The Simplicity of Being Nice

When I was in high school, I used to want to be a journalist. I had fun imagining myself writing for Newsweek while it was still a heavyweight in the field of journalism – back before the advent of crazy things like social media and the slow, depressing death of print media. I wanted to travel and write about important things. I wanted to write stories that would impact people.

I ended up at Carolina because of journalism. My sophomore English teacher happened to mention that Carolina had a competitive journalism program, and it was right here in-state! I never even looked at another college. In fact, I never even visited UNC. I just applied for early admission, got in, and went.

While the time I spent at UNC was one of the best times of my life, clearly, things ended up differently for me. I found the Rehabilitation Counseling Program at UNC a couple of years after leaving undergrad, when my dreams of writing full time fizzled with the aforementioned slow death of print journalism. And, I had slowly been nursing the spark that had long since been ignited – the desire to help people with disabilities live their lives as people first, not as a “disabled” person.

Certainly, after my own experience with TBI, I have had plenty of time to think. It’s funny though, because the intense recent coverage of the Philippines typhoon made me think back to my original dreams of being a journalist and just much we can change. Now, nothing seems more odd to me than watching coverage of such devastating events, with a reporter broadcasting live, dressed in clean clothes – likely with a bottle of water and a warm place to stay after she’s done.

I’m not saying it’s the reporter’s fault. But, the thing is, she gets to go home. The people she’s reporting on don’t – they’re already home, and their entire city has been destroyed.

I think that’s the thing about the news. Every day, we hear another horror story. And the thing is, we all get to go “home” when we turn off the TV or the computer. Everyone is dealing with their own tragedy or hardship of some sort, and I guess that’s the important thing to remember.

Know that no matter what you’re dealing with, someone else is going through something, too. Now, that’s not meant to diminish our own “stuff.” It’s just that, we as humans can get pretty selfish – I know I can be. And it’s about keeping things in perspective. You don’t know what the past year has been like for my family. But then again, I probably don’t know what it’s been like for you, either.

I think all this is just meant to serve as a reminder.

Be nice.

Man, I used to get so annoyed when my mom would tell me that when I was little and misbehaving. But it’s so true. We have a lot of things to do in this life – some things we don’t necessarily want to do all the time (who exactly invented working for 45+ years of our lives?!) and lots of things we love to do. And sometimes we get lucky in life and sometimes we get screwed, but it usually balances out. Of anything, the most important thing we can do is just be a decent person and try to be nice.

My injury has taught me many things. It’s shown me the good and the bad in people, the flaws and the positives in how we care for people, and the inner resolve that’s so important to making a good recovery. And yet, the most important thing was also the most simple – we all know that life can be unpredictable and fleeting, yet how many of us (myself included) really live our lives that way? What would have really mattered to me if I had not been so lucky to survive last June 4th? Many, many things to think about.

I never started this blog with the intention of “preaching” anything – the goal has always been just to share my own thoughts and experiences post-TBI. I have seen people posting on Facebook regarding “30 days of Thankfulness” in November, and I think it’s a good thing to think about.

But, I can’t forget about the other 335 days of the year I’ve been given.

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