Lessons learned come from unexpected source

by Lauren Jung
Editor-in-ChiefLauren Jung

Although classes change from year to year, one class that has been a constant in my schedule for the past four years is journalism. More than improving writing and layout skills, the most valuable lessons I have learned are from the people I have interviewed.

In my freshman year I visited Ronald McDonald House and got the opportunity to interview Brian Johnson, a then-17-year-old who suffers from cystic fibrosis. When I met him, he had recently undergone a bilateral heart transplant.
Listening to his story changed my outlook on life, and he taught me some life lessons that I keep with me to this day.

One: Live life and appreciate what you have.
During one of our interviews, he told me, “I’ll probably live to my mid-thirties.” It made me suddenly realize that at school when my classmates and I were groaning about the latest test or essay assignment, here was someone our age facing his own mortality.

As teenagers, we often take our daily life for granted, living from one class to the next, waiting in anticipation for lunch period to roll around. But for Brian, every morning is a gift, a day to be lived to its fullest and time to be treasured.

Two: Never give up. Don’t let someone say, “You can’t do it.”
Even though at one point he only had 20 percent of his lungs left, he never gave up. His request for a transplant was initially turned down at UCSF because he was too young, and at Stanford University Medical Center because he was too sickly, but he and his father never gave up. They kept asking over and over again until a doctor at UCSF gave in and agreed to perform the procedure.

Three: Give back.
Brian spent hours talking to me, informing me about the disease that has threatened his life since birth. He showed me his four-week pillbox, each day filled to the brim with over 40 multi-colored pills. He lifted up his shirt to show me the scars on his chest and the IV to his stomach. He even showed me the numerous origami animals he made while he was in the hospital.

He opened up to me about his hopes and his dreams. He told me about his hope to attend UC Davis and to become a veterinarian.

He has given me one of the most valuable gifts in the world — his life story. I realized that although his life will be shorter than many, he has changed how I think and approach life by sharing his story with me.

Through the process of writ¬ing Brian’s story, I learned that simply talking with someone has the power to impact our view of life and our place within it. So as I take these lessons with me to college and beyond, I will continue to talk to people and listen to their stories because only through shar¬ing our experiences will we truly experience life and live it to its fullest.

I will always remember Brian Johnson and how he helped me understand the power of communication. And that’s what journal¬ism is — it is what introduces us to others’ experiences and helps us discover who we are in the context of humanity.