Three decades have passed since the dreadful accident; that night in May when, returning home after a night drinking and partying, the coffee-coloured Seat 133 crashed in Sitges. It was being driven by a friend, who was unhurt; he, on the other hand, aged just 20, was unlucky - or was he? Because despite suffering a serious spinal injury which left him paralysed, Sebastián Lorente, now 56, is not sure that his life would have been better or happier, if he had still been able to walk.
He finished his Law degree, worked as a solicitor, married, had two children and even took up golf again, 20 years after the accident. The day he became European adapted golf champion was one of the happiest of his life.
“If I look back at things I have lost because I can't walk, the list would be long but if I look at the ones which are really important the list practically disappears. Not being able to walk isn't important,” says Lorente in the book he has recently published, '8 Días levantándome de #buen humor'.
The title comes from something he once posted on Twitter, after counting the days that had passed since he was born: “19,539 days getting up in a #GoodMood. May they continue!” he said.
“That message came to mind because for the whole of my life I had been lucky enough to wake up in a good mood, all 19,539 days of it,” explains Sebas, as he is known. Since then he has tweeted something similar every day: his age in days and a reflection, which are now the headings of the eight chapters in his book. Throughout its 240 pages, he makes it clear that we can all wake up happy.
“We are all going to have problems at some time, but the solution lies within us. We only have to look back into our past and see that we have been able to recover from difficult circumstances before. You have to accept your problems, and learn to live with them. Time is our great ally, because it teaches us that we can always get over things,” says Sebas, who has been touring Spain for the past five years, giving conferences on acquiring a positive attitude and “reminding a great many people” where to find the tools they need to solve a problem.
“On one occasion, a woman told me she had been taking medication for a year because of depression and that after listening to me she felt ashamed to continue doing that. She realised that she had to take action. Her thanks, and all those I have received since I began doing this, have been the greatest reward,” he says.
As well as the talks, Lorente writes the blog which caused his change in lifestyle, when he stopped practising law after 13 years and decided to follow his own advice and do what he wanted to do. In the blog he encourages people, almost as a doctrine, to be happy with what they have and not wait for something to happen in order to make them happy; to support others by example, highlighting their strengths and never criticising their defects; to use as a role model people who are kind, supportive, honest, generous, and have a sense of humour, are able to create a pleasant atmosphere and make life easier for others.
People liked those reflections and the readers of the blog used to interact with him, which is why he decided to share his experience and way of looking at life to try to help others.
Despite his achievements, Sebastián Lorente insists that the accident didn't change him as a person, and he hates it when people talk about his determination to overcome problems. “I'm just the same as any other person. If someone let this get them down then they would let another problem get them down too. It is all a matter of attitude,” he says. The only thing he changed was his way of living (he had to move to a home with no stairs), but not his way of being, thinking or feeling. He continued being who he was; his personality didn't change at all and he didn't become bitter. Things he had been able to do when he could walk ceased to be important to him and he began to enjoy what he had at that moment, “which was a great deal because I could have died”.
He continues to see life as if nothing had happened, as if there had not been any consequences to the accident. In fact, for some years he still continued to drive (he had an adapted car) after drinking: “I thought lightning couldn't strike twice,” he says. But then his children were born, and the costs of the damage caused made him realise that alcohol and driving are not compatible. That is something he makes very clear these days, when he gives talks at schools.