Getting older has never bothered me, but I never appreciated it until I almost lost my life.
My perspective on life shifted dramatically after I almost died in 2016.
I learned how to pray.
Before 2016, my prayers consisted of, "Please let this happen, and I will do this."
I would talk to God as if I could negotiate my will to get what I wanted.
That day, I prayed for peace and for the pain to end.
I wanted to see my family and friends.
I prayed for my daughters to remember me, even if they would only know me via others' stories.
Other words escaped my lips and entered my mind, prayers I will keep to myself.
Over time, I felt an appreciation I had never felt before.
That appreciation lasted for a bit, and then I went through stages of confusion and loneliness.
I wondered why I survived.
Feeling like I needed to live up to an ideal to prove my worth of surviving.
"I am going to prove to everyone I was worth saving! Mount Everest, here I come!"
Then, I crashed.
I crashed with the realization that my purpose is not tied to some arbitrary measure of success set forth by a stranger.
Life is not about a "to-do list" of "See, I did this! My life was worth saving, so I could accomplish this!"
That day, I was given such a gift.
The gift to be content in my life. To know how incredibly blessed I am to be here with my family and friends.
Our greatest gift is time.
Time to spend with our loved ones.
Time to pursue our dreams and passions.
Time to leave a legacy of kindness and joy through the people we connect with.
"Will someone remember that I graduated with a Master's Degree?" This thought did not enter my mind at all when I was facing death.
It does not mean I am not proud of my accomplishments; I am. They do not, however, define me.
I am defined by the love I leave behind.
The day I almost died, I remember thinking, "I hope people remember me as funny and kind."
What greater gift do we have than to leave the world a better place than we found it?
To touch the hearts of others is our greatest gift to this world.
Interacting with others in love, laughter, and kindness is the legacy I want to leave behind.
As I get older, I realize that time is truly our most valuable gift.
In Spanish, we have a saying about getting older, "Llegué y hay muchos que no llegan."
I made it, and many don't.
So many leave this earth young and without warning. I do not have the answer as to why.
But I do know to be grateful for every year I am given.
For every life I touch.
This post originally appeared on the author's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/shepensblog