Let me tell you why by opening a bit of this personal trauma, a horrific accident of which I should’ve never walked away from. The year was 2010 and I was living a different life. I was an upcoming freestyle skier from Finland, ranked number 11 in the world big air AFP ranking and I was just fresh out of high school. I had already traveled around the world competing a bit, but tried to focus in my school career first. After the graduation, I could really go all in in this skiing dream of mine. I was ready for it.
I finished with quite stunning grades, but didn’t celebrate that too long. I was on a mission, to become the best. I travelled to Spain, competed in Grandvalira Champs open and won that. I returned to Finland and won the Finnish National championships, too. I couldn’t celebrate those at all either, because I was on a mission. I wanted to be a star.
Those were the days on which filming movies was a crucial part of being the kind of pro skier I dreamed to be. All of the free ski stars were in magazines and movies. To end my half of a season, I joined the best film crew in Finland and travelled to Lapland. We filmed a short film after which, my plan was to go home to Southern Finland and work for the summer. I was going to do that to be able to travel to New Zealand for a training trip in August.
I was living my dream life. My vision was to sustain living my dream as long as possible. On the last day of the filming session in Lapland, I was the one to jump the last jump of the entire session. It turned out to be the last jump of my life.
Now – I’m not going to blame the sudden blast of wind, which made me to overshoot the kicker and to over rotate the difficult trick I had already done hundreds of times successfully. I’m not going to cry about the rescue helicopter being in repair and causing my trip to the nearest ICU to take over 8 precious hours, during which the pressure inside my skull did more horrors. I am going to acknowledge how unbelievably lucky, blessed and happy I am to be alive.
I suffered a very severe traumatic brain injury, laying in coma for three weeks. I was flown to my hometown after a month and my journey in different hospitals and rehabilitation center took about six months. My life as I knew it, didn’t exist anymore. I fell down to the deepest depression and I couldn’t find any reason to continue, until I realized and acknowledged all the sacrifices my family had made for me. How huge of a betrayal it would be on my part, if I just gave up and quit. So I decided to hang in there, because I couldn’t justify any other action for myself.
I remember thinking “this is boring!” I couldn’t bare the idea of spending tens of years like that, so I asked for help, lifted myself up into my wheelchair and rolled down to the gym. I decided to do my best in this rehab thing. I decided to do my best for the rest of my life.
Many years have passed and I’ve given life everything I’ve got ever since. Even though it hasn’t been easy, the outcome has been amazing. I’m so grateful for everything I have experienced, especially for the bad times. They have made me who I am. The worst days have made me to appreciate life on another level. I now understand just how fragile and precious of a thing life actually is.
I know that I’ve been capable of doing miraculous things on this second chance of mine. I’ve learned to talk, walk, run and even ski again, all unbelievably quickly. And here’s the thing I want to share with you: I couldn’t have done any of those things alone. Even though I have kind of been all alone in this struggle, other people have always had my back. They haven’t left my side even for a second.
First, my family and relatives and for that, I am forever grateful. Second, people I didn’t even know beforehand, nurses, doctors and therapists. Next all my close friends, whom I love. Then all the other people from around the world, from the ski world and some other places I had visited. All of them have sent me their warm thoughts as soon as they had heard what had happened.
In my opinion, that’s the best part of being a human; empathy and capability to tie connections, which can nowadays be active even intercontinentally. We can be physically distant, while remaining tightly connected.
I call this new life the second chance of mine and I’ve been able to participate in magnificent events around the world. In many things I’ve noticed that if there’s a will, there’s also a way. This, coupled with reading various books, has widened my perspective a lot. I have even written two books myself and just got an idea for the third one. I’m really excited!
Sometimes it’s hard to find common ground with other people in everyday life, though. I don’t think I could’ve done what I’ve done, if I’d have fixed views or fixed mindset. Traditions and humbly doing things you’re not that fond of is important though. I am a dreamer, and surely not the only one, but memorizing certain boundaries is vital. I try to consciously remain rooted in realism.
Keeping my cool and staying calm has been a real challenge, though. There are no limits to the amount of excitement going through my whole being every time I get a new idea. But I have learned to quiet the anxious mind lately. I found meditation and learned about the power of mind from books. Since according to the recent scientific knowledge, my brain will remain injured for the rest of my life, I read quite a bit. I try to find all the loopholes via which I can improve my overall condition despite the brain injury.
The first thing I went all in was my physical rehabilitation. Being an injured professional athlete, I knew how to exercise. Except that I couldn’t do what I’d done before, nor did I really know what kind of exercises I should’ve done. I tried, despite the TBI. That was not smart at all, but I wanted to do everything in my power to fight back to a better condition.
I thought that, if I’d be physically fine, my brain would repair itself too. I know now that, it could have done it, but back then… I was doing too much of wrong things. However, movement was only a part of my recovery master plan. I started eating well, too. Already back then I wanted to offer the best nutrition for my brain to be able to form new connections and rewrite the damaged ones. I also wanted my body to be able to get the energy it needed. I still do.
None of the proper methods I’ve tried were pleasant at first, but if I’ve believed in them, I have abandoned all of my excuses. Whether it’s a painful treatment, an unpleasant exercise, or drinking a disgusting potion, I’ll do what it takes, to live an easier rest of my life. I’ve sacrificed my comfort. That’s my life these days: fighting back.
I could tell many stories of fighting back and about how founding a brand called FightBack changed my whole life back in 2012, but there’s something else I want to share. Sometimes the most difficult thing is to do nothing. When the World Wide pandemic attacked us, I felt very frustrated. There was nothing beneficial on a global scale I could do with all my experience and skill. However, as the situation has evolved, I have found many important ways to help.
No matter how complex of a disaster we face, it comes down to our response to the situation. We can freak out, we can ignore all the restrictions, or we can act as human. We can consider the way we respond to the crisis and do our best to survive together.
We have the possibility to respond this way. If the task is too great to be performed by ourselves, the global human collective comes up with the abilities needed. We are able to do almost anything. It is our responsibility to trust in the process.
I love to be alive. Don’t you?