People often ask me what I lost through my brain injury, but they rarely ask me what I gained. I guess you might consider that politeness. Anyway.
What you can’t know is what an arrogant little prig I was before the accident. Part of that was being a teenager, I guess, but I really had some issues around being so smart and disparaging people who weren’t. When I realized what was happening during the injury, I clearly remember the horrifying realization that I was going to become dumb— just like everybody else!
Like I said, I wasn’t very likeable.
I could argue that my supposed superiority was a reaction to being “the weirdo” and being similarly disdained by my classmates, but it doesn’t really matter. I believed it, and I would have likely gone on believing it for some time if not for the accident.
I learned so much from the accident.
I learned that your character is shaped by how you react to adversity, and that to allow it to twist and embitter you is to lose the war, even if you win the battle.
I learned the deep satisfaction that comes from working with your hands. This was especially important to me as I lost many of my cognitive abilities. I couldn’t think, but I could do. That gave me something to cling to as I rebuilt my identity.
I learned that an accident of birth and genes is not a legitimate reason to be proud of yourself. You are measured on progress and style, not on GPA.
I learned about reserves of inner strength. They’re deeper than you can possibly imagine.
I learned that there’s usually something going on under the surface, even if the waters look calm. What looks easy is not necessarily so, but then, the same goes for “difficult.”
I learned that not only can I not measure everyone with the same stick, I often measure myself too harshly. Holding yourself to too high a standard does as much a disservice as standards that are too low.
Really, my TBI was such an opportunity for growth, I’d do it again. I don’t recommend it though. As a general rule it’s better not to knock lessons into your head.
(Demonstrating that the Vile Scribbler at TheOneTrueBlog is godlike and omniscient, we actually had a conversation today where we argued that saying that “You’d do it all over again,” really means, “I’d do it all over again if there was the same ultimate positive outcome,” which he says is stupid and I say is realistic. Obviously you wouldn’t relive it if there wasn’t a benefit to you. Duh.)
(N.B. Here is the followup, added Jan. 2011)