“You have a concussion.”

I asked the ER doctor to confirm what he just told me, “I’m sorry, did you say I have or don’t have a concussion?”

“You have a concussion,” he repeated.

Concussions were for football players, right? That wasn’t something just anyone could get, or so I thought. I especially didn’t understand how a falling piece of ice could have really given me for a concussion. It didn’t make sense — and again, I was concussed, so it really didn’t make sense.

Now, nearly two months into my concussion recovery, there’s a lot I wish I would have known before I got my concussion. But wait — why should you care about what I wish I knew before I got a concussion? After all, the odds of you ever suffering a concussion are slim, right? And the odds of it ever happening the way it happened to me are even slimmer (unless you live in Minnesota, then those odds increase ten fold, as it’s winter most of the year — or so it feels like). But to that I say I had five weeks out of work to do nothing but think and learn about life. And maybe I learned something you need to hear, even if you don’t anticipate a concussion any time soon — which again, you never know.

Healing periods are some of the most critical times of our lives. 

We all suffer pain. Heartache. Physical injuries. Loneliness. Some depression. Anxiety. The list goes on. At some point in your life, you have entered a period of healing. And that last time certainly won’t be the last time. Instead of dreading that time, be grateful for it. We are always changing. We aren’t stagnant beings. So why wouldn’t you be grateful to be in a state of changing for the better? Embrace the opportunity to grow into a new space that you never imagined you had within you.

We usually don’t look for ways to grow when we’re doing well. It’s the hardships that force us into a state of growth. That doesn’t mean we won’t have battle scars. It means that next time we go to war, our armor will be tougher.

Never underestimate the power of today. 

Good or bad, today could be life-changing. No one could have ever predicted that I would get a concussion the day that I did. No one could have ever predicted that it would take months to recover from a falling chunk of ice (well, at least my doctors didn’t). No one could have told me “Today will be a memorable day in your story.” If they did, I would have laughed in their face. It was a Monday. I didn’t have anything particularly interesting planned for that day — other than a first date. And you’re thinking “Hey, that could have been memorable, Taylor. This dude could have been your soulmate.” Don’t worry. He wasn’t.

But that day was significant — not in a great way — but significant nonetheless. But I learned to never underestimate the power of today. This might just be what us book/movie lovers like to call a “turning point” in your story.

A sense of purpose comes from living life on purpose. 

Recently, a good friend of mine described a lack of fulfillment in her day-to-day life. It is important to note this friend is just one-year post-graduation. I say that because a lot of people think all of your soul-searching is done in college. But I am here to argue that the majority of your soul-searching comes in the period of life directly following the graduation of your highest level of education. In fact, I believe that so strongly that I believe that even applies to those who go into highly specialized fields — including graduate level and doctoral degrees. I know people who finished law school and never actually practiced law a day in their lives. Let me reiterate that: you are never too educated to question what you want out of life.

We all go through a soul-searching period after school because it’s the first time in our lives that we might not have a greater purpose to work toward aside from work. In school, you have a purpose and a clearly defined goal. And you’re investing thousands — maybe tens, hundreds of thousands — of dollars into getting this piece of paper. So, there are external factors guiding your behaviors. You are being very intentional about how you spend your time and energy. And then, suddenly, life sets in.

Maybe you frame that piece of paper. You wave it eagerly at potential employers. And if you’re doing it right, you get a job. But then what? Now, you don’t have a clearly defined goal set by society’s expectations of you. The thing is society doesn’t necessarily spell out your next steps — which is equal parts exciting and terrifying. It’s now pretty acceptable to take your time to form a family — if that’s even what you want.

So now you have to pick your life on purpose. In school, you might have been able to skate by on the bare minimum and being a good test taker — if that’s your style. But life isn’t really like that. You get to decide what you want to do with your life.

It’s taken me two years and a concussion to figure it out, but I now know that my life is filled with purpose. That hasn’t happened by accident. I didn’t wake up one day and accidentally stumble into a meaningful and fulfilling day job (though, ironically, that is how I temporarily stumbled out of it.) I worked hard, I made deliberate decisions  –guided by my skillset and strong suits — and I was blessed with a life full of opportunities. I didn’t make excuses for why my life wasn’t a certain way. What I didn’t like, I changed. I don’t mean to oversimplify this, but I want you to know that it is possible to change your life. In fact, you are the majority stakeholder in your life, so it is in your best interest to invest in a life you love.

Again, when you start living life on purpose, you will live a life full of purpose.

If it was already abundantly clear — I had a lot of time sitting around doing nothing but think about my life. Don’t get me wrong, I am nowhere near done with my soul-searching and figuring out exactly what I want my life to be. But it’s much clearer to me now that I won’t just stumble upon it — that it is on me to actively work toward leading a fulfilling life.

When I titled this post, I originally started thinking of ways I could have prevented my concussion. The truth is I couldn’t have prevented it. This was pure dumb luck. And stay with me here — I’m actually kind of glad that it happened. Now, I know what you’re thinking, Why would you be glad something like this happened to you?? It put me out of work for more than a month and will continue to limit my workability and livelihood for the foreseeable future. It severely limited my activities for weeks, and the seemingly endless headaches have been excruciating. I really wouldn’t wish this upon anyone; it completely disrupted my life. But that’s why I am grateful.

See, I don’t like to look at the setbacks as negatives. I choose to see them as lessons. Without this experience, I would lack the self-awareness to recognize which of my behaviors were productive versus which were hindering my goals. The same incident that has made my mind foggy for so long has given me a sense of clarity. And that, my friends, is the power of a mindset shift.

Hopefully, you learned something that I wish I knew before my concussion so that you don’t also have to go through the same thing to learn these lessons. And if this was complete nonsense to you — then, excuse me — I am concussed.