Two years ago, today, I experienced one of the scariest, but also, most life-changing events of my life. After spending an awesome day at Universal Orlando with some dear friends, I was starting my drive home to Jacksonville. I had barely touched onto I-4, from SR-192, when traffic came to a stop due to the construction occurring near International Drive. I came to a stop, but the SUV behind me did not and hit the back of my 2010 Mini Cooper going 70 mph. Luckily, I was able to walk away from the accident, but not without serious whiplash, soreness and pain throughout my back (that would take months of physical therapy and steroid shots to work through), a definite bout of PTSD, and, what I and my doc would come to realize later, was an undiagnosed concussion. Additionally, in the course of the year following the accident, I hit the highest weight that I have ever been in my life.

Much more than the physical side, I was hit emotionally. I had been putting my all into everything around me: Extra Life, robotics, the HRO, and more, in hopes of making our community better, but also in hopes of making a career for myself in Jacksonville. By this point, I had been out of the Navy for close to five years and still hadn’t been able to land a job in the Bold City. I, also, had been giving of myself to many people, both personally and professionally, that weren’t as gracious with my time, effort, and with myself (as a person), as I felt I was with theirs. I was mentally and physically exhausted, on the daily, for most of 2016.

The accident, as bad as it was to my person as a whole, was the wake up call that I had been needing to stop living by other people’s standards, putting other people and projects before what I really wanted to do, and to put myself first. So I started cutting toxicity out of my life, choosing to attend a concert or event that I wanted to experience rather than volunteer for the 3rd straight weekend in a row, taking day trips by myself to see things around our city/area that I have always wanted to see, and applying for opportunities that I knew I’d love, even if I might not be as qualified as I thought.

Long story short, the changing of my mind set from wanting to please others to wanting to please myself had been something that I needed for quite some time. Once I put all the judgment and opinions to the side, I was able to focus on what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. It was like the universe knew exactly what I needed when I landed an incredible job in September 2016 that I love with every bit of my heart, if you can’t tell by how much I talk and post about it.

I started down the road of losing the weight that I put on after the accident in March of 2017. Being at work, being on my feet throughout the day, lifting and moving things throughout the building has played a major part in my weight loss and has helped me regain my strength. Just the other day, one of my co-workers remarked that it had been awhile since I asked him to carry something for me, because there was a while where I wasn’t physically capable of doing it, and that he’s noticed how much stronger that I’ve become. Now, just over a year later, I’m 30 lbs down (pretty much pre-accident weight if I’m honest) and my strength is getting better every day, but I’m not done yet. There’s still a ways to go.

All of that said, I don’t believe I would have moved onto the path that I am now without having been in that accident. I still get caught up with what other people think sometimes, but then I realize how much happier that I am now, and the true and awesome people that I’ve chosen to surround myself with. On the two-year anniversary, I still mourn my sweet Delilah (my dear, sweet Mini Cooper), but I’m proud of how I’ve bounced back from it, even if it took a bit longer than I originally planned.