Self improvement books are fine. Talks or seminars held on it are fine too. But when it happens to you, when you face a life-changing accident one unsuspecting day, you need more than self-improvement books or talks to lift that crushed spirit.
More relevantly, you need strength to advance from today to tomorrow with unrelenting hope.
But Ms Azlin Amram (“Azlin”) did just that after she “suffered a severely damaged spinal cord, fractured pelvis, punctured lungs and terrible abrasions to her face that the nurses advised her not to look into the mirror for a month.”
Today’s article by Theresa Tan is about that life-changing day and the post-traumatic growth thereafter.
This is what Azlin recalled.
It was typical day like any other. She “stepped into the escalator at Tanah Merah MRT Station” and “there was no barrier blocking the entrance to it to signal it was under maintenance.”
Azlin did not notice that “the cover of the third step was missing before she fell into the escalator pit.”She was “stuck in the waist-deep pit for about 30 to 45 minutes before the Singapore Civil Defence Force arrived and rescued her.”
She said: “I had trouble breathing and there was a lot of blood. I cried out for help and prayed it would not be my last breath.”
Theresa wrote that “overnight, (Azlin) went from being a carefree soul who loved the outdoors and travelling, to one who had to depend on others for the most basic of tasks, like going to the toilet.”
And this was where this news sunk her heart. The doctors told her ”the probability of her walking again was 3 per cent”.
Azlin was hospitalised for three months and she said: “I felt imprisoned in my own body. I couldn’t think of how life could go on when I could not even do the most basic things on my own, like getting out of bed or taking a shower.”
She prayed every day for a miracle and hope to see the day she could walk again. But for now, life goes on.
Azlin took “a few years to come to terms with how her life had changed” and said that “the thing that worked for me was being open to doing things in new ways and to stop feeling stuck in the past.”
She joined SPD’s Transition to Employment programme, “which helps people disabled from an accident or illness rejoin the workforce through therapy and job placement aid.” She herself went through physiotherapy, occupational therapy and counselling and grew stronger.
Being open to new ways of doing things helped to distract Azlin from her own disability, and she ultimately found meaning in her employment with SPD.
She said: “Before the accident, I led a carefree life but there was not a lot of meaning to tie together. After the accident, I felt there was more purpose because of the work that I do. Every day, I meet people who acquire physical impairments and I enjoy journeying with them as they learn that being happy and going back to work again is possible.”
Lesson? Just one. It’s in Azlin’s own words and it struck me deeply.
She said: “In the first year after my accident, I cried when I spoke about my past, present and future. My past became something that was endearing, my present was something I resented and my future, something I feared.”
Her past was indeed memorable. After she left her administrative job, Azlin travelled to South Korea, Malaysia and Nepal. Naturally, she missed those days.
After the accident, things however changed for her. Yet, her fight to regain her confidence, perspective and hope led her to live in another way that is no less meaningful, if not more.
Personally, I always believe that our life is made up of moments, thousands and millions of them, all interconnected and interdependent on each other from birth to death, and the moments that have the greatest impact on our life is now, that is, the present.
But sadly, we have this tendency to draw moments from the past and live in regrets or imagine moments of the future and live in fear.
We make ourselves so “available” for the moments we are not living in (because they are either gone or have yet to come), and thereby make ourselves totally unavailable for the moments we are actually living in, that is, the present. That is the irony of a life shortchanged or sabotaged.
There is a saying that reminds us not to allow yesterday to use too much of today and to light tomorrow with today, and the truth is, the greatest hope of personal change is not to cry over moments that have passed or moments that have yet to come, but to decide to live with resolve the moments in the here and now.
And that was exactly what Azlin did and somehow, with that spirit of perseverance and hope, life opens new doors for her. Things she could never imagine possible became possible because Azlin “refused to let fear overcome her.”
Not only have she found meaning in her job of helping others, it reports that she has also found love. “She met her husband, a 32-year-old IT designer, online” as she was looking for a friend.
Their relationship blossomed and they affirmed their love when they walked down the aisle two years ago.
This is what Azlin said at the end of the article. “It’s OK to feel broken for a certain amount of time, but do not allow circumstances to control how you live your life. You are in charge of your own narrative and you can tell a better story.”
Indeed she has, and love, meaning and hope are just the right plot for a better story to unfold after one unfortunate chapter ends.
And one truth about a narrative or story is that the author has full control of how it is written. For the vocabulary of an overcoming life is about completing one sentence at a time in the same way that we live one day at a time, making ourselves fully engaged and available in the present.
So, kudos Azlin, can’t wait for the next chapter of your inspiring story. Cheerz.