Well, this year it has been 21 years that you have been gone. Since I had just turned 21 when you had passed away, this means that you now have been gone just as long as you were here on earth. I have been fearing this milestone for a long time, for some reason. It feels a bit sad, I’m not going to lie. I don’t want the memories to be distant, or fade away.
But I won’t let this letter have a sad tone. I have worked so hard on ME for the past years, to be healthy inside and out that I am able to deal with sadness and fears much better. I have much more perspective and depth now. I look back to 21 years ago and how that was the darkest point in my life. I was in high school, and I had to grow up really damn fast by watching you get sick, eventually lose your battle, and finish my last year of college to then embark into the real world without you. However; out of all that, I became a very strong, independent, focused, passionate, happy, lover of life and people person! I learn more about myself each and every year since then, it’s crazy. I feel like 21 years ago I didn’t know who I was, where I was going, or what I wanted. I was much more of a people-pleaser, afraid to use my voice (I am sure most of it was because I was so young), but the other part of me thinks that perhaps that was the person I was back then. Being forced to grow up quickly helped me to figure out a lot of things about me and become the person I really am! It was fight or flight, and I may have chosen flight for a few years I then chose fight!
Attending a conference for my fitness job just last month, had me reflecting on a lot of these things I mentioned above. I went to this conference in order to connect with my like-minded friends from all over the U.S and to learn how to be a better fitness motivator and leader. I didn’t realize, however; that this conference would also bring a lot of reflections about what I have learned from the past 21 years– life after you.
Here are some of those reflections:
-I have learned that everyone experiences pain at some point in their life. Pain from a loss, maybe it’s mental health, or some sort of trauma in their life (the spectrum is so big on what causes pain but we all go through it). We get tested. We get pushed to our limits. We may never know how we will climb out of the dark hole. But eventually I did. I spent years being in that dark place, and I hadn’t even realized it- gaining 40 pounds, spending money I didn’t have, not focusing on my health or my own happiness or what made ME happy. I was showing up, going through the motions, but felt sadness and numbness. Who was I? What did I want? What was I doing to myself? I finally asked myself these things about 7-8 years after I lost you. It was then that I made an effort to move forward- coming out of my shell, learning who I was, what I wanted and focusing more on ME.
I have spent the past 21 years being stronger, better, happier and not looking back to those darker years. I have figured out what makes me happy and am not afraid to go after that. I surround myself with only people who lift me up, and have let go of any unhealthy relationships with ease. I have found my passion and am pursuing it. I am not afraid to dream big, or go after crazy goals no matter what people think or say. I am comfortable in my own skin. I am very independent, to the point where it may also be a fault, LOL, but I know that if anything were to happen I could be OK.
I keep you in my heart, thoughts and mind constantly. I try to channel your same work ethic and drive. I try my best to be a wonderful Mom and wife. I realize that family memories are so precious and will work hard to help make more family memories via travel and adventures near and far. You also worked very hard to provide my education for the years you were here and I too will work hard to do the same for my boys. You were a lover of life, and people. When there is bad out in the world, I am reminded to always look at the good folks that make up for it. I chose the higher road. I don’t compare, regret, get involved in drama, gossip or sulk– I just do my thing and what makes me happy even if that means pushing the envelop a little bit and getting uncomfortable so I can fight for what I think is right and important to ME.
Thank you for teaching me all of these things. It’s an honor that you were in my life for the 21 years that I had you. I strive to keep your memory alive each day in my boys’ life (they say that’s Nana Judy each time they see a cardinal or butterfly). We know you are here, please keep visiting us!
Your Pina Colada