Emory Business connected recently with Richard Meister 10MBA about his miraculous journey. The following story contains highlights from Meister’s blog post “Reflections on 40 through the Prism of 20.” Now living in Dallas, Texas, and involved in the nonprofit world, he imparts wisdom gained from lessons learned.
“Twenty years ago, something happened that completely and utterly changed my life in every way imaginable,” he writes of the traumatic brain injury—called TBI—that has shaped the person Meister is now.
While attending Brown University as an undergraduate, Meister fell from his lofted bed and hit his head on a nearby desk. Rushed to the hospital for emergency brain surgery, Meister endured five weeks in a coma while his brain began to heal, and his community prayed for his survival. “If I’m proof of anything it’s that there is such a thing as answered prayers.”
Rehab, Hard Work, and Life-Altering Insight
Emerging from a coma is described by doctors “as a journey from birth to infancy to childhood to adolescence to adulthood,” he shares. Through the TBI recovery struggles, he says, “today, I am whole again.”
Even after a troublesome year like 2020 amid a global pandemic, Meister maintains his sense of humor. “You would think that brain injury would leave you with a cool new superpower, like seeing into the future. Alas, that’s not how it works,” he says. “The experience of the last year amplified a lot of things for all of us, so just consider these thoughts on my own experience and maybe some pointers on living life one day at a time and taking it all in.”
In this excerpt, Meister penned these key takeaways to share advice and insight with classmates and friends.
Take Nothing for Granted. TBI took some things from me that I may never get back and others that have taken as long as 20 years to return. Is this frustrating? Of course. What’s amazing is that the brain will rewire itself. The tools I might use to control movement on the left side of my body have been recruited elsewhere. Though I may not go running, my sports-related hand-eye coordination is better than it’s ever been before. I’m blown away by what my brain was able to do.
Everything you have, everything you can do, everyone you know has value.Richard Meister 10MBA
Cut Yourself Some Slack. We tend to hold ourselves to an impossible standard. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and allow yourself to improvise. Don’t let yourself get discouraged. You’ll figure something out, and it might even be a better way than you initially planned.
Do Something Outside of Yourself. Find something you’re passionate about that does good and commit yourself to it. The rewards will be greater than you would ever believe.
Life is Not a Race. I spent most of my recovery in such a hurry to get back what I felt like I had lost, like I was missing out. I missed moments and didn’t take the time to appreciate the second chance. Looking back, it may seem like the last 20 years went quickly, but it was a marathon, not a sprint, and if you take the time to enjoy the ride, you’ll end up equipped with knowledge, awareness, and appreciation.
Choose with No Regret. The last two decades have been a wild ride filled with trials and tribulations, highs and lows, peaks and valleys. Every choice leads you down a path. If you let it, life has a way of leading us to where we’re supposed to be.
Appreciate Your Friends. I have been so incredibly lucky to have amazing friends who supported me, stood by me, stuck with me, and invested in me throughout this entire experience, often not even knowing anything about what happened. From Campo to Brown to London to DC to Goizueta to Dallas and everywhere in between, wherever I’ve been, my friends really have made my world. So, don’t ever forget to appreciate your friends.
Family Isn’t the Only Thing, it is Everything. That says it all.
“After 20 long years of recovery, I realized that I had been chasing a version of myself and a life I once knew that no longer exists,” he writes. “Life isn’t perfect, but it sure is interesting and it should be a great ride. I hope I’ve been able to impart some ‘wisdom’ from my experience to make your personal journey the ride of a lifetime.
“My 40th birthday was in February, and whether it’s my 40th, 41st, or 50th birthday, a life experience like mine changes your prism. You realize the value and the opportunity in every day,” he says. “So, going forward, I will do my best to savor every day and every year. Each day – good, bad, ugly, or just unexpected – gives us something. Maybe it’s wisdom. Maybe it’s experience. Maybe it’s challenge. And maybe it’s a just deeper appreciation for where we’ve been, what we have, and where we are.
“I leave you with some wise words that I try to live by. Mary Anne Radmacher once said, ‘Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Continue to learn. Appreciate your friends. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.’”
Learn more about Emory Healthcare’s commitment to treating individuals who have experienced traumatic brain injury, including its program for veterans that works with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma. The Emory Brain Health Center is transforming patient-centered care by bringing more than 400 experts subspecialized in every type of brain condition together.