Throughout my life, I’ve spent countless hours on the road. During my sales career, I was constantly commuting throughout Canada and the USA. As a result, road safety is so important to me - for my own sake, for the others on the road, and in order to protect my family. I’ve taken defensive driving lessons, and gone to great lengths to ensure that my boys were skilled and experienced drivers, teaching them to drive comfortably in all reasonable conditions…and helping them learn when not to get behind the wheel, too.
Yet as a young person, I had some incredibly close calls while on the road – both as a passenger and the driver. These experiences not only highlighted the importance of safe driving, but also taught me some big lessons I carry with me to this day.
When things go sideways – and you somehow manage to make it out the other side – it can have the silver lining of clarifying what really matters: what you value most, and how you want to live your life. So today, I’m sharing the stories of the three biggest car accidents of my life – and what I learned from them.
Lesson 1 - Honesty
The first accident was just before my 16th birthday. I was a passenger in the backseat of a friend’s car, driving on a country road, when out of nowhere a wild turkey darted out in front of us. She swerved in time to avoid it, but the car behind us didn’t notice, and hit the back of her car at full speed.
The impact sent us flying off the road – clear through the ‘Welcome to Flamborough' sign – and into the ditch. The force of the collision crushed the car frame, and left me trapped in the back seat.
The police were called, the car was towed, and we were incredibly fortunate to have all survived, with only bumps and bruises.
The challenge was we hadn’t exactly told my dad we were going into town.
Imagine trying to explain to your dad how you ended up with a totalled car, a police report, and whiplash, when you were supposed to have been at home all day. My father has no tolerance for lying, and I had an uncomfortable conversation ahead of me.
So while the crash had been an innocent accident on the part of my friend… if I’m being honest with myself, I knew I was in the wrong by being out in the first place. And this experience taught me the value of telling the truth.
Sometimes, our lives end up going off the road. We make mistakes and miscalculations…or we get thrown off course by something outside of our control. When things go badly, it’s a lot easier to move forward when we can take responsibility for our actions, and work from a place of honesty.
The lesson I learned at 16 is still true today.
Lesson 2 – Community
In my late teens, my boyfriend was driving me home at night – along that same stretch of country road – when we hit a deer.
Once we recovered from the shock of the situation, we had to figure out what to do next. This was back in the days before cell phones, in an area without payphones, and where houses were few and far between.
I realized there was a house within walking distance that belonged to a friend of my dad.
I somewhat sheepishly rang the doorbell (it was after 11pm!), explained who I was and what had happened. I asked if I could use the phone to call my father (luckily I told dad I was going out this time ... Lesson #1 learned and applied!) He hurried over to pick us up and help deal with the logistics of the accident.
It wasn’t a great situation, but it was so much easier to navigate knowing there was someone I could turn to for help. That lesson about the value of community is one I carry with me to this day. Running your own business can be lonely sometimes, but I am so fortunate to have cultivated a circle of supportive, creative and collaborative friends and colleagues who can lean on each other in times of difficulty, and celebrate together, too!
We can accomplish so much more together than we ever could alone.
Lesson 3 – Resiliency
In the third accident, I was the one behind the wheel, and I was alone. It was an early morning in December, during my co-op work term in Haliburton, Ontario, and I lost control on black ice.
As my car skidded off the road, time slowed down, and I noticed a small house, three trees, and the precipice of a steep cliff.
My car hit the last tree.
Once the car came to a stop (and the world stopped spinning) I climbed out of the broken front window, walked back to that one little house, and collapsed.
We’re capable of so much more than we could ever imagine.
In moments of doubt or discouragement, I remember that I was able to drag myself away from the edge, out of that wreck, and back to safety.
That I can trust myself to persevere in the face of adversity.
And that I can handle any twists, turns, or bumps I may encounter on the road of life. Overcoming my adversities helped me to build my resiliency.
Big lessons can present themselves in unexpected places. It might take time, distance, and perspective to recognize the impact of a particular moment on the trajectory of your life. And while there are easier, safer, and frankly more fun ways to learn...if you do find yourself in the ditch at some point (literally or metaphorically), you might as well walk away with some wisdom.
What have YOU learned from life's messy moments?