Oscar Wilde said, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life,” but sometimes it is life that gives birth to art and personal passion.
Such was the case for 20-year-old author Theron Maynard. As a young child Maynard was always dreaming up stories, sketching and planning a career directing movies. But at age 13 Maynard’s life took a detour when he was in a serious car accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
He was placed in a medically induced coma, experienced two strokes, a seizure and was intubated. Remarkably, Maynard survived. But then the hard part began. Bound to a wheelchair he had to relearn to walk and remaster his motor skills.
“By the grace of God, I survived and came out a much better person,” siad Maynard. “Experiencing such a life-altering event shaped my understanding of life well beyond my years. I was taught strength through pain, success through failure, and purpose through feeling worthless. When the reality sunk in that I had almost lost everything it pushed me to work towards success despite the adversity I faced every day.”
No one bounces back from such a trauma without digging deep to channel their inner resilency. Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress. Resilient people have a way of learning and growing from difficult circumstances.
“Before my injury, I had dreams, but I lacked initiative. With the storms I carried on through after my injury, I had more goals than ever. I also had a burning sense of ambition to achieve them,” said Maynard.
Some people innately have more resilience than others, but like many life skills it can be learned.
Maynard had a lot of resilence for someone so young. From the moment he became conscious of his circumstances his only goal was to bounce back and live.
“I was a fighter determined to exceed the predictions of my doctors. This notion pushed me to become better than ever,” he said. When his medical team told him he wouldn’t be able to start high school as planned it simply propoled Maynard to prove them wrong. He graduated high school on time with honors, and then went straight to a four-year college chosen out of the eight he had been accepted into.
A key factor to having resilency in the face of adversity is having a strong network to rely on and Maynard had that in spades. He credits his mother for revolving her life around his recovery, his father for listening to him when it felt like no one understood him, and childhood best friends for being there for him every step of the way.
Yet despite the strong support system, Maynard often felt alone and different than other kids his age. His near-death experience changed him in a way that made it hard to related to his fellow teens. It was during this time that Maynard turned inward and allowed his feelings and thoughts to pour out on paper. Research shows that expressive writing is a powerful healing tool and is a proven way to build resilence.
“Writing is where I began to understand my purpose,” said Maynard. “I struggled to understand why I was different and still alive for so long. Writing allowed me to know why I nearly died when I was 13.”
In journaling, Maynard not only found a theraputic tool, but a path to an unexpected career as a published writer by age 19. While he loved writing before his accident, his writing took on new meaning, creativity and poignancy after the accident.
Last year he released his first novel, “Live and Let Die.” The gripping, raw story revolves around the maddening first love story of teenagers Shawn and Taylor. Their story is about mental clarity, morals, redemption, trust and the fragility of life. The plot idea came to Maynard in a vivid dream, which he turned into a 19-page short story in his high school creative writing class and then expanded on to produce the book.
Writing helped Maynard find purpose, which is another key factor to developing resiliency. Having passion and moving towards your goals, be it being an author or starting your own business, gives life meaning in a time of trauma and struggle.
Another component to honing a resilience muscle is to help others. Maynard hopes his story, which he has told in many public speeches, inspires others to never give up and to never lose hope.
“My story is of life and gives people hope. By sharing my journey of success, I bring goodness to those who need encouragement,” said Maynard. “I resonate with those who are struggling. I empathize with those who are recovering. I rally with those who are fighting. And I inspire those who are willing.”
For anyone dealing with a hard situation and looking to build resilience, Maynard advised, “You need to be open to falling. Building resilience is going to test you. I had my fair share of moments where I fell, but I knew that I would get back up. Self-love is also essential. I gave a lot of love to other people when I didn’t love myself. You always have to love yourself first and foremost. Lastly, I would say that you have to believe in yourself. Don’t listen to what other people say because it’s only noise at the end of the day.”