It’s chilling to think about, but I was very close to dying twice in my life.  Both of these incidents have played over thousands of times in my head, making me analyze and question everything.  So, how did it happen? How did I  survive?  How did I reflect on each moment and arrive at this point of constant fist-pumping inside a love revolution?

I grew up with a typical problem that most kids have- judging others.  If they didn’t look like me, dress like me, or dwell inside my certain close minded group of friends, then chances are I was judging them.  Why?  I don’t know.  I was a kid who felt a fear toward anything different – a common problem that 99% of adults in this world still have.  I’ll get back to this point in a minute.

My First Reality of Suicide

My first real encounter with near-death didn’t involve my life, but it involved a best friend who took his dad’s car for a spin before he was old enough to drive. He was pulled over and punished accordingly, and it was a possibility that he would lose his privilege of getting a license until the age of 18.  Not a huge deal for older people looking back, but this was EVERYTHING to my friend.

I was staying at his house that night, standing in the hallway upstairs, when he asked me to leave his house.  I noticed he was starting to cry, and my only instinct was overwhelmingly cautious. Something felt really really wrong, beyond a point of normal emotion.  He shut his bedroom door and locked it, and that’s when I heard a rifle cock.

MaskMy memory was sort of white for that moment, but something in my adrenaline kicked in and drove me to bust in the door.  He was sitting on the end of his bed with the rifle in his mouth, ferociously crying and in an obvious lost state of mind.  He pulled the trigger and the gun clicked. The chamber was empty.

He frantically struggled to load in a bullet when we collided. He was ruthless with his mission. Although he was much bigger and stronger than me, I was able to wrestle the gun away from him with the help of his little brother.  We took it into another room and hid it under a mattress.  I was in full tears. The gun WAS loaded.

So, why didn’t it fire when he wanted it to?  How was I able to sense something was drastically wrong despite his seemingly normal effort to ask me to leave?  I still don’t know the answers.

My friend is fine today, although I lost touch with him shortly after the incident.  I know he has a large family and a good job, and I always knew he would make a good father.  How would things have been different if he would have succeeded with the attempt? The beautiful life of his children wouldn’t even exist.  This world would be a much colder, darker place.

Life went on, and I went to college like the average middle-class punk.  I followed certain trends, majored in the money, and continued to judge others who weren’t like me.  Again, it was all out of fear and “tradition.”  I grew up believing that being normal was the goal – get a job, make more money, get married, have kids, judge others, gossip, drag myself out of bed until retirement, live to die.

A ‘Gothic’ Kid Saves My Life

I was a goofy college kid with attributes including clumsy, tall, lanky, pale, punkish, and alcoholic.  I always did very well in school, but it wasn’t something I put so much effort into.  I liked to party, hang out with girls, cause mayhem, get obliterated at concerts, wake up face down pants down in bushes, and smoke quite a bit of ganja.  I’m not saying any of this stuff is wrong now, but it was my entire world then.  It was a sad, closed minded world.

Walking back to my car one day after a Stats class, my hair was long and in my face, my earphones were blaring Tool’s “Ticks & Leeches,” and I was thinking about the next exciting belligerent activity I was going to participate in.  Would it be a little poker and whiskey? Would it be boobies and music?  Would it be bong rips and 8 hours of Call of Duty???

I was standing in front of a crosswalk that I had crossed hundreds of times at an intersection, waiting for the light to turn green. Looking down at the sidewalk, I was dreaming in my head. It was a routine- when the light turns green, I step out into the street and track down my car in the adjacent parking lot.

I don’t remember if the light turned green, or if I just thought it turned green, but I stepped out into the road without looking either direction.  I immediately felt a jerk on my back and my neck whiplashed backwards.  I lost my balance and fell back on the sidewalk, just as a giant bus hustled through the light at about 50 mph.  I could feel the wind on my face from the velocity.

It was a small white kid dressed in all black that grabbed me by my backpack just in time to save my life.  He even had black hair, black makeup, and black fingernails.  He looked at me and said “you almost died,” and then he crossed the street.  I was in a sense of shock that I had only felt once before- when my friend tried to end his life with the rifle.  It took me a few minutes to get up off the ground, and  I remember thinking “what the hell just happened” and panicking drastically.  There was this weird feeling I had of something supernatural present, and I went from feeling like an invincible college badass to the smallest person in the world.  It was the first time I realized that death is absolutely certain.

Back to my point from earlier: I never judged a gothic kid again. In fact, to me they somewhat symbolize a second chance at life in a weird way.  Every time I hear someone making fun/pointing fingers/judging others that are different, I am immediately reminded of the blinders I grew up wearing and the fear I once had to be different.  I went from being so out-of-touch with the actual person inside the body to being overwhelmingly intrigued with those who were different from me, wearing their shells proudly.  This very curiosity to network with and understand different creative minds has stemmed into a huge root for this blog and podcast.  It is the driving force behind my campaign to recreate myself and become a champion.

To the small gothic kid with the overwhelmingly large heart, I owe you everything.

A Plane Ride Saves My Life

As a fresh graduate ready to embark on the “dream” life of building a corporate career, making cash money, and planning a retirement for my uncertain future, I was on my way to a job interview in Houston, TX on a flight that would save my life.

It was a packed house and I was concentrating on my upcoming interview with a company I knew nothing about a job that didn’t interest me at all.  The guy next to me had a bald head, a sweet goatee,  and a considerable amount of tattoos. There was something about him that seemed ultra intriguing, and I would soon find out all about him.

I can’t remember exactly, but I think he initiated the conversation by asking where I was going.  I remember telling him I had an interview and shamefully explaining the sort of work I was in.  It was like he turned his headlights on and blinded me immediately.  He said “do you love it?”

My reaction: “What?  Umm.  No.  I don’t know.  I guess.  No…”

His reaction: “Then why are you doing it?”

You know, that is a really good question.  It was the first time I realized that I was doing it because I thought I had to.  I thought it was normal and required by society. I finally put two and two together and realized that even though a “different” type of person saved my life and allowed me a second chance, I still wasn’t changing myself beyond my acceptance to engage with unique strangers.  I was still dying inside.

The man sitting next to me was Jared Miller, now Jared Angaza (You can read an interesting post on why he changed his last name here).  He was the most interesting person I’ve ever met, even though our conversation was capped at about two hours.  He saved my life on that plane.

I almost didn’t believe him when he told me he was captured by rebel forces in (I think Rwanda) and the United States were bringing him back for his own safety until some sort of turmoil in the area was cleared.  He told me about his life mission to help others, and how he was creating a program to help the women who were victims of the Rwandan Genocide (most prostitutes infected with HIV) make a living through crafting jewelry and other items (KEZA).  He was setting up a system that would allow these women to receive funding and survive.  See, Jared was saving lives every day.

He told me about the real Rastafarians that protected his village, his epic quests with the local tribes- drinking bulls blood and becoming acquainted through their traditions, his amazing relationship with his significant other, and his mission to infectiously change the world.  We looked through pictures of his life on his phone, and I specifically remember one of a black mamba that he had beheaded with a machete, and there was a giant lizard in its belly.  I even purchased some of the Sisters of Rwanda hand crafted jewelry that he was selling to help fund the unfortunate women.  Recently I discovered a post on Jared’s blog that I have fallen in love with: Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is a South African philosophy based in the bantu language and culture. The philosophy is often encapsulated in the colloquial phrase “I am, because of who we all are”, meaning I am a collection of the influence of the humans I’ve experienced throughout life.

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My well-worn copy of No More Mondays

It was surreal to me to meet someone like Jared.  He briefly mentioned a little about his father and his mission to help others build their business around passion.  His father’s influence was playing a huge role on Jared attacking a life of pure meaning.  At the time, I had no idea who Dan Miller was, but Jared shipped me a free copy of his book “No More Monday’s” as soon as he got back.  It just so happens, Dan Miller has saved my life too.  He is the highly respected author behind “48 Days,” – a platform for guiding others in recreating themselves. He even does a podcast that I listen to regularly.

It took me a few years for it all to settle in, but Dan’s book and his ongoing messages have been an anchor for saving my life.

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Dan’s dedication in No More Mondays that has stuck close to me

I have rewired the way I think, and I am now making it my mission to help others pursue the life they love and change the world. This very website, podcast, and mission are staples in my much larger plan: to save lives. I also hear Jared & Dan have a new book out together called Wisdom Meets Passion. I can’t wait to absorb it.

I am forever in debt to that humble little gothic kid, Jared, and Dan.  Thank you all for showing me the true meaning behind life.  I can’t help but think that it wasn’t just coincidence that those simple strangers were sharing those exact spots on this great big planet with me at the very moments that I needed them the most. It’s surreal to ponder on the thought of where I might be, or if I would even be, had they of not been there.

Remember that everyday is a bonus round, and every breath is a step to a much larger meaning.  Life is created through us, and we do have the ability to save ourselves and others. Be different.  Be bold. Cleanse yourself from judgement and recognize the beauty within others.

It might save your life one day.

Have you had a similar experience in the past?  What was it like, and how did you learn from it?  I’d love to hear about it!  Feel feel free to leave a comment below or email me at [email protected].  🙂

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