I was raised by an independent, empowered, business woman. And an equally independent, supportive, artistic father. They are highly intelligent, caring and unwavering in their passions. Whose opinions don’t always match up, as you can imagine, but who have also never fought in front of me, who stood united when things got tough – and trust me, life gets tough – and always, always stood by my side when I needed them. They’ve gone to bat for me. They instilled values in me and self-worth.
They taught me that the greatest thing I have in me is my own power – to make things good, to make things great. To treat people fairly and see them for who they are and not what I want to see. To put myself in their shoes and work to make myself better because it determines my own personal happiness. That to get what you love, you have to work for it and if it’s the right thing you’re working toward – it’s worth it.
They have shown me in their own unique ways that I’m a valuable human being who just wants some peace and sometimes quiet. They have been the two most influential people in my life and I cannot even begin to explain my love for them.
And they are among the people that I could write novels on for the kindness and support I receive because of what they taught me. I can’t even count the number of people who have come in and out of my life, who have pushed me, helped me to grow, taught me things when I didn’t know best, had my back, held my hand, been a shoulder and sounding board. People who I will continue to support wherever I can. I am forever grateful for having walked this earth with so many wonderful, righteous people.
And I woke up to learn that the unthinkable happened. That life for me, and so many of those great people I mentioned, just got harder. I’m not sure who, and I’m not sure how so many will be affected. I’m not sure if it’s good or bad because I don’t want to believe that it could get bad. For me, for my people. And I think we all feel that way.
It’s hard to process. All day on Wednesday, I was hollow. I am an unclear, 29-year old millennial who does amazing work for amazing causes every day. I am complex. There’s nothing easy about me. But I am kind, and I listen. And I was listening so hard. I was in shock. I didn’t know how to do anything. I stared at the computer screen, the TV screen. I didn’t quite do all the things I was supposed to. And I got a-not-so-great phone call that pushed things over the edge. I broke down. I lost it. I work hard. I do things the right way – the way they should be done every time. And it’s hard to do that. And life by itself is just hard. There’s nothing easy about life. Even when you’ve got it down.
So that day, I put on my only pantsuit and a white shirt. I redid my makeup four times. I saw similar looks on so many people’s faces and I realized I’m not alone. I took solace – in their words, their tears, their hugs, their hope. That they too felt how I was feeling.
I didn’t know. I didn’t realize. That this is not some surface wound. That it hurts, deeply.
And that we’re in it together. I’m lucky that I have amazing people to remind me that we’re in it together. No matter what we stand for, we’re all fighting to make it better in the ways we think best fit. That while divided, we are all trying to process and work toward things that are good. Based on our beliefs, our upbringing, our experiences in the world. I am so fortunate to be able to do these amazing things and with such great people. I am forever grateful and empowered by them. We just need empowering, beautiful, good people in this world. People that bring us all up.
My dad’s brother was an interesting guy. Sometimes we spent a lot of time together, sometimes we spent a little. He died of cancer in 2006, too young, too early – as it goes. The last time I saw him was at my high school graduation. He rode in from Indiana to be there that weekend. And he was so sick he couldn’t quite come to ceremony. But while I was walking across that stage, he was at home writing me the most beautiful letter. It is one of my most prized possessions. It’s old and dingy now from being read, and re-read, but it comes with me wherever I go. There’s a line he wrote that has influenced me beyond belief.
It says: “All I can say is don’t waste time over the nit-picky, little stuff. Try to surround yourself with positive, happy people. People who won’t bring you down and you’ve got half the battle won.“
So remember this. Remember this feeling. The feelings to come. And don’t ask yourself “what happened?” But ask yourself “how do I help?”
Turn to the books – whatever the books may be. Turn to the left. Turn to the right. Turn to the corner pub. Turn to the schools. Turn to the local shelter. Turn to your neighbor. Come together. Band together. Give a helping hand. Take comfort. Ask the tough questions. Discuss. Debate. Celebrate. Observe. Be quiet. Be loud. Take a breath. Take a moment. Give thanks. Share. Share kindness. Share this. And write yourself a note to remember.
Remember the values your parents instilled in you. Be forthright in your beliefs and work toward the common good. For the betterment of the people, by the people and for the people. Know your power. Be grateful and seize opportunities to be better. To do better. We need it. We depend on it. I can do it.
I believe we can do it. Can you?