I used to always say I wanted my life to be good enough to be a movie, which meant appreciating the good, the bad, and even the ugly that life threw at me. Well, five years ago life threw me a pretty ugly curve ball. I was visiting Southern Utah with a guy I’d been dating for about six months. He had swept me off my feet and we were having the time of our lives. He was full of adventure, and even though I had permanent white knuckles, it was also the most alive I had ever felt.
We had gone out for a morning hike, and I can still picture the incredible view. It felt like we were on top of the world, with the gorgeous red rocks spiking into the sky as far as we could see. I looked over at my boyfriend and said, "At this moment, my life is exactly perfect. I'm just so happy and there is nothing I would change." He smiled, held me from behind and kissed me. It was straight out of a movie. It was perfect and it was the best day of my life.
Fast forward four hours, as I was being Life Flighted to University Medical Center in Las Vegas. My boyfriend and I had gone for a drive on four wheelers and at one point I got spooked and went off the trail. My front wheels caught a ditch and the heavy machine rolled over me twice. My body just didn’t stand a chance. My boyfriend watched the whole thing in horror, completely helpless. Once I stopped, I yelled to him, “Don’t move me. Call Life Flight. How’s my face?” He still pokes fun at me to this day that my face was the first of my worries.
My face was totally fine, but my body was another story. I had broken nine ribs, my clavicle, and my back at T4 (bra strap level). When my back broke, it compressed my spinal cord, paralyzing me instantly. After the accident came months of recovery in various hospitals, as well as hardship and healing in every way possible. On the bright side, that boyfriend is now my husband and we have an incredible two year old son. Just a few months ago we decided to move our little family to Maui where my body feels much better. I’m now focusing all of my energy on my overall wellbeing while living out my dream of being a writer.
After years of frustration and questions, I have come to the realization that my injury has been a catalyst towards something bigger and better, and I have only scratched the surface of what that is. Trust me, that shift didn’t happen overnight, but it did involve a lot of self exploration. If it wasn’t for my accident, I would have missed out on the growth from the challenges and the strength from the scars. My life may not be perfect, but it sure is special.
My favorite experience so far is a beautiful project I’m working on with with artist Christina DeHoff. I approached her with the fantasy to see myself walk again in one of her paintings, and to have it in time for the 5 year anniversary of my accident on September 22nd. As we were talking about my vision for the piece, I surprised myself with a thought so pure, honest and on point, but somehow I didn't know existed until that moment. I told her with tears streaming down my face, "I believe I will walk again and this picture will one day come to fruition, but I'm ok with the fact it hasn't happened yet, as I still have a lot of work to do. This picture will be a reminder of how hard I need to work. I think I'm not walking yet because I need to be able to connect with others who are also disabled, and I need to be at their level in order to do so. I need to remain relatable for others who are also facing a disability, and then we will get to a place where we can all rise together”. From that moment, I stopped being impatient with my goal to walk, and instead, began fully enjoying the process.
We have the potential to see each challenge as a lesson or motivation, rather than become a victim. The choice is ours. When I was deciding on the name of my blog, Vertical Blonde, it stemmed from the goal to walk again, but it has evolved into a mindset. It is that mindset which has given me the power to turn my accident into a purpose and thrive. My hope is for others to know they too can take control of their perspective lens, give their life the meaning they want, and live Vertically.