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Why I Thought I Was Going to Die When I Turned 23. And Why I Was Right. (Part 2)

Where was I?

Oh yes, I had zoomed out of my body while running down the street after a morning spent with my stoner friends! 

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m assuming that:

a) you haven’t read last week’s post, or

b) your short-term memory doesn’t extend past one week.

In either case, you need to read this before you can proceed.

For the rest of you – let’s move on, shall we?

So there I was, a remnant of my former self. My energy had not only vacated my body, it had vacated my personality. What do I mean by this?

I mean that up until that point, my personality had been a stable structure that kept me together, one I’d taken for granted. Much like a house.

photo: Stefan Shambora on flickr

It had four walls and a roof. It was solid and dependable. It gave my life clarity and consistency.

But now, thanks to whatever the heck was going on with me, the house of my personality was gone. And I don’t mean it had been demolished and I was left with a wreckage site.

photo: Daniel Johnson on flickr

That would have left me with shards and pieces to contend with. I didn’t even have that.

Instead, all traces of my previous personality structure were gone. Everything I’d always thought of as “me” had vanished. All that was left was darkness, a void.

I was living alone at the time, and I managed to get myself home and plop my body into bed. I remember saying, This is where I’m supposed to pray to Jesus.

photo: Leah Gregg on flickr

I didn’t have a spiritual practice at the time, or even belief in a Higher Power. So my imagined plea to Jesus was one of both cynicism and defeat.

All I could do was lay there. 

I tried to review the things that made me feel like a person – my name, my history, my preferences. None of it made any sense. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wasn’t who I thought I was. 

Clearly some part of me remained. That part was observing what was happening and trying to make sense of it. And maybe that part was “me.” But it wasn’t the “me” I was accustomed to.

After about five hours, I felt a vague remnant of my old “self” return. But it was only a remnant. It took a year for the experience to wear off completely, and even then I wasn’t the same.

I know what you’re thinking: Gosh, Z. That sounds horrible. What a traumatic experience. I’m so sorry you had to go through that!

photo: Bill Sutton on flickr

No? That’s not what you’re thinking? Well, how about: Z, you’re such a goofball! Don’t you know that hanging out with stoners leads to come-to-Jesus moments like that?! You brought it on yourself! 

photo: Torben Hansen on flickr

No? Not that? What about: Hey, Z! I can’t stop thinking about the armadillos you mentioned a few posts back. What can we do to stop the epidemic of armadillo back pain that’s sweeping the nation? 

No? Not that either?

If you weren’t feeling sorry for me, or berating me, or quizzing me about armadillos, then perhaps you were in another camp altogether, one in which I now live. 

The philosophy of this camp goes like this:

The 23 experience was an opportunity. An opening. A doorway into a new life.

While the experience was happening, the notion that I could lose my egoic structure was terrifying. But the more this realization sank in, the more liberating it became.

In the year after the freaky 23 episode, I had other strange and unexplainable experiences. Only this time my stoner friends were not involved.

I started to become aware of a Power and Presence bigger than me. I began to have episodes of intuitive knowing that were beyond rational explanation. I started to meditate. I cleaned up my diet. I stopped doing drugs.

I began to realize that the whole “God thing” wasn’t a joke, or a crutch. God was real. Only God wasn’t what I’d thought it was. God wasn’t a cranky Caucasian senior citizen in the sky. God was energy. The energy of everything.

photo: paul bica on flickr

This energy could – and would – transform my life. I didn’t have to go it alone anymore. I had Help.

It took a fracture in my egoic structure for me to open to the idea that there was something Bigger going on. And, for me, that fracture happened a month after my 23rd birthday.

I knew it was coming. I thought I might die. And, ultimately, I was right.

I traded my old life for a brand new one. A life that’s far more expansive and fantastic than I ever would have imagined.

And it all started with the magical and mysterious number 23.

photo: Stephan Mosel on flickr

When have you lost your small self and opened to something bigger? What have been the 23 experiences in your life?

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11 Responses to Why I Thought I Was Going to Die When I Turned 23. And Why I Was Right. (Part 2)

  1. Marcy January 10, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    I thought I was going to die after my 10-year relationship ended. Or rather, I wanted to die. And I did. The old me died. The me that was controlling, insecure and immature. I began communicating to my heavenly parents 24/7. I had nowhere to go but up. I learned how to be a better person and partner. My heart opened up to love again. And a new Marcy emerged. A better Marcy. So I thank God that I died. Because I was reborn. Ahhhh….!

    • Z Egloff January 10, 2012 at 11:02 am #

      Hi Marcy,

      It’s hard when we’re in the midst of struggle, isn’t it? It’s hard to see that the tough times can be an impetus or a pathway into something better. For me, it can be annoying when people point this out. But then I see that it’s true – again and again and again. In my life and the lives of others. I heard someone say recently that the hard times are a blessing, because the only source of help is something bigger than us. Just like you said. Thank you for sharing your rebirth!


  2. C.I. January 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    My openings have come in times of transition, particularly earthshaking ones like moving, a breakup or loss of a loved one. After the 2 latter experiences occurred at once, a big space was left . I was a U of A student and made friends with another who happened to be a Maharishi-trained TM teacher. It was at just the right time for me to expand into a higher consciousness. I’m grateful for the other twists and turns in the journey that evolved out of learning this spiritual practice.

    Since Nick turned the magic “23” in December, I had him read this with me, a
    good seed for future awareness or discussions. Thank you for your transformative story.

    • Z Egloff January 10, 2012 at 3:24 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your own story of transformation! I love hearing how this works for other people. Especially because even though the details are different, the basic tenets are the same.

      And I love that you shared this with Nick! I was going to say that hopefully he won’t have to lose his mind at the side of the road, but I guess the whole point of this story is that sometimes we have to lose things to gain new ones. It’s all good, as the kids say. 😉

  3. Angelica January 10, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

    September 23rd, ’83 I landed in Honolulu, HI — Sept. 23, ’86 the church I started on the Big Island was chartered — both HUGE times in my life!!

    • Z Egloff January 11, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

      Hi Angelica, It’s a powerful number, that 23. Thanks for sharing your transformations! XOZ

  4. Ruby September 11, 2012 at 8:06 am #

    Hi, Z,

    I can’t remember how I found your blog, but here I am. I might have remained a silent reader, except that I found this 23 post.

    Lots of people relate this way to the number 23 (I read Robert Anton Wilson in my late teens), so it was on my mind the morning of my 23rd birthday. With several co-workers, I headed out to an airfield some 50 or so miles away for a static line skydive.

    I wasn’t an experienced skydiver, having done exactly one tandem jump prior to this. I often described my first jump this way: “the person attached to my back was getting out of the plane, so I was going with her.” This time I was on my own.

    Huddled in the small plane, I was terrified, but I did as I was told, placing one hand, then a foot out, inching along the bar under the wing. A thousand feet under me was the lush green of Western Washington, and as I took my feet off the platform to hang by my arms and get ready to let go, we passed over a patch of asphalt.

    Painted on that asphalt in 30′ white characters was, you guessed it, the number 23. Adding to my sense of synchronicity was the fact that I thought it was desirable to die on one’s birthday, like Shakespeare. And here I happened to be on the morning of my 23rd birthday, about to let go of, as they say, a perfectly good airplane.

    It was with 100% conviction that I would not survive the jump that I let go. And I did it anyway.

    • Z Egloff September 12, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

      Hi Ruby,

      Thank you so much for speaking up! :)

      This is a fabulous story. And well told – you’re a great writer. I was with you every step of the way. I’m not sure that I’ll ever be attempting such a feat, so I’m happy to hear about yours. With the freaky 23 connection. I love it.

      Please comment again any time. And thanks for reading! :)


  5. Marilyn April 7, 2016 at 9:51 am #

    Hi Z,

    Like C.I., times of major change and transition have often left me in a twilight-zone-like place. It’s been suggested to me that the word “liminal” sums up this feeling-state, and I agree, based on Merriam-Webster’s definition: “of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition.” Some of these times have been the most painful and difficult of my life so far. Lots of questions arise about meaning (like the ones you asked at 23), and it can feel like the ground under my feet is constantly shifting, or like quicksand. At these times I tend to flail, and flailing doesn’t help and simply exhausts me. It has been the challenge of my life to relax and trust at times like these, but through spiritual practice and sharing with others, I am learning to slow down the flailing phase. Darn it if I don’t have to completely wear myself out in the process before I will begin to settle down. The challenge is finding that place between letting go and giving up. I think it’d be great if you wrote something about your experience of distinguishing between these two options, if the topic speaks to ya. Love reading you, love the comments. The humor and thought you share with us is indeed a healing thing. Rock on, Z.

    • Z Egloff April 7, 2016 at 11:22 am #

      Hi Marilyn, I love the word “liminal.” Thank you for including it in this conversation. And thank you for the suggesting the letting go vs. giving up topic. I will put that in my idea file and see if/when something sparks! Thank you for your comment! :) XOZ


  1. Why I Thought I Was Going to Die When I Turned 23. And Why I Was Right. (Part 1) | Life in ZD - January 27, 2012

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