By Zenessa Anderson
On Sunday, October 10, I was in a car accident that saved my life. Until the moment I was careening down the side of a bluff, my biggest worries were turning in homework on time, making it to my shift at work, and finding time to attend the meetings of the million clubs I am in. The worries had gotten so bad that I visited the school counselor for help. Her advice to me? Slow down. She told me to prioritize the things in my life that truly mattered to me. I could drop clubs that I was only in for my college resume, take shifts at work only when I had time, and, while I couldn’t put off homework completely, settle for a lower score if it meant putting less time in. I nearly laughed in her face. Taking things easy has never been my style, and I didn’t plan on starting then. I was hoping she would wave a magic wand and make my worries go away without me having to change anything. Besides, how could I take her advice of practicing self-care if I didn’t even remember what I like to do in my free time?
I ignored her wise words and continued living life how I always had: rushing from place to place trying to do everything. It was while I was rushing back from my Environmental Chemistry study group to go do an English essay that I overcorrected on gravel and swerved off the road. I flew through the air, hit at least five trees, and totaled the truck. The wild ride from the top of the hill to the very bottom took less than a minute, but to me, it felt endless. I had seen in movies what happens when you get in a crash that bad; I accepted that I was going to die. I almost didn’t believe I was alive when the truck crashed into the final tree and stopped at last. My adrenaline boosted my hike back up the bluff to get help.
In the ambulance, I asked an EMT if I still had to do my English essay. She laughed and said no. She thought I was joking, but getting homework done on time was so ingrained in my head that even my dazed mind was worried about it. I had held it together well until I saw my parents’ reaction to my injuries. I burst into tears thinking about what they would have done if they had lost their only daughter. I thought of all the nights I had spent in my room instead of with my family, all the moments I had missed because I was too busy doing things I deemed more important. My priorities needed to be realigned.
In the days since the crash, I have made more time for the important people in my life. I readjusted my school schedule to be a more manageable load that will make me happier. I allocated time to be spent doing only things that make me happy. I even found time to write things just for me instead of always for someone else. In the few days since I made changes, I have already noticed how much better I am feeling, even while still in physical pain.
I am more grateful for the things in my life now that I have almost lost them. I’m probably most grateful to my parents for instilling in me always to wear my seatbelt. I wouldn’t be here writing this article if I hadn’t worn it. I also learned the hard way to go slower than you think you need to on gravel, especially on hills. I will definitely be driving much slower from now on.
My life has completely changed for the better since the accident. I’m prioritizing what is important to me, I am spending time doing things for myself, and I have certainly learned a thing or two about safety. My life was saved by almost dying. I finally am ready to take my school counselor’s advice to figuratively, and literally, slow down.
Zenessa Anderson is a student at Rushford-Peterson High School. She is one of 14 area students participating in the Journal Writing Project, now in its 23rd year.