I Almost Died… And then I climbed Mt. Everest – My body is slammed one way, then the other. I have suddenly become a pinball in an old-fashioned arcade game, bouncing against the glass of my vehicle before my seatbelt abruptly stops the motion and jerks me back in the other direction. Over and over and over I roll during the most violent somersault of my life.
The car finally skids to a halt and for a moment everything is still and quiet. The first thing I notice is the sound of my own breath. Okay, I’m alive. That’s a good place to start.
Are you okay? Are you okay? I hear the man’s panicked voice faintly at first, then louder.
Am I okay? Friend, I have absolutely no idea. All I know is that I’m not ready to face the reality if life as I know it is over.
My visual field slowly starts to clear. I notice that I am hanging upside down in my wrecked car, with a worried face trying to get my attention through the space where my windshield used to be. I close my eyes and wiggle my fingers and toes. I can feel them. Good sign number two.
Someone extracts me from my ruined car and loads me on a stretcher. I close my eyes against the flashing red and white lights of the ambulance and try to take myself back to the moments right before the crash. The accident was imminent; there was no room to get out of the way. Somehow, my thought process in that split second was crystal clear: If I am allowed to continue living, I will do so differently. With more passion. More joy.
The doctors at the hospital couldn’t understand how I could still be alive: never mind the fact that I was able to walk out of the ER with no injuries aside from a concussion. “This is what a miracle looks like,” they said.
That line became a mantra of sorts as I considered how my life would look in the “after.” Yes, the outcome of my accident was a miracle. But my life was a miracle even before that. After all, the probability of being born with my exact characteristics is about 1 in 400 trillion (the same goes for you, by the way). I’d say that’s pretty miraculous. And I realized that I needed to do a better job celebrating it.
Now let me be clear: I was in no way unhappy with my life before the accident. I had a successful business and seven (yes, seven) beautiful children. I absolutely wasn’t miserable, but I also wasn’t ecstatic. I was living right smack in the middle of those two extremes, just as most of us probably do. When my car was careening toward imminent destruction back in 2018, it became very clear that when all is said and done it’s just me and life. I have all these kids, I have all these roles… but at the end of the day, I’m going to check out of the world by myself. This understanding gave me a unique sense of courage. I have very little control about when I will leave this life, but I sure do get to decide how to live while I’m here. I can choose a new beginning at any time.
The car accident was life-altering, to be sure, but it’s not like it suddenly gave me superpowers. It didn’t somehow give me more time in the day (don’t I wish) or increase my lung capacity. What it did change was my mentality. I decided that I would find the things I likely couldn’t do when I was 80 and instead do them now. Rather than throw a blowout party for my 40th, I would celebrate by climbing one of the world’s tallest mountains. Thanks to pressure from my son (who reminded me while completing his math homework that our family does hard things), I began working with a coach in preparation to climb the tallest: Mount Everest. He understood my personality from the very beginning and suggested a challenge called the Seven Seconds: summitting the second tallest mountains on each continent. If I succeeded, I would be the first woman to do it. That was all the convincing I needed.
I’m currently well along on my quest to complete Seven Seconds (I’ve summitted five of them so far) and have oriented my life around the constant possibility of new beginnings ever since walking away from the accident. I break my day into four quarters, giving myself the ability to start with a blank slate if one quarter didn’t go the way I hoped. I also pick one day per month where I set an alarm on my phone to go off once every hour, prompting me to take a minute to connect to myself. Am I doing what I want to be doing in this moment? Am I showing up the way I want? This practice forces me to take myself off cruise control and be present.
You don’t have to wait until you have a near-death experience (I genuinely hope you’ll never have one) to start living from a place of wonder, curiosity, and possibility. New beginnings are available to us every single time we take a breath. You are alive to experience this world, and you should treat that fact with the reverence it deserves. Say hello to that stranger, book that plane ticket to the city you’ve always wanted to explore, call up that family member you haven’t talked to in a while. New beginnings are available to let us explore our curiosities, which are messages that direct us to the things that are meant for us. Be brave enough to start again. And again. And again. After all, the space between the beginning and the end is where the richness of life is lived. How are you going to use your time?
Connect with Jenn: http://www.jenndrummond.com
Jenn Drummond is an entrepreneur, a mom of 7, and a relative newcomer to the mountaineering scene. After surviving what should have been a fatal car crash in 2018, she decided it was time to stop living on autopilot and instead, live her life with purpose and intention. Facing her own mortality emboldened her to make the absolute most of every moment – starting with the highest point on Earth. It all began in a moment of homework-induced frustration when one of her sons challenged her can-do motto of “we do hard things” by asking: “Then why haven’t you climbed Mt. Everest yet.” Now, just two short years later, Jenn has conquered Everest and 5 other peaks, on her way to becoming the first female ever to complete the Seven Second Summits.