Surviving vs. Thriving- it’s your call

17 Jun

Jackie Millar and Craig Sussek in one of their annual meetings.

Life: the constant rhythm of time beating against our every action, the wash of circumstances and responses – the call and echo of humanity’s plight against themselves.

Here in life, perhaps the most certain thing is death, but you have the choice of how you get there. For all the unexpected, the uncontrollable events that bulldozer into your bubble of ideals and crush them without a second thought, there is something you can control, your response.

Survival is dependent on the individual’s ability to respond, the ability to act in spite of every excuse for them to die, to give up.

It seems in this life, no matter where we go, what kind of life we try to live, tragedy will find us. This year itself began with the Queensland floods followed by the Japanese earthquakes and consequent nuclear radiation threat. Just recently the volcanic ash spreading from Chile is grounding people, stopping them from living the rest of their lives, stranding them in a foreign country with depleting food and money. On top of all this, cars are still killing people, drugs are still killing people, people are still killing people- its a wonder we are all still here.

And yet, in spite of all this, there are always those special few, transcending physical circumstances becoming heroes, bringing hope to the media pages for those short days they appear to the public before the newspapers find another sad story to cover.

The life after such circumstances, however, may prove to be harder than any natural disaster, car accident or funeral. Every physical survival seeds from an emotional survival. The psychological battle is constant, often uncontrollable. It is in these circumstances where survival can mean simply coping or thriving.

On the 4th of November, 1995, two teenagers broke into Jackie Millar’s house to steal her car. As they stole the car, Jackie interrupted them causing one of the teenagers, Craig Sussek, forced her to the ground and shot her in the head.

The two teenagers were caught and sent to prison while Jackie was sent to hospital fighting for her life. She survived, a miracle in itself, but found herself stuck in a dysfunctional body with the brain of a two year old. Jackie, a mother of two grown children, had to relearn how to talk, how to walk, how to sit, how to rebuild her life. She can’t remember how her children grew up, nor can she remember the incident itself, but she survived, free to live her life as she pleased.

Jackie Millar had every right to leave such a memory in her old life, to leave those two teenagers that ruined her life to rot in jail, but she isn’t.

As part of the Restorative Justice Project, Jackie visits the now men in prison, every year. She talks with them like they are her sons. She has forgiven them.

She has forgiven them after everything they have put her through- physical and emotional.

Jackie did not simply survive, she is thriving.

This world is full of people who survive from harsh physical circumstances through bitterness and revenge. Gangs open up more and more worlds of violence from vendettas and rash decisions based on retribution. While this can be seen as survival, it simply creates more circumstance to survive from.

For all the emotions and anxiety that comes from circumstances, this energy can be translated into positive action.

So give a second thought on where your thoughts lead you. Will you use them to simply survive or thrive?



If you would like to know more about Jackie Millar:

1 Comment

Posted by on June 17, 2011 in Year 11 English


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One response to “Surviving vs. Thriving- it’s your call

  1. jeanetteal

    June 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    An excellent reflection, Renee. I am especially pleased to see that you have come to the realisation that survival is more than just existing physically after the trauma but that it takes an incredible amount of guts and determination to be able to move forward and LIVE life (thrive) rather than simply exist. Well done!


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