Category Archives: Matters of the Heart

What else?

Tomorrow marks four years since my brother passed away by suicide. And as I write that first sentence, I can’t help but feel like I’ve written it before.

And quite honestly, it’s probably because I have. Well, sort of.

You see, each year on the anniversary of his passing, I’ve had this gut-wrenching push to use the cathartic outlet of writing to find a lesson amidst the mess.

I’ve talked about the traumatizing grieving process and the message he always said that is still stuck with me, how we must push ourselves to keep going, remind ourselves that life is truly of the essence, and to lean into our feelings, even when it’s challenging.

But this year, i’m frustrated. Because after four years, it’s exhausting to have this be “my story”.

Maybe it’s my own fault, but I don’t want to just be the girl whose brother passed away by suicide. I don’t want to be the one who has triggers that bring me to tears. I don’t want to be the one who’s hyper-aware of mental health issues in today’s society and how they impact every single person. Yes – every. single. person. But I am.

But here’s what else I am…

I’m a daughter to parents who still get up every single day, make the most of the crap hand that’s been dealt to them, and who still give their heart and soul to three daughters and countless others. They are warriors and I am in awe of their ability to continually push forward, no matter how small the steps can sometimes feel.

I’m a sister to my twin sister Emily and my older sister Mary, who have gotten me through more rough days than I can count. They remind me to be kind to others, not to be scared to discuss the “stigma’, and to fight for a cause that’s so much bigger than ourselves and our family. They are the glue that often holds me together and the light at the end of what can often be a very dark tunnel.

I’m a girlfriend to a hilarious, hardworking, dream of a man. We have goals for our lives individually, and exciting plans for the life that we’re building together. We prioritize our happiness, laugh often, and bond over the sting of losing someone too soon. He makes the good days great and the bad days bearable, and I truly feel he’s the counterpart I’ve always hoped to have by my side.

I’m a coach to a team of goofy, driven, potential-filled cheerleaders who time and time again lift me up without even realizing it. They’ve helped me share my passion for not only the sport, but for everything it stands for: teamwork, confidence building, and achieving a common goal that you pour your blood, sweat, and tears into.

I’m also a friend, a coworker, a writer, a book worm, a wanderer, a loyal sports fan, a college graduate, a former Buffalo and Chicago resident, a heartfelt fan of Friendsgiving, and most importantly, a family girl.

So while I am certainly someone who constantly misses her brother to tears, I am also much more than that.

I tell you this to make you realize that you can be defined by more than one circumstance.

You can miss people and still live with proud moments and a full heart.

You can fall on your face and still stand back up.

You can make terrible mistakes and still put the pieces back together.

Yes, there are some circumstances that will partially shape and define your story. We all have them.

But I urge you, push you, beg you to try and think beyond those circumstances and ask yourself, “what else makes me who I am?”

Think long and think hard. Put your heart into the reflection of it all. Lose the guilt. Be honest with yourself.

What else?

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The best we can

December 31st. The day that most of us stop for an extra moment to reflect on the year that’s about to end. Since i’m a naturally reflective and curious person, today has been spent doing just that.

This year seemed to go by in the blink of an eye (don’t they all). And while I could give a detailed list of the milestones that occurred, instead i’ll say this: I did the best that I could.

With everything.

I tried really, really hard at my career. And I continue to do so day in and day out. I left a job in Chicago that I absolutely adored so that I could be closer to my family, and when I started my new job in Rochester, I had to adapt to a completely new environment. It wasn’t always easy, but when it came to my career this year, I do know this: I did the best that I could.

Now that i’m closer to home, my family and my relationship with my boyfriend (and subsequently his family) are a top priority. It can be exhausting, but working to bring two families together has been one of my greatest joys in 2016. We aren’t perfect. There are arguments and inevitably stressful times. But when it came to family and love this year, I do know this: I did the best that I could.

I also put a lot of thought, time, and energy into my friendships this year, as I try to do every year. Some flourished. Others dimmed. In hindsight, I would have changed a few things. I would have stood my ground a little stronger and communicated more often. I think I could have been a better friend. I guess there’s always room to be a better friend. And i’m going to try to do so in the days, weeks, and years ahead. But when it came to friendships this year, I do know this: I did the best that I could.

Every year comes with its own set of challenges. And that’s because life is tough. It kicks you in the ass and it makes you cry and it leaves you bruised and banged up with mud on your knees and a confused look on your face. And it never stops.

It always forces you to learn, reach, grow, transform, and stretch in the direction of goodness and kindness so that you can hopefully become a better version of yourself. It does this every damn day. It’s no easy task, and there are no breaks.

But don’t forget that just being alive and well is a blessing in and of itself. And although the lessons we must learn are tough, they’re worth learning.

Whether 2016 was a joy or a nightmare for you, just remember this: we’re all just doing the best we can. And may we continue to do so in the years to come.

 

best

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