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What Nearly Dying Taught Me About Living

by Elisa Toy about a year ago in advice
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5 Life Lessons I Learned From My Near-Death Experiences

What Nearly Dying Taught Me About Living
Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

There’s this social construct within most of society that one needs to achieve the unachievable to be considered successful in life. People often wake up every day with the notion that they need to work their asses off to be noticed and seen. This notion often distracts many from what’s around them; both good and bad.

This used to be me. My whole idea of life used to be “follow the straight path” and “conform to societal norms”. I had previously thought that I needed to succeed in school, get accepted into a top university, achieve a degree I wasn’t passionate about, just to find myself stuck in a depressing career because “it pays a lot of money”. However, my perceived concept of life changed after my close encounters with death.

At eight years old, I was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer. I had nearly died, and as a child, it was a terrifying experience. While I had learned to appreciate life a bit more after that experience, It wasn’t until ten years later when I met another near-death experience, that my perspective of life completely changed. I was eighteen years old, months away from high school graduation, worried about getting accepted into top colleges and achieving success. I received surgery that year to replace the implant in my right knee. It was supposed to be a fairly simple procedure, but I ended up with an infection that spread to my blood, called Sepsis, that nearly killed me. This near-death experience completely changed my life for both good and bad, but I truly appreciate the experience because it taught me how I should be living life today.

Appreciate Every Little Thing

By Emma Simpson on Unsplash

Prior to my near-death experiences, I woke up every day with no second thought. Today, I wake up grateful to have woken up. The mere thought that I woke up and I’m still alive is something I celebrate daily. Appreciate the fact that you woke up this morning. Life is often taken for granted when it’s something everyone should be grateful for. Along with my appreciation of life, my perspective of happiness changed after nearly dying. As people, we often overthink happiness. Keep those thoughts simple. There is something good in every moment of your life. Find that one good thing and keep your focus there. While every day may not be good, there is something good in every day; no matter how small. When I’m having a bad day, I focus on the things in my life that bring me happiness. No matter how bad the day, thinking of things that bring me joy such as art, or my house full of wonderful animals, gives me an appreciation of what I do have, and brings about a little happiness to my not-so-great day.

Be Yourself

I used to believe that changing myself, whether it be my appearance or personality, was something I needed to do in order to fit the roles of society. I was often so caught up in the latest fashion trends and all other trends as a kid. Did I really love One Direction? No, I didn’t, but I wanted so badly to fit in with everyone else that I bought their merch, and memorized facts about each band member just so I could feel accepted at school. After my near-death experience, I realized that I don’t have to change who I am to please other people. I could be myself and still be accepted by so many, and maybe even more. Being your genuine self without conforming to society makes you more noticeable as a human being. Know that it is literally impossible to please everybody, except yourself, so just be your genuine, true self. Nobody cares whether you love One Direction or not.

Live for Yourself

By Ian Schneider on Unsplash

In relation to being yourself, living for yourself is just as vital. Again, I used to think that I needed to succeed in life, graduate college, and get stuck in a dead-end job just to conform to society. I was taught that making a “shit ton” of money was supposed to be my goal in life and that I should aim for it; even if it meant I had to go down a career path I wasn’t passionate about. Today, I live for myself. I took a huge step and changed my major to something I was more passionate about halfway through college. While future job opportunities don’t pay the best, I know that I’ll be doing something I love that also provides me endless opportunities to continue following my passions in life.

Don’t Be so Hard on Yourself

By the blowup on Unsplash

Nearly dying taught me that I was previously beating myself up over the smallest things. If I failed a test, I would punish myself by repeating negative thoughts. I would say things like, “You’re never going to succeed in life” or “You’re such a failure”. The more I punished myself this way, the more I truly thought that I wasn’t going to succeed and that I was a failure. Near-death enforced in me, the idea that “shit happens”. Life happens, mistakes happen, and failure happens. It’s completely normal. Don’t beat yourself up for making mistakes or failing at something. Take those mistakes and failures as a lesson, learn from them, and keep moving on in life.

Everything Happens for a Reason

By Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

The most important thing I learned from nearly dying is that everything in life happens for a reason. This was something I once struggled with the thought of. I used to believe that I was being punished. I always thought, “why me?”. “Why did I have cancer? Why did I almost die twice?” Near-death has taught me that everything we experience in life is meant to be experienced. While many of those experiences may not be the best, they all lead you to where you’re at in life today. While fighting cancer and nearly dying were far from what I wanted to experience in life, without those experiences, I wouldn’t be writing this today. Without those experiences, I wouldn’t be helping others cope with their cancer diagnoses. Without those experiences, I wouldn’t be giving you advice on how to live life; truly, and genuinely. Embrace what life throws your way, no matter good or bad. Use those negative life experiences to help others, and remember, “Not all storms come to disrupt your life; some come to clear your path.”

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read this article. If you would like to keep up-to-date with my daily life and enjoy humorous posts about life, you can follow me on Twitter @elisa_the_they.


About the author

Elisa Toy

Nature Lover | Activist | Cancer Survivor | They/Them

I am a queer writer from Arizona sharing my journey and thoughts with you! My writing focuses on my mental health, love of nature, and everything in between!

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