh so blessed with an 8AM class. A part of me can’t be upset, I truly do it to myself as I’ve convinced myself that I’m a morning person. The early bird may get the worm, but the early bird also wants to drink bleach every time the 6:45 alarm goes off.
Anyway, during Fall I had a wonderful 8AM biology class. Around the same time I started to take an acne medication. The medication had to be taken twice a day with a meal and a full glass of water. So of course, like any responsible adult, I did the exact opposite and took it on an empty stomach and washed it down with a swig from under the faucet.
I woke up for that 8AM biology class like I did every Tuesday and Thursday. I got ready, gathered my things, took my medication, and rolled out the door with my little Breakfast Essentials shake in hand. I drink them in the morning when I’m rushing. So, basically, I drink them every morning.
The second I hit the stairs of my apartment building, the worst nausea I’ve ever experienced began to set in. I briefly contemplated turning back around and going to my apartment but the overachiever in me would rather be burned at the stake than show up late to this class. So I continued on my merry way, gripping the bannister so I wouldn’t topple down three flights.
I was almost to the highway when death became imminent. In that moment, I heard the iconic words of a small Italian woman with a Brooklyn accent: “Eat something, you’ll feel better.” I spotted the Breakfast Essentials shake in my drink holder and I downed it. The chugging ability would make any frat brother jealous. I immediately felt relief. Italian grandmothers are always right (unless they want to put parsley up your butt to help with constipation, then they are WRONG).
Things were going fairly decent. About a mile up the highway, I started to feel nauseous again. My destination was quickly going from biology class to Yack City. Santa Fe is only five miles up the high way and I figured I could make it. Even if I couldn’t get to the school, there’s a Walgreens right off the exit. I could hold it down till I got there or at least to their parking lot. Pulling over on the high way was not a possibility; God forbid one of my peers saw me. I’d probably transfer.
While I was contemplating this all in my head, I started to gag. Gagging provided some relief until I was basically dry heaving in the driver’s seat of my car. I was one exit away from school when the nausea vanished. I gagged the pain away, basically. Not today, Satan!!!
Then I vomited.
It was a small amount at first. I managed to catch it in my right hand as my left hand kept my car on the road. But then it just kept coming. The little puddle in my hand overflowed and it was all over me. Down my shirt. On my pants. The inner console. The radio. I couldn’t even get a grip on my steering wheel because it was all over that too.
I was swerving all over trying to get to the right lane, my vomit filled hands slipping every time I touched the wheel. Like any good Florida driver in a rainstorm, I put my hazards on. I was truly as hazardous as they come. People were swerving around me, beeping at me and peering into my car to catch a peek at the purely incompetent driver operating this motor vehicle. The drivers probably expected to see a blind flamingo behind the wheel but instead saw me, a 20 year old, able bodied woman with vomit on her face, trying to catch the remains of her Breakfast Essential’s shake in her hand.
I reached the exit and looked down at myself. No need for description, you can imagine how bad it was. I got back on to the high way and headed towards home without any hesitation. First I called my mom. There was absolutely nothing she could do from four and a half hours away, but I was absolutely traumatized and needed to share what had just happened. Then I called one of my roommates, Amanda, who I knew was already awake. I calmly explained to her what had happened and that I needed her to bring a towel downstairs. When I got to the apartment, she had not only a towel but also a bottled water (thanks Dita!!!).
I had every intention of going to that 8AM biology class that morning but things just happen. Things you don’t plan, things you can’t control. If you’re lucky, these things will work out in your favor. Other times, they’re just nasty.
I was sitting at a coffee shop with two friends the other night when one asked the other to look over his resume. I felt the saliva catch in my throat. Automatically, I reached for my headphones. This was not a conversation I wanted to be apart of.
But it was a conversation I needed to hear. So I plugged in my headphones but didn’t actually play any music and eavesdropped in the creepiest way possible. They went back and forth about the font choice, which bullet points to use, the margin size, and the usage of personal pronouns. My nausea began to set in.
Let me confess something to you. I don’t have a resume. Not that I don’t have any qualifications, just not the physical piece of paper. I’ve never really had a need for it. I revealed this to a friend the other day and he said, “How could you be a sophomore in college and not have a resume?” He had a point.
That damn resume conversation kept me awake for nights. I would wake up from a deep sleep with cold sweats just thinking about my resume, or lack of. How about a LinkedIn? Do I need one of those? The thing is that I don’t exactly believe in having a resume. But that’s not something you can say to a future employer when they ask for one.
When it comes down to it, resumes basically measure who can say that they worked a really shitty job but in the most elegant way. For instance, “Handled primary administrative functions such as database filing” is the best way for me to say that I was a paper pusher (but still the best damn paper pusher you’ll ever meet). If you’ve ever been through the agony of writing a resume, you know the kind of lingo I’m talking about.
So I swallowed my pride and kicked it into high gear. A handful of days in solitary confinement led to a pretty kick ass resume with a margin size that’ll bring any CEO to their knees. After all, that’s exactly what I’m going to be hired off of.
Despite my intense aversion to resumes, I’m actually a go-getter. When I felt like I was slipping behind the rest of my peers, I picked myself immediately and wrote the resume. But the thing is, I was never slipping. I was never actually behind.
The second you start to tell yourself you’re going to lose the race is the same second you become disqualified. This is a self-prophesized mantra (and as you can tell I’m pretty proud of it). Everyone moves at their own pace and whether it feels like it or not, you’re exactly where you need to be at every moment of every day. It’s really never too late to start something new.
Which is why I’m starting a blog.
And that’s where I ended things back in November.
Everyone on my Instagram got super hyped up after I posted a small picture of my blog under construction with a nice little “Coming Soon” cliff hanger. I had every intention of launching my blog two months ago, but finals came around and life got in the way. You know how it goes. Several of my out-of-state friends asked me over break when the big release was coming and I said, “What release?”
So here I am back on my computer, white cheddar popcorn fingers sticking to my keyboard as I write some words down on a page that will dump my feelings into the wide open electronic abyss we call the internet.
I’m a YUGE fan of the New Year.
I like the thought of renewed hope, new beginnings, and the endless possibilities that another flip of the calendar brings. In reality, it’s just another day and there’s nothing very special about midnight on January 1. But I won’t let the pessimism of my Facebook friends rob me from celebrating with a bottle of champagne.
Despite how fond I am of the New Year, I’m really not one for resolutions (you can ask the several empty journals in my nightstand that I swore I’d write in every night before I went to bed in 2016… 2015,2014 etc). I can’t hang when it comes to resolutions and I’m about, oh I don’t know, 101% positive I’m not the only one who has this issue. I still sleep pretty well at night.
But for those of you who actually have goals for 2017 and plan to stick to them, my heart stands with you. Now a days with our lives being so transparent and overexposed, it is so important to take that time for yourself and to nurture your well-being. As my boy Tim Tebow says in his book Shaken, “Think about whether you want to wake up six months or a year from now being the same person you are today.” Now if that was coming from the mouth of a personal trainer at YouFit, I’d probably punch him in the face. But since it’s coming from Tebow, I put more thought into it. We could all use some work around the edges (and if you’re reading this pretty positive that no aspect of your life needs some tweaking, there’s your answer).
But I digress.
You didn’t have to start a life changing journey on January 1, 2017, but if the turn of the year gets the wheels going then so be it. Take that energy and renewed excitement to make positive impacts in the areas of your life that can use a little grease. I’m not going to offer up a list of resolutions, you know what you need. Now is the time to stop denying yourself of the things you truly need. Now is… well, the time.