|Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Photo credit: Beckett Gladney.
The biggest life-changing moment for me occurred on August 6th, 1993 when the phone rang at around 1:30 a.m. A phone call in the wee hours of the morning is never a good thing but up to then, it had always been a wrong number.
This time, it was my father calling to tell me that my brother Jim and his wife Diane had been killed in a car accident.
Apparently they had been on the way to meet friends for a camping trip. According to witnesses, their car drifted left onto the median shoulder of the highway, veered right and seemed to be fine for a moment, then angled sharply left again, across the grass median and into the path of an 18-wheeler. My brother and his wife died instantly. We never found out what caused the car to lose control.
|Jim and Diane on wedding day.
I know the whole "life is short" phrase has become a cliché, but the heart of those words remains true. Losing my mother a few years before the accident to cancer and seeing Jim and Diane having their lives cut short so unexpectedly (they were both only 27, married just over a year) has made me much more conscious of the choices I make in how I live.
I'm far less inclined now to just coast. I'm more willing to take risks when it comes to pursuing what I want. I'd rather dive in than cautiously dip in a toe. Sometimes things don't work out and I fail spectacularly, but only after giving it my best shot.
I actively pursue happiness instead of just hoping it happens my way. If I'm consistently unhappy about an aspect of my life, I try to change it instead of just complaining. I choose my friends instead of letting them choose me, and seek out those who inspire and motivate me.
It's so easy to take people and things for granted, especially when you've never experienced loss. Sometimes when I'm feeling upset about some minor inconvenience or slight, I'll purposely remind myself to put things in perspective.
|Debbie with her sister and brother, Jim. Photo by their dad.
Not all of the changes in my life are necessarily good. I'm far less patient with certain types of people than I used to be, and some of my friendships have suffered as a result. I get especially impatient with people who waste my time or are overly passive, or who are drifting unhappily through their lives but are too scared or lazy to attempt to improve their situation.
Overall, though, that one life-changing moment years ago has set me on a path that is much more good than bad. And I'd like to think that if my brother were to peek in to see how I was living my life, he'd be pleased.
If you think you have a great life changing moment to share (and you probably have several), click here to learn how to get the conversation started. I'm sure if you think it's important, I may too.
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Check out previous posts from the Life Changing Moments Series: