Graduated from a great school with honors, check. Landed a job after graduation, check. Top athletic shape of my life, check. Upon graduating college, I felt like I was setting myself up to be exceptional in post-grad life. Working hard in school, getting a well paying job, and to top it off – I could do actual burpees. Everything was falling into place.

Two weeks after I started my job, I was rear ended at a stoplight by a car going 40 mph. My car launched into the car in front of me, who hit the car in front of them, who hit the car in front of them. My airbag went off and my car was totalled. Luckily, I walked away from the car but had no inclination of the damage that had been inflicted on my body.

It’s been over a year now since the accident. As this year has passed I’ve been able to reflect on how I have changed since. Before the accident, I moved about 80 mph. Yoga, school, work, friends, sleep…and it worked for me. I would organize my time based on my priorities and move from one activity to the next as efficiently as possible. Everything was round and fit in their respective round holes.

The accident changed all of that. In the beginning, I couldn’t sit in a chair for more than an hour. Sometimes I cried in the bathroom at work due to the pain. I couldn’t drive a car for more than 20 minutes due to the combination of pain and anxiety. Chiropractor appointments were 3x per week and physical therapy was 2x per week. This was my life as a new college grad. Not your typical “days of freedom”.

Over the months, my health did improve. My body healed very slowly but surely. It was the hardest year of my life, but with challenge comes change. Below are 5 lessons I walked away with.

 

1. Rest

Your body needs rest. Even if you don’t think you do, even if you think you can fit in a workout today – rest. When you have been in a traumatic accident, your body needs rest to recover. Stop pushing yourself and listen to what your body is trying to say.

 

2. Acceptance

Things change and so does your life. If you cannot except that being injured is your everyday, that recovery is part of the deal, or that this accident may spill into and affect other areas of your life, it’s very hard to let it go. You must deal with that you have instead of focusing on what you wish it would be.

 

3. Find New Hobbies

Pre-accident, my main hobby was working out. Yoga, cardio, weights, hiking, you name it and I was onboard. Being injured immediately took away that huge part of my life. Hours that used to be devoted to getting my sweat on were now empty. I learned to develop new hobbies, like writing.

 

4. Get Back On The Horse

Even now driving a car sends waves of anxiety through me and tightens up my neck. However, today was better than yesterday which was better than the day before. One day I know I’ll be able to drive without thinking about the accident.

 

5. Appreciate

Pre-accident I placed a high amount of importance on my physical body. Being a perfectionist who once had an eating disorder will do that to a person. I know I’m smart, funny, kind, and loving but at the time I thought being in great shape was what defined me.

 

Since the accident, my views have shifted. I take more time to cultivate meaningful friendships and place more importance on those connections. I take great pride in my intellectual capabilities and love how much I am able to contribute at work. I take more time to show my love and be present with my boyfriend. I am grateful for so much more now than just the vessel that is my body. I strive every day to let myself be silly, show my love for others, and be vulnerable in ways that I couldn’t pre-accident.

I’m still healing and trying to make sense of what happened. Although the past year has changed me from the inside out, I’m glad the accident happened. It taught me to rest, accept, pick up new hobbies, overcome my fears, and be grateful for the little things.

Through this process I have also switched jobs twice. One thing I definitely don’t waste any more is my time. I’ve learned it’s too precious to not genuinely love what you are doing and whom you spend your time with.

This post is dedicated to all those who have helped me, been there for me, listened to me complain about my neck, and love me for who I am. Without you, this struggle would have been much harder. I’m forever grateful.