My Personal Journey: A Guide to Not Dying

In case you just want to read the story, here tis.

I get imposter syndrome a lot. Bollocks to that, I do two shows every week to tens of listeners/watchers so if I get a big head over that, I have serious problems.

In September, Alison asked me if I wanted to do a storytelling class. So we did and I had One Big Story to share, that of my near-death experience and hospitalization in 2001. A key event happened on 9/11 and it’s hard to get a new angle on that day so I tried it out on our first class and it worked.

Fast forward to the class ending. I was the only person in the class to tell the same story for the opener and closer, just tightening up my story and adding some details as I went. I kind of like storytelling and I kind of hate it because I remember my one stand-up comedy routine I did a decade ago and I had to have every single word memorized before I felt comfortable to go. In storytelling, you have an opening line and a closing line and then you just go with what’s on your mind for the rest. It feels more natural than a set that’s already written.
Class ends in October and Shannon Turner, who runs it tells the Personal Journeys editor Suzanne Van Atten her version of my story. We meet for drinks at a Mexican place, by coincidence we work for the same employer so it’s close, and I tell her a 30-minute version of the story. She wants me to write it for the paper. For the who?
The key to every writing project is to get through that first draft. It can be amazing, it can be crap, but you have to get your thoughts out before you can craft them into an actual story. This is long form which seems like a dying format but it’s still popular. I wrote in sections, five to seven and each one was to be 500-700 words. So I wrote and I edited and Alison took a look at it and eventually I turned it in. That’s when the imposter syndrome came through. Most writers of this series are real live authors who make a living putting words on paper. I got paid once to write about the draft for Bleacher Report and otherwise my contributions have been for “the exposure”.

I got mostly good feedback and some “constructive criticism” that was on the nose. A lot of the problem with this story is that there is so much medical jargon involved. I have a folder with most of my papers from that time including the discharge summary (my first of three) that had at least a dozen terms I had to look up. I have a dozen Google docs for this story including a “technical doc” that explains what an epidural abscess (collection of pus between the outer covering of the brain and spinal cord), a suppurative thrombosis (bacteria in a blood clot), pulmonary emboli (multiple blockages to one of the pulmonary arteries of the lungs) and other such terms. I can’t include a glossary or appendix to this story so everything that’s in the story needs to be understood in quick and concise manner.

I had a photographer/videographer come to my house and take pictures/record me talking about this experience. I’ve done probably 300 interviews in my life but being on the other side is not my comfort zone. Generally speaking I’m a light-hearted guy and I’m going to try very hard to inject humor into any situation. It’s hard to do when talking about this, but little details like my life-long hatred of Boost can seep out thankfully.

It’s out and now a new “generation” of friends can see what happened to me and potentially how it’s shaped me into the Zach Law of today. I promise that’s my one third-person reference allowed per blog post. I’m happy it’s out and I’m glad that I get to pursue new stories because nearly dying is exhausting.


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