I have to admit, I’ve had a pretty cushy life. For the most part, I have not struggled or been confronted with any gigantic obstacles. I had one fairly tragic episode when I was 18 years old. During my freshman year at Georgia Tech, I walked through a large plate glass window and received some life threatening injuries. My shoulder was cut to the bone. I could see the sickly white ball and socket joint in my shoulder along with the exposed tendons. My face was cut up pretty badly with deep gashes in my cheek and chin. I also had cuts on my back. They rushed my to Crawford Long where a plastic surgeon stitched me back together. The doctor told me that many people who did what I did either decapitate themselves or cut off a limb because of the recoil reaction. I felt very lucky.
The result was a little loss of mobility in my right shoulder and some severe scars on my face. I have a tendency to keloid (build up of scar tissue), and the scars on my face were very red and raised around 1/4″ off my face. I went to a Halloween party after the accident and was a huge sensation. One girl touched my scarred cheek and said, “That looks so real!” This was followed by her apologizing over and over. I told her it was okay.
I remember writing an essay for an English course that talked about the physical scars and the emotional scars. The physical scars heal much more quickly than the emotional ones. I remember thinking of myself as disfigured and different. I made up conversations that people had about me. They would describe me to another person, and when the other person would not know who I was, they would say, “You know, the guy with the scar on his face.” I was now just a scar. I was different. I stuck out. I’m sure Oscar Pistorius felt very different throughout his life. But there is something burning in him and I think it burns in me as well. I hope it’s burning in you. It’s the hope of something better. It’s the hope of fulfilling dreams. As bad as I felt at times, I always had the hope that there was something better on the horizon.
And now that I look back, that episode in my life has made me a better person. Prior that that accident, I was very arrogant and condescending. I made fun of people for their shortcomings, many times focusing on things that they had no control over. I was a bit of a horse’s ass. But after the accident, I became more empathetic and compassionate toward others. I still struggle with that at times, but I am much better than I was.
And with my dog, Ginger, there were times when that small flicker of hope was fairly dim. In April, I shortened a business trip because we thought we were going to have to put her to sleep. She couldn’t even stand. This morning, she bounded out into the sun room for her daily walk, ate like there was no tomorrow, and is now sleeping at my feet, very content and happy. She always seems to focus on the wonderful things in her life even though there has been a lot of pain, recovery, and loss. Dogs are just wired that way. So as bad as things seem, always keep the hope that things will get better. It will propel you toward that brighter future.