Over a decade ago, I nearly drowned while whitewater rafting on Deschutes River. Some friends and I took a day trip to Maupin, Oregon, where we rented a raft and we spent the sunny summer afternoon floating and paddling on the river. In one section of the trip, the current moved at a leisurely pace, and many rafters floated down the river for about 100 yards, being buoyed by their life jackets. Since it looked enticing, I joined my friends who hopped out of the raft and floated with them.
As my friends and other floaters swam safely to the shore before the current picked up pace, I kept on going until I realized that I had difficulty swimming towards the shore. In my excitement, I had conveniently forgotten that I hadn't swam in over twenty years and had joined the life jacket flotilla with others who were competent swimmers. Within moments, I was knocked around by speeding and choppy current. I was struggling to keep my head above the water and was unable to breathe or see well. Grave panic set in. I was no longer in control.
The sudden realization that I may not make it out of the river alive led to numerous thoughts flashing through my mind. What will my friends who invited me to the rafting adventure going to do if I don't make it to the shore safely? Did I cast a tragic damper on these folks? Is this the way I envisioned passing away? Who is going to feed and take care of my cats?
At that instant, I regained my focus and stopped panicking--even though I was speeding down the river at a dangerous pace. I told myself to stick my legs out forward and bump into rocks in hopes of slowing down. The tactic worked--I had enough mental and physical capacity to swim to the shore after crashing into several rocks.
My brush with the near-tragic drowning happened in midst of a very dark time in my life. I was predominantly depressed around that time, mostly owing to a prolonged unemployment (which lasted one year), was spending significant amount of time with negative people who attracted drama, and had very little ambition for the future. It would have been easy to convince myself that I didn't really have much to live for. But in course of a near-fatal incident, something inside of me said, "Shit, I want to live!"
Those unsettling minutes, where I felt helplessly out of control and overcome with panic, did form a blueprint for designing the kind of life that I wanted to pursue. Changes did not happen overnight, but over time I began surrounding myself with people who displayed incredible zest for living, started disassociating myself from drama-perpetuating people, and started shaping my life in a different trajectory. If willing myself from drowning was worth fighting for, I wanted to make something meaningful out of my life instead of pursuing the path of lackadaisical intentions. Over time, I noticed that I had stopped seeing things through negativity lenses.
Epiphanies strike people in different forms and manifestations. For me, it was when my life flashed in front of my eyes. I decided that I wanted to live, and live differently from that point on.