I don’t write like I should. I love to write, but the excuse of “not having enough time” always seems to come up. I have decided that that just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. I’m starting this on a Friday night. It is currently 6:51 PM. I am sitting on my couch, reading a book, and suddenly became ~inspired~ to write about something that has been on my mind a while.
With the recent tragedy in my community, and other more personal issues that have passed me in the last few months, or, scratch that, the last few years, I have come around to one unanswerable, universal question: what is life?
I found myself asking a close childhood friend this question after he shared the news of the recent suicide of our neighbor, friend, and bus buddy all throughout grade school. I was shocked. Sam was the most happy-go-lucky kid I had ever met in my life. He always was the class clown, constantly making everyone on bus 670 laugh everyday. Even as I am sitting here right now, I cannot believe this reality. He was a light in this world for all of us, and he will be dearly missed by everyone he touched in his life. At the ripe age of 16, his future was bright, but no one knows what is really going on in a person’s life behind closed doors.
This brings me to a message I learned while on Kairos back in October: everything you say and do has an effect on someone else’s life. Words are not snowflakes. They don’t melt and disappear from view once touched. They are permanent and can cut like knives when used vindictively, or they can heal those wounds when used kindly. The question is: what kind of words are you putting out into the world? Words have meaning and weight, so be sure to make all of your words count. Be kind to EVERYONE, even if you hate them!! If you are putting kind things into the world, the universe will reward you, and the world would be a better place.
As a senior in my last semester, I have not had the most typical high school experience. When you’re 15, you feel like it’s you against the world. You’re finding your way, experiencing new things, meeting new people, and beginning to start on your path toward self discovery. As a freshman in high school, the question ‘who am I?’ seems to be a common but unspoken thing. This was something I was beginning to experience as my freshman year came to a close. I was getting ready for summer with all of my new ~high school~ ‘friends’ (because let’s be honest who has a set group of friends freshman year) and breaking out of that freshman mentality. But that May, after running around to doctors for months, I was diagnosed with cancer. It was rare and aggressive and terrifying. And I cried, a lot, but mostly about the more insignificant things: losing my hair, my summer, friends that I hardly knew. In my mind at that time, my life was over, not actually over but, over. I never thought cancer would take my life away, and it never did.
Through my journey, I realized how stupid it was to be fretting over things like losing my hair and missing out on summer. Being bald was so easy, not that I don’t love my hair now, but there was no maintenance, and when I am working on a pediatric oncology floor as a nurse, I want to shave my head for September (childhood cancer awareness month). It’s just hair, it will grow back. Summer will always be there, concerts will always be there, parties will always be there. That’s something I never realized until I was in the thick of things. What I had wanted were the things I had taken for granted: walking normally, eating normally, and even going to Target (that was the first public place I went when I was cleared to) or basically just leaving my house to go anywhere but the hospital. You don’t realize the significance of anything until it is taken away from you.
This is just one obstacle I have had to face. Although it was one of the hardest, most trying times of my life, I look back on it not as a nightmare, but as a period of growth and maturity. Through all of this I met so many amazing people that I would not have in my life otherwise, and I discovered my passion to be a nurse and my love for photography. After pushing through that, I thought it would be smooth sailing. I had already jumped the hardest obstacle I would ever have to face, so there was no way I would face anything worse. But even after this, I feel some of the emotional pain I have endured since then has been worse than any physical pain I felt during that year.
The obstacles life throws at you are unpredictable. But something that I always have to remind myself: God always has a plan whether or not you chose to believe it. Everything happens for a reason, and things will work out. After experiencing the death of two kids I grew up with, hitting two minor depressive patches, falling out with friends, and battling with self love I’ve realized that those obstacles are surpassable, no matter how bad it seems in the moment. You can and will always get through it.
I think this is something most people forget when caught up in the thick of things. I’ve been through a lot, and looking back on some of the things I have experienced and pushed through, I wonder how in the hell I managed to come out on the other side stronger. But I did, and that’s all that matters.
But even through all the pain and suffering, I can’t help but see all of the good I have experienced–the people I have met, the places I’ve been, the things I’ve seen, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Here are a few of these lessons:
- Live your life with no regrets. There have been so many times where I don’t do things that I want to do because either a. I’m too scared to–either because of the potential outcome or consequences or b. I don’t have the time or the friends or the money or the courage. In the moment that I debate whether or not I should do something, I always think “I’m going to regret this if I don’t”, but even with that thought, I sometimes don’t carry out the intended action, and yes, I do regret it later. Buy that top, get on that roller coaster, talk to that boy. JUST DO IT. *Insert Shia LeBeouf vine here*
- Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. In the past, I have been “too nice” to say something or stand up to someone. I think that’s a dumb excuse, even though I know this will still take me awhile to implement into my life completely. Why are we so afraid to say something? Probably because we don’t want to be taken as a mean person or have rumors spread about us, but if standing up for yourself is offending the other person, then that’s their problem, not yours. Do what’s best for you.
- Self love isn’t as easy as social media makes it out to be. I have struggled with loving myself for years, and seeing social media influencers show off their bodies and faces full of makeup doesn’t help one’s journey to loving themselves. Loving yourself is hard, and everyone’s journey towards it is different. Don’t let the pressures of social media make you feel intimidated or self conscious because you can never become another person. Their life may seem perfect on camera, but you never know what’s actually going on. Don’t be afraid to just be yourself, because you are enough no matter what anyone else says.
- Being sad sucks. Another thing social media glorifies: depression. And the glorification of depression and any mental illness worsens the stigma surrounding it. If you’re depressed or even just down about something, talk to someone about it. You’d be surprised at the amount who actually care enough to listen and want to be there for you and help you in any way they can. Do things that make you happy; don’t just sit around in your room all day alone and feel sorry for yourself, because that’s not gonna fix anything.
- You are not defined by the things that have happened to you, you are defined by the way that you react to them. ‘Nuff said.
- There is beauty in your struggle. I found a call to nursing and discovered my passion for photography during treatment for cancer. I made it through, stronger than before, and experienced serendipity along the way. There is a reason you are struggling. Everything, and I mean everything, happens for a reason. And the reasoning behind it will come, be patient.
- Stop apologizing for things you have no control over. I chew loud because I had a tumor in my jaw, and I had to have reconstructive surgery, I can’t help it. And this is just one example. I’m done apologizing for things that aren’t in my control, you should be too.
- Not everything is a competition. Who the heck cares who got the better grade, who stayed up the latest studying last night, or who has the hottest boyfriend or girlfriend, because in 20 years when you look back on your life is that what you want to remember? Is it really gonna matter in the end? No. We’re all gonna grow up, go to some college, graduate, get a job, get married, etc etc. So instead of tearing each other down to get to the top, let’s build each other up to make our world better.
- Having bad days is normal. You are entitled to having bad days, but don’t let your bad days become a bad life.
- Live your life in the moment. I tend to plan everything in my life out. When I was in treatment I would plan out my chemotherapy cycles to see what day my last chemo would fall on and when I could go out and do things that summer. Crazy right? I still have these tendencies. I get so caught up in the future that I don’t pay attention to what’s actually going on in the present. Focus on the now, and don’t get stressed out over future events that you have no control over. You will be fine.
- It’s okay to fail. Failing doesn’t mean defeat. Everyone has to experience some sort of failure in their lifetime. Failure is good!! It helps you learn lessons and not repeat your mistakes. It teaches us to be better people, so don’t be afraid to fail.
- Good things never come easy. You have to work for the life that you want and deserve. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, because if you set goals and put the work in, good will come to you. You got this, don’t be afraid to reach for the stars. We love a successful and motivated woman (or man 🙂 ).
Bottom line: life is beautiful. Even though life can suck sometimes, it will always get better. There is beauty in the struggle, the hardship, the failure because the outcome will always be worth it. Be grateful for the life you live.