“Over the wrath of nature, we don’t have any control,” my father used to say. He was a geologist.
I was a happy-go-lucky guy who was living a beautiful life. Growing up, I had learned about the ups and downs that are a part of life. But not in my worst nightmare did I expected to find myself at the epicenter of a 7.7 magnitude earthquake that took 20,000 lives.
I was 25 years old at the time, visiting family in Bhuj, India, when our 8-story building collapsed like a pack of cards. Within seconds, the ferocious shaking and roiling turned a city into a ghost town. I found myself under tons of rubble, inside a pitch dark crevice that had less space than a coffin. With a broken ceiling hanging two inches above my body, I was trapped. Not a soul in the world knew I was there , struggling to stay alive.
With a limited supply of air, I lay in total darkness—without food or water—unable to move. All I had was the hope to live and to find my family.
There are times when you have darkness all around you, when it feels like there is nothing in the world that can help you, and there is no one to hold your hand and say you are going to be okay.
I stayed in this darkness, trying to find ways to free myself, day after day after day. When I was thirsty, I would use my mind to control it. When hunger would strike, I would strike back. I continued to fight, even as it felt like nothing in the world was by my side.
Was it even possible to be found alive, when strong aftershocks continued to disintegrate an already-flattened city?
What I know is this: I chose not to give up on hope.
In times of need, we are all capable of coming together as one—holding on to one another’s hands. I was rescued by the volunteers at the International Rescue Corps. U.K. on the 5th day after the earthquake. They were there to save lives, and they did. I was called a Miracle, because I was one of the last people found alive in the country.
What I discovered in the days following my rescue changed my life forever. No one in my family had survived. I lost my father, mother, brother, sister-in-law, and my two-year-old nephew.
What was I going to do now, when everything beautiful in my life was gone? What I would do with my life was now up to me. I could focus on the darkness that had the ability to destroy me. Or I could focus on something else. Everyone around me tried to help, but I had to help myself, first. That was the first step.
In these difficult times, when the country is being hit by catastrophic hurricanes like Harvey, Irma, and Maria, I know one thing for certain: This time will pass.
I truly believe it is imperative for anyone suffering from recent natural disasters to not give up on hope and the dreams that reside in your heart.
I can say from experience that it was’t easy to stand back up. Yes, it took time. But once again, I did.
During this time of struggle and pain and hopelessness, it is important to focus on your strengths, the happy moments of the past, and most importantly being one with your near and dear ones, because that is all that matters. This is what needs to be done now.
I stood up to chase the collective dreams we had as a family. I stood to live a full and happy life again.
There were dark and distressing times. But over all the darkness in the world, I strived to choose light.
I did not try to forget these life experiences. I acknowledged them and continued to move in the direction of my desire. This is what worked for me.
What’s important is to NOT focus on what was taken away from you. It is paramount to focus on designing your present NOW. The present will ultimately become your past.
Here is something that I truly believe: Life is a beautiful thing. If you have life, you have the world.
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