OPINION: Near-accident a reminder of life lessons

Two weeks ago today I had an experience. Some call it “life changing,” some call it “eye opening.”
I well, I’m still trying to decide what to call it.
I was on my way to Memphis to visit a friend when I hydroplaned. There was some spinning, and I came really close to hitting a bridge. Something – call it God, luck or physics – stopped my car before I hit it.
Physically, I’m fine, as is my car. Mentally, though, I’ve been a little shaken – no pun intended.
This was, hands down, the scariest moment of my life. In the midst of all that action, I actually thought to myself, “This is how I’m going to die.” I just knew it. Thank God, I didn’t. I walked away from something that could – and maybe should – have been much worse.
Since it happened, my friends have offered a chorus of clichés: “Life is short,” “carpe diem,” and usually something that ends with the phrase, “in the blink of an eye.”
When something as dramatic and scary as an accident happens, those clichés shine brightest. I guess they’re meant to be, I don’t know, comforting? Inspiring? Thought-provoking? Educational?
The thing is, I already knew how fragile life is and how things can happen “in the blink of an eye” (it’s faster than that, by the way). Like many people, I’ve lost friends and family to car accidents or other tragedies.
It’s sad that it takes something as dramatic and scary as an accident to make us learn these lessons. But simply hearing clichés like those really won’t teach you anything; experience is, unfortunately, the best teacher.
We let so many stupid, petty differences get in our way every day, and that’s a shame.
Maybe it’s as serious as a betrayal or as petty as a person’s race or sexual orientation, but, wow, people know how to hold a grudge against others.
Rather than working through things or even agreeing to disagree, we let grudges fester until they turn into hate.
We really should be ashamed of ourselves.
Especially since losing my cousin in an accident three years ago, I’ve learned to cling a little more tightly to those I love. I’ve sought out what makes my friends different from me, and I’ve learned to appreciate them more than ever.
I know one column can’t turn people’s hearts; again, it’s been my experience that this is a lesson you often have to learn the hard way. But take it from me when I say those clichés are true.
Life is too short, really, and things can change faster than you’d ever believe. Stop seeing differences in people as negatives, and learn to appreciate the people in your life.
They can be taken from you so quickly – or, you from them.
I’m still not sure what to call my near-accident. I can’t say I learned from it, really, or that it dramatically changed my life. Mostly it was a reminder of those lessons I learned three years ago.
Maybe “enlightening” is the best word for it.

Contact Daily Journal writer Sheena Barnett at 678-1580 or sheena.barnett@djournal.com. Also read her entertainment blog, Scene Now, at NEMS360.com/pages/scene_now.

Sheena Barnett

Click video to hear audio