Little did I know what was going to happen.
The afternoon started out innocently enough. It was close to Christmas and I was driving home along the highway. I was 20 years old and pretty much everything in my life was in chaos. I was so used to this state of affairs that I hardly noticed. I thought this was what life was. I didn’t know there was another way to live.
It would take about 6 hours to get to the city so the sun had long set by the time I reached the outskirts of town. The roads were piled high with snow and ice and I was tired from the hours of alert driving.
It was then that I felt the first prompting: “Go see her.”
An image formed in my mind of my good friend Adrianna. She was a better artist than I could hope to be and she had just this amazing spirit to her.
But I was tired.
The prompt came again, this time I almost turned on the signal light. But it was weariness that stayed my hand.
The third time, it was as if there was a literal voice in my ear, and the tone was firm, bordering on urgent.
“Go See Her!”
My heart started beating fast and I was kind of spooked. I thought: I must really be tired.
I made a deal. I would go over and see Adrianna first thing in the morning.
I drove over early and to my surprise the lights were on. I felt sheepish knocking on the door, fearing I would wake up the house.
Her mother answered and I asked for Adrianna.
“Oh Aaron, Aaron!” she cried. “You don’t know!”
Her hands covered her mouth and her eyes filled with tears.
I was instantly concerned. “What is it?”
“I just came back from the hospital. Adrianna jumped off the High Level bridge last night. She survived but her injuries were too severe. She died just an hour ago.”
And that poor, grieving mother burst into heartbroken sobs.
For years I beat myself up. Sometimes I even blamed myself.
If I had just listened to that small voice my friend would have had someone to talk to, the course of the evening would have changed. She would still be alive.
It was a grief that dogged me, that burdened me. I didn’t know how to come to terms with the fact that something really powerful had nudged me to go to her and I chose sleep instead.
For a long time I felt I was unworthy to be alive myself.
I even found myself standing on that bridge in a moment of despair, but that’s another story.
It took a long time for me to see that I had no control over what happened.
That it wasn’t my fault.
But the lesson of that experience stayed with me.
We have good days, we have bad days. We have our triumphs, we have our falls.
That was a bad day.
But what I learned to do with that bad day has had a profound impact on my life and the way I make choices and the way I listen to that inner prompting.
In fact, that very bad day became a fundamental moment that saved my own life.
You will have bad days. You will have days that rip you apart, that make you feel like you can’t go on.
You will have days that you wish you could do over.
Maybe it’s the way you treated a loved one or a stranger.
Maybe it’s a choice you made that wasn’t good for your soul.
We have all been there. And because this is life, we may all be there again.
But I promise you this:
Those bad days, those bad moments, no one can tell you what they mean or what to do with them.
That is entirely up to you.
There are some pains you will experience that few people will be able to relate to.
But there is someone who will.
In a world of billions, chances are that someone has experienced what you have experienced. You are not alone.
And the challenge is this:
How do we take those days and make them into moments that strengthen us, that teach us, that save us?
That’s where just existing ends and real living begins.
That’s where the importance of thought patterns comes into play.
That’s where the human spirit gets tried and refined.
Finding those answers is why we’re alive, and we find them together. We find them in community, in reaching out.
We find them in the long hours of the night and the bright hours of the day.
We find them in service and in struggle. In making something worthwhile of our time.
We find it, or we live full of regret and emptiness, blaming others for the result of our accumulated choices.
Make your days mean something.
Make them count.
Make your life one you are excited, proud and humbled to be living.
Honour the bad days by creating a lifetime of good ones.
Aaron Paquette is a First Nations Metis artist, author and speaker. Based in Edmonton, Aberta, his first YA Novel ‘Lightfinder‘ comes out in May 2014 through Kegedonce Press.
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