Reflecting on my Accident One Year Later

On Friday evening, March 2 2018, I was hit by a car while crossing the street. I know, I just dropped a bomb on ya. But, keep reading, because this post is heading in an unexpected direction. Now, one year later, I'm living a very different life and doing photoshoots in the middle of the street. Who woulda thought...

It was the first day of a big snowstorm and I was heading to an after-work yoga class before meeting up with a girlfriend for dinner. As a morning workout person, exercising after work was something I rarely did, especially on a Friday. I’d venture to say this was probably the first time I tasked myself with this activity. Plus, the yoga class was in Brooklyn, somewhere I rarely ever ventured for workouts. I got off the subway, threw on my massive fur lined hood to my jacket, and got walking to the studio. As I approached the final block, with the studio just across the street, I waited for the pedestrian sign to signal “walk”, looked both ways, and began crossing the street. One second I was halfway through the crossing path and the next I was on the ground looking up at a car’s head beams having no idea how I got there. While I was crossing the street, a car was driving down the parallel street and instead of continuing to go straight through his green light, he turned left and, without seeing me thanks to the snow, poor lighting, and the fact that I was in all black, didn’t stop until he struck my body. Fortunately for me, what ended up really helping my situation was that I had my headphones in and my hood on, unaware that the car had turned prior to hitting me. Personally, I believe if I hadn’t had these “blockers” of sorts, I would’ve turned towards the noise of the car and either been hit facing the car or tightened my body in preparation for the blow. Since I was unaware of the car approaching the light and then turning, it hit the side of my body while I was completely relaxed. Even though I flew onto the hood of the car and the onto the ground, my physical body was left pretty unharmed besides a few bruises here and there. My brain, however, was not as fortunate. Hitting my head on either side on both the car and the ground, I was left with a concussion.

When the man hopped out of the car a nervous wreck and in an obvious panic, my first instinct was to make sure he was okay and assure him it wasn’t a big deal. Yes, you read that right. The people pleaser and caregiver in me immediately went to comforting him. It wasn’t until he asked if I needed an ambulance and I called Joe to tell him what happened that it all hit me (quite literally). Cue the flood of tears. Once I got off the phone with Joe and somewhat got my shit together, the man walked me to the yoga studio to find my friend (the instructor) to make sure I was okay. It wasn’t until I sat down with my friend and mustered up the nerve to call my mom that it all became a reality: I just got hit by a car. My physical body felt fine, besides a few aches in my leg and just overall stiffness, but it became very clear, very quickly, that my brain was injured. After experiencing five concussions in my lifetime prior to this, I knew the symptoms, and I realized it was time to head to a hospital. I made my way back into Manhattan (thank you to my kind Uber driver who listened to my tear-filled car ride), and met Joe outside of the ER.

At the hospital, they immediately ran an MRI on my brain and an X-ray on my leg (although I knew nothing was wrong, they wanted to be sure). Everything came back clear and I was released with the diagnosis of a standard concussion. The doctor wrote me a letter excusing me from work for Monday and told me to “lay low” for the next two days. Joe and I headed home, ordered Mighty Quinn’s for dinner, and went to bed. That night, although I had a pretty bad headache and bruising on the side of my face, I had no idea what was in store for me. To be honest, I remember thinking, “sweet, I don’t have to go to work on Monday”. Boy, was I in for a surprise. That next morning, I woke up, hopped out of bed, turned on the lights in our apartment, and began making my morning cup of coffee. Within five minutes I found myself back in bed, waking up Joe, and crying hysterically that my head had never hurt so badly in my life. Nervous that the headaches had progressively gotten way worse, I called my primary care doctor who encouraged me to go get a CT scan to check for internal bleeding. That day spent in the emergency room was one of the longest ones of my life. Concerned that something serious was wrong, unable to stop the pounding headache that felt like someone was drilling into my forehead, and feeling nauseous at the slightest glimmer of light or screen activity, I suddenly became nervous for the road ahead. No concussion I had experienced before came close in comparison to this. Fortunately, after a full day in the ER, my results came back clear yet again. There were no internal bleeds, just a severe concussion. Although scared by my current symptoms, I still, in that moment, had no idea what was ahead for me and what an extended recovery journey this would be. Since I was still working in the corporate world at this time, I called my boss to inform him of the situation and the fact that I didn’t necessarily have a return date since I wasn’t sure when I’d be feeling better. I do recall, however, telling him that I’d probably be back by the middle of that week. What a fantasy world I was living in…What I originally thought would just be a few days off work turned into over eight full weeks of disability. I am extremely fortunate that this accident happened at a time where I was working in the corporate world and that I was employed by a company that offered these benefits.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for concussions or exact recovery timeline, so it was extremely helpful to have a team that understood the continuous change of my return date. Having this flexibility with my job, and the comfort that I was able to take the time I needed to properly heal, allowed me to fully recover before returning back to my regular life – something I am extremely grateful for.Now that you’re all filled in with the details of the accident, let me reflect on it all. I’m someone who has always believed everything happens for a reason. Part of me hates that saying, because some really shitty stuff happens to people and I’d hate for them to think there is a “reason” for this, but I truly believe every moment in your life, whether an up or a down, leads you on the path you are meant to be put on and that there is another opportunity awaiting solely because of that prior event. In terms of this accident, I believe it was fate. I know, that sounds freaking ridiculous, but I truly do. I was someone who notoriously jaywalked all the time, often crossed the street while looking at my phone, and had a sense of invincibility. If someone were to tell me I’d get hit by a car, a part of me wouldn’t be all that surprised – after all, we live in Manhattan where people have close calls daily.

What does surprise me is that it happened at a time where I was truly making every effort to pay attention and was not in the wrong. It also shouldn’t go unnoticed that this was a very uncannily me night: never in my life had I gone to exercise after work on a Friday night or taken a workout class in Brooklyn. Leading up to this night I was working full time in Sales & Trading, growing my Freckled Foodie account, and planning a wedding. People were constantly asking me “how are you managing to do it all; aren’t you stressed?” My response (that I gave to many of people), “I’m surprisingly okay. I feel like I’m running with a blindfold on. I’m sure there’s a brick wall that I’ll run into soon, I’m just not sure when.” Turns out, that said “brick wall” was about to be a car.

It may sound odd, but this accident became a pivotal moment in my life. A time where everything changed. In a weird way, I now view my life as “before the accident” and “after the accident”. I get how drastic that may sound, but things truly changed for me. Prior to the accident, I was a go-go-go Type A person making an effort to do everything possible at once. There was no downtime or relaxing for me, only more. Whether it was more in a sense of accomplishments at work, recipes created for my site, miles ran, or likes on a post, there was always an imaginary bar I wanted to reach and it was constantly being raised. Focusing on things that didn’t matter, and finding myself more and more less engaged and enthused by my full-time job, I wasn’t as happy as I always had been. Sure, on surface level, I had it all: the dream job, a healthy family, a fairytale engagement, and a great group of friends. I’m not saying all of those things aren’t true. I’m aware that my life was, and still is, amazing. However, I didn’t feel the joy or happiness that I always had growing up. My job was more draining than I acknowledged and did not provide me with the fulfillment that I was so desperately in need of. It checked off all of the boxes that I had originally thought I was looking for (well respected, incredible pay, team oriented, etc), but it wasn’t providing me the joy I never realized I was lacking. Towards the end of my career there I definitely took notice of this, and realized I didn’t love my job as much as I once thought I had, but my ego got in the way of me ever really doing anything about it. I wore my job like a badge of honor and, hell, what would I ever do without that nice paycheck? Even after realizing how passionate I was about food and the health/wellness space, I had come to the conclusion that there was no point in entertaining that fantasy. My job was my job and it always would be; Freckled Foodie would just continue to be a side project that I had fun with. I remember having these internal conversations with myself and telling the voice that tried to speak up in acknowledgement of the anxiety I felt every day walking into that office to shut up. Instead of letting myself be fully aware of how unsatisfied I was with my current job, I continued to tell people how much I “loved it” in hopes of convincing myself.

Then, on March 2, everything changed. The accident snapped everything into reality for me. I’m not saying I escaped death, but it sure as hell made me realize how quickly life can change and how we really have no control over it at all. As much as we would like to believe that we are in complete control of our lives, shit happens. Unfortunately, it is usually shit that we have no say over. Whether it’s a diagnosis, a freak accident, or something of the like, life is filled with moments we cannot prepare for. While we cannot control these situations, I believe we can control how they shape us. Whether it is as massive of a life change as mine became, that’s one thing, but you make the decision on how you bounce back from things. During my eight-week concussion recovery, was I frustrated as hell? Absolutely. Were there nights filled with tears and complaints and questions of “when will these symptoms ever go away”? You bet ya. But, majority of that time was spent reflecting and practicing gratitude. Grateful that I was alive, appreciative that I had family, a then fiancé, and close friends who wanted to take care of me, and reflective on how my life was really going vs what I wanted it to be like. With a whole lot of alone time spent relaxing, meditating, and journaling, it became obvious that I was not following my heart. So many people who are unhappy with their jobs wish they had a passion or dream job to pursue. I was fortunate enough to have that, so why the hell was I ignoring it? With a recent empowerment and confidence, both of which I never thought I needed more of, it became clear what I had to do: quit my job and follow my dreams. If I didn’t succeed, so be it, but at least I could say that I tried. Did I have a business model or set game plan? Nope. Did I go against almost every piece of advice I received? Yes. However, was it even a question? Surprisingly, no. After this accident, everything became clear. Truly, I’ve never felt such clarity over anything in my life. No longer was there a question of “could I really make this into something?” that continuously ran through my mind every time I posted on Freckled Foodie. Instead, it became a question of “how could I not?” Truly, I have never felt such a strong pull to anything before. After I recovered, I went back to work for a little over a week and then put in my notice. I swear, that week was the longest of my life. After finally acknowledging what I wanted to do and accepting the fact that this was going to be my future instead of constantly trying to quiet that voice, I could barely get myself to walk through the revolving door of that office.

This extreme life change, which coincidentally lead to many more, is the reason I believe there is an opportunity for positive outcome of every situation you are faced with. Sure, it probably seems shitty at the time, but take a step back. There is a lesson to be learned or change to be made in every struggle we are faced with, it just takes courage and vulnerability to figure out what that may be. Once you accept the card you have been dealt and that whatever you are facing is now your reality, essentially letting go, you create space to grow. The life I live now, one that I never could’ve imagined in my wildest dreams, is why I am weirdly grateful that my accident happened. Obviously, I could do without the sometimes-lingering concussion symptoms or the somewhat PTSD emotions I feel while walking around NYC during the first few snowstorms of the year, but it has given me a gift I never knew I needed: passion, fulfillment, and vulnerability. To the man who hit me with his car, I oddly want to thank you. If it weren’t for you, I am confident in assuming I would still be in the same stressful, go-getting, anxiety packed, and unsatisfying hamster wheel of life I was living. I thank you for forcing me to realize that life is short and that I should be grateful for every moment on this beautiful planet. I thank you for forcing me to slow down and reconnect with my body. I thank you for smacking me in the face with the reality that I was not happy at my job, no matter how many people I told that lie to. I thank you for guiding me to find my passion and chase my dreams. Most of all, I thank you for allowing me to tell my story, because I’m just getting started.

Photo credit to Carly Landolt