Every story has a beginning and an end, but what happens in between? What about Act II? Why do we always forget about what makes the hero become a hero? Or how the characters achieve their goals? In the middle of the story, there is a point where the protagonist stands in the face of insurmountable odds. A challenge arises, one greater and more difficult than any the hero has ever faced. A challenge, I like to call the defining moment. This moment defines the protagonist and the course of the story. The protagonist’s choices during the “defining moment” affect the outcome of the narrative. They can choose to rise to the occasion or crumble under pressure. However, the most enduring stories are the ones where the protagonist ultimately rises even if they falter or fail a few times.
This formula applies to our reality. We are the protagonist of our own stories. There comes a time, perhaps many times, when we face a “defining moment” in our lives. Great adversity to test our abilities and our strength. These defining moments come in various forms, some of which might include disabilities, mental health challenges, financial hardships, broken relationships, illness, or even the loss of loved ones. The defining moment looks different for everyone, but it often leaves us in the same place, hopelessness. We often enter this miserable place of fear and anguish, and we feel we have lost all hope.
In July 2021, I was in a life-changing car accident in Houston, Texas. I had visited my best friend that week after she moved down there. She was driving me to the airport to head back home. It was early in the morning, and it was raining very hard. We were hit by a negligent driver in a pickup truck. The car was shoved into an ambulance, and the passenger’s side was entirely compacted. I was trapped and unconscious until after the paramedics arrived. I woke up sometime after they cut me out of the wreckage. I remember looking over to my best friend with her eyes wide open and her bloodied head hanging in an awkward, unnatural position. I thought she was dead. Thankfully, we both survived.
This was only the beginning of my challenges, however. I had suffered two very complex knee injuries and a hand injury. Two reconstruction surgeries and a setting procedure were followed, along with months of grueling physical and occupational therapy. I had to learn how to walk and use my hand again. I experienced many other injuries that now hold lasting effects on my physical and mental health. I will now face a lifetime of surgeries and difficulties ahead.
During the first few months after the accident, I couldn’t stop thinking about how the future I once saw for myself had been destroyed in a matter of a few seconds. I was stuck, dwelling in the past and what could have been. I wanted to move forward but didn’t know how to even begin. Then one day, I decided that I couldn’t change my circumstances, but I could change my outlook. I can choose to hope, and I can choose to have the courage to create a brighter future. So I began to move forward and take steps to start building a new future out of the ashes of the old one. I still struggle to move forward but having the courage to hope for better days ahead has helped me move past my fear and doubts.
The truth is hope is never really lost. It’s just buried. Hope is something inherent within us. Since the beginning of time, it has been etched into the very fiber of our souls. Hope is fragile, but when we cling to it, it changes the trajectory of our lives. It propels us forward. To look toward the light amid unrelenting darkness.
Nevertheless, hope requires work. For it to grow, it is contingent upon our conscious effort to look for the good despite our surroundings. I will be the first to say that this is not easy. In fact, it is the most challenging thing any of us can ever do. Once we find ourselves in a cavernous pit of despair, we tend to stay there not because we want to but because we don’t know how to liberate ourselves from it. It’s a process, and we often start by crawling. It takes courage to find hope, and in turn, hope gives us the courage to press forward.
Courage allows us to find our hidden strength when everything is burning around us. The force that creates our defining moment. I discovered my hidden strength in my own defining moment.
There is no accurate formula for overcoming adversity other than having the courage to hope and press forward, believing in our abilities. The courage held within us is what makes us survivors. Every day, I see people overcoming insurmountable odds when it seems utterly impossible. I see people who struggle and stagger along the rubble of broken dreams to seek out a better fate. It is coded in our DNA to survive, but more than that, to thrive. As we learn how to tap into the courage within us, we learn how to succeed and flourish. We know how to become the hero of our own story and maybe, just maybe, encourage other heroes along the way.
So, go defy the odds! Go write the outcome of the defining moments of your own great story, and I will continue to write mine.