The Heart of the Matter: Facing Death Gave Me Life

I was overwhelmed, fearful, anxious, and imperfect as I walked out of the hospital doors. My world had just come to a screeching halt. Everything I had once feared had come true in an instant, as if I had created this heartbreaking story with my own fears. I was 22 years old and had officially been diagnosed with an incurable heart condition that had drastically altered my mom’s life, and caused my uncle’s death.

After only 3 weeks of testing the doctors found what they were looking for, a heart condition called arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC). The doctor’s diagnosis was echoing in my head as time seemed to suspend. We were each having a conversation with ourselves. She tried to explain what was happening and what the next steps were. I was lost in my own mind, tears streaming down my face with the sound of my heartbeat drowning out the doctor’s orders.

I could feel every single heartbeat pulsing throughout my body, magnified by the severity of the moment, not knowing which one could possibly be the last. My heartbeat, as chaotically rhythmed as it was, seemed to be the only thing with clarity.

The one word I did make out in the conversation was surgery.

My emotions were spread along a wide spectrum. I was mad at the world, cursing my fate, and confused how unfair life had turned out to be, asking myself, “How is my life going to change?”

On December 19, 2012 I had surgery for a defibrillator and within the first 3 months my defibrillator saved my life 3 times, each time stopping me from heart failure. What I didn’t realize before was this adversity not only saved my life, it added unmeasurable value to it.

Before, I was looking for happiness in the wrong places. A lost millennial wanting to make a difference in the world but lost in the rat race. I was busy comparing myself to others that seemed to be having more success. I found myself trying to live up to impossible standards with my body image, career path, bank account, among countless others. I was setting insane expectations for myself and each time falling short of perfection.

Almost symbolically, my scar and defibrillator acted as glaring imperfections. My heart surgery and each of those lifesaving moments were the events in my life that woke me up, reminded me that my time on earth is limited, and screamed at me, “Do something meaningful!”

God had changed my heart and since then I’ve learned to use my adversity for a greater purpose, realizing fear and doubt have to be present for faith and hope to grow, and that my imperfection makes me the perfect person for my purpose.

I realized my diagnosis, although still incurable wasn’t a death sentence. I was instantly driven to discover more meaning in life, one that included a strong sense of vulnerability, gratitude, whimsy, and adventure. And with that, take action!

I began making impactful choices to build the life of my dreams, no longer striving for perfection or stuck in the comparison game. I was now working hard to serve myself and others for the right reasons―with nothing to prove, only focused on improvement. I had clearly defined what I wanted my life to look like and recalibrated the scale I was measuring myself with. I stopped chasing ideals and started wandering towards my dreams while exploring the corners of true happiness with my body, mind, and soul.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best, “The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going.” This quote has been the driving force in my life since my surgery. It speaks on clarity within decision making. The decision I have made is to wander, which is weird because the word itself has no sense of direction. How can I know where I am going if I’m just aimlessly wandering around?

To me it takes on an entirely different meaning. My goal is to constantly wander outside my comfort zone, knowing full well and good it will help me grow in every aspect of my life, and help me continuously learn how to positively impact other people.

A different kind of wanderlust.

I have made the decision to stray from the beaten path. This sense of wander has led me towards discovering my authentic identity and purpose, to travel to every corner of the earth and experience life to the fullest in my limited time, to chase my dream of sharing my story around the world.

My calling so strong that I decided to take a risk, building a brand called Heartbeat Strength. My heart surgery was risk enough so now this is just fun, play, and fulfillment. My mission is to use this platform to inspire people to be their best self, to be vulnerable and proud of their stories, and make impactful decisions to live their strongest, healthiest lives.

My adversity has taught me how to fully enjoy life, no longer overwhelmed by the idea of being perfect. I understand that my health condition happened on purpose for my purpose. I’m proud of my scars, literally and figuratively, wearing my defibrillator as a badge of honor. Now proudly symbolizing imperfection.

I’ve learned that God is calling us to do more, that our potential is greater than we realize, and the opportunity we have to positively impact others is limitless. With a clearly defined purpose we can change the world, especially when we realize that we are the vehicle to do so.

My unique struggle has made me the person I am today. I wouldn’t do it over again, but I wouldn’t change anything for the world. My past has created my present moment.

My heartbeat story is just beginning, and my adventure awaits.

Author: Zachariah