"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Permission, Courage, and Telling My Story

There have been so many changes in my life in the last year, really in the last six months, especially on the career front. This year alone, I have worked for three different employers, with an end of the year scramble that made me dizzy with a mixture of fear, excitement, and hope. But it was mid-October when things really got interesting.

I was at my desk at job #2 for the year, when I was just beginning to figure out that this particular job wasn’t going to be the long haul, career home job I had hoped it would be. I was already job searching, miserable with a boss that knew nothing about marketing, management, or people skills, and watching people quit by the dozens around me every day. I had started only three months earlier, and I had never seen a workplace go downhill so fast.

My cell phone rang, and an out of town number popped up, and I answered a little excitedly, hoping it was a response to one of the dozens of jobs I had applied for. Instead, a voice I vaguely recognized responded to my hello, almost in mid-sentence before I could put two and two together. It was a vendor calling me, but she thought I was still behind the desk at my last job, a failing startup in San Francisco that I had been relieved to escape. I had spent months there watching several wealthy men fight and break promises (and do little else) for months. I finally got in a few words edgewise and was able to explain to her that I was no longer with the startup and couldn’t help her with the event she was calling about. She paused, and expressed disappointment.

“I so enjoyed working with you Kim,” she said, “you did a great job.”
I thanked her and prepared to hang up, but she continued.

“I really hope you are doing something you love and have always dreamed of doing.”

I was almost stunned by her words. First, they were so genuine, she really meant what she was saying, and secondly, it hit me like a punch to the stomach. Even if things at my current company weren’t unstable, even if I was in the perfect marketing job—was this what I dreamed of doing when I was little? Was this what I dreamed of doing every night when my thoughts were racing and I couldn’t sleep? No. All I ever wanted to be was a writer. When I can’t sleep, I am thinking about my book that still isn’t written, and about my blog that is gathering dust. 

I thanked this vendor who will likely never know the events she helped inspire, and then hung up the phone. I was in tears at my desk. I felt hopeless. I felt like every job I was taking was a mistake, every decision I was making was taking me further away from what I wanted more than anything. Most of all, I had made the decision to move us across the country, far away from everything, to this place of opportunity—California, and what had it gotten us?

I made my way to the office restroom and spent a good half hour crying. I reminded myself that very few people I know are doing what they always dreamed of doing. We all have to earn a living. I told myself that, as a recruiter recently reminded me, there are more f-cked up workplaces out there than there are normal ones, and you just don’t know how it truly is until you are there, until you are inside and working there. I took a lot of deep breaths and tried to give myself a break about everything.

I got back to my desk, and as I working on some social media posts for work, I clicked over to Facebook to find a link I needed. I was on my personal page and scrolled down, and stopped on a posting on an author’s page that I followed.

One spot left for my One-Day Writing Workshop.

I was frozen. For a minute, work was forgotten, everything was forgotten. The words stared back at me. This wasn’t just any writer, it was Joyce Maynard, a writer I had long admired. I had always toyed with the idea of going to a workshop like this, but didn’t have the confidence, or usually, the money.

I clicked the link to check out the details, whispering to myself, please don’t be too expensive, please don’t be too expensive. The page came up. It was expensive for us, for this time in our lives. But, it was local. It was 18 miles away. When would I ever have a chance like this again? I needed this right now. I needed to go and find out if this dream I had was crazy or if I should keep plugging away. The only way I would ever know was to go somewhere and get honest feedback from a writer I trusted and believed in.

I called my husband, and through tears explained that I needed to do this, I knew we couldn’t really afford it. He was alarmed that I was so emotional, and agreed immediately that if I needed to do this, to do it, we would figure out the money somehow.

The date of the workshop was November 3rd, and we had to submit our essays beforehand. To say I was a nervous wreck didn’t even begin to cover it. There were six other women attending the workshop. I was so afraid to put my words out there, to have Joyce and these other women read them and think I was a horrible writer. I was afraid I would read their words and compare mine and know immediately that I was not cut out to do this.

To be honest, over the past year, I had been asking myself why I was putting myself through this torture. No one said I HAD to write. It was just me doing this to myself. It would be a lot easier to let this dream go. I had to work- that was a have to. If I was supposed to be a writer, I would have been discovered or I would have figured out a way to make a living doing that by now, right? I had started thinking that maybe it was time to just let go.

What I wanted from this workshop was some kind of answer for myself. I felt stuck. And if I got a positive answer, I hoped to find a group of women that I could connect and continue with after that one day. I prepared myself for the worst. I wasn’t prepared at all for what I got instead.

I turned in my essay at the last possible moment. A few days later, all the essays were posted online so we could all read each other’s work before the actual workshop. I did feel humbled by the other women’s work, and I didn’t know what to think about how my work would be perceived. The workshop was memoir-focused, but Joyce had also encouraged writers of fiction to attend. Many of the other women had submitted works of fiction.

One of my biggest struggles with my writing is also what to write. I have avoided my story (as in writing a memoir) because I just didn’t know who would want to read it. I am not famous, I don’t feel I have accomplished that much, although at times, I do feel I have a story to tell. I have started a novel, but I have struggled. That’s the other part of me feeling stuck with my writing, and the other answer I wanted out of this workshop.

November 3rd came and as nervous as I was, I made it to Joyce’s house in one piece. She was incredibly warm and inviting, and as the other women arrived, my nerves eased a little bit. Regardless of the answers I got about my writing, I at least began to feel I was among friends. 

We began by going around the room and introducing ourselves and talking about why we were attending the workshop. Joyce let us all do this, and just listened carefully and said very little and took notes. When we had all finished, she went carefully around to each one of us and responded.

When I introduced myself, I talked about feeling stuck, about not knowing if this is what I was supposed to do. I told everyone about the day at my desk, and being the person who took the last spot at the workshop, and how I had dreamed of being a writer. I explained that there was a book my mother had kept for me that chronicled every year of school, with my school photo pasted in it, and a few memories jotted down below it. And every year, underneath that photo where the book asked, What does Kim want to be when she grows up? The answer was always: writer. Every year, from kindergarten on up. I explained about my hesitation to write a memoir, and my biggest hesitation of all—my mother. I didn’t want to put her through any more pain, she had been through enough. I remember Joyce hesitating for a moment when I said those words. But I had continued and soon it was time for the next person to talk.

When Joyce got around to responding to me, she got out of her chair. She hadn’t done this with anyone else, so I was a little taken a back. But she got in front of me, on her knees, and she told me she was doing this because she wanted to make sure that I heard her and remembered what she was about to say.

She told me there were so many things that held us back in life—money, work, everything else—but this was MY STORY and that I had every right in the world to tell it and not to let anyone or anything stop me. She told me I didn’t have to protect anyone, especially someone who did not protect me. She said that if my mother was in the room, she was sure she would be touched and moved by her story, but that would be her story. This was mine. 

I can’t repeat her exact words, and I can’t ever express the passion with which she said them, because I was crying. This release of permission she gave me, I can’t explain it. I felt I had part of my answer. A huge part of it. 

As I got to know the other women that day through their work and their own personal journeys, it amazes me how we all travel through such hard places to get where we are. I felt so fortunate that I had landed in this particular group of such compassionate, giving women. Everyone was so supportive and thoughtful.

Joyce worked through each woman’s piece, one by one. With each piece of work, I was learning more and more, and I was nervously awaiting my turn. My essay was the last one Joyce reviewed. Her critiques and the input from the other women at the workshop gave me my other answer. I need to keep writing.  The positive feedback I got from Joyce and these women was a huge turning point for me. I was so emotional, and it was almost hard to leave Joyce’s house that night. I didn’t want that connected, creative feeling to end.

The good news is, it hasn’t. The women from that workshop have been amazing, and we all stay in touch and have met once and have another meeting in January. I feel so fortunate to have this group of supportive, positive, amazing, talented women to share and grow with. We are all each other’s biggest fans, and can openly share anything and everything about our writing with each other.

I am forever grateful to Joyce for opening a door for me that I very nearly let shut. It is still a battle to carve out time for writing, but I am making myself do it, especially with my writing group’s encouragement. But I wouldn’t feel the confidence and I wouldn’t have the direction I do without Joyce kneeling in front of me that day, passionately making sure I heard her words.

And really, how many times in our lives does someone do that for us? Really make sure we hear the words that make all the difference—that can change our lives?

If it happens, be grateful. Listen. Don’t take that moment for granted. Take the words to heart. Do what you are meant to do.

I plan to do just that.

It might take a long time, it might not work out like I’ve planned, and I am sure it will be ten times harder than I can even imagine.

But, this is my life. 

I am a writer. It is what I was meant to do.

I will tell my story.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Bringing Boone Home

It started with this picture.

He had been rescued from a high kill shelter, only 12 weeks old and just hours away from being euthanized. The whole process of whatever had happened before he got to the shelter, plus his time at the shelter had just traumatized him. He was incredibly timid and shy and needed a home with patient caregivers, and in the best of situations, a confident big brother to help him get his bearings and come out of his shell.
I stared at the picture for a few seconds and looked into his eyes. I have seen hundreds of rescue pictures. I follow a lot of rescue organizations on Facebook, and every now and then, one dog will catch my eye, or a story will tug at my heart. This was one of them. But this one in particular felt different. I emailed the rescue contact and asked if there had been a lot of interest in the dog, whose name at the time was Cameron. She responded, “No one yet”. I told her we really weren’t looking, I just wanted a sibling for Bear before he got much older, and something about Cameron got to me. We emailed a little, back and forth. She checked out my Facebook profile and the pictures and stories about Bear. She felt like Bear would be THE perfect big brother for Cameron. She sent me an application, and asked me to “just fill it out and let’s see”. Cameron, she said, was a special case. The foster mom was very attached and wanted to make sure he was placed carefully. He was incredibly sweet, but was having a hard time.

I hadn’t yet talked to my husband about this crazy idea.

We currently had four furry residents in our house. Three cats and our beloved dog Bear. I can honestly say that Bear is the center of our world, and we both love him so much, that there is no doubt he is spoiled and cared for beyond measure. I have, for awhile, wanted to get another dog as Bear has started sleeping a lot and getting less active, and at five years old, he doesn’t need to do that. He is only doing that because we are doing that, and honestly because our schedules have let us do that. Bear loves to play, and we don’t always make it to the dog park as much as we used to because his energy level isn’t as intense as it used to be. I didn’t want to wait much longer to get another dog, because I want him to be young enough to enjoy a playmate.

When I first broached the subject of another dog, my husband Shea looked at me as if I had completely lost my mind. He loves our animals just as much as I do, and he and Bear are incredibly bonded. But, we aren’t financially in the best place, we do already have FOUR animals, we are renting and will probably be renting for a long time to come (which isn’t always easy to do when you have a small zoo in tow), a puppy is a lot of work, and to top it all off, I was about to leave for a business trip for six days. He wasn’t even considering the possibility. All of his arguments were valid, and honestly, right.

Usually, when I have gone through this before, even sometimes a rescue would call or contact me about a particular case, something would happen, someone else would adopt or foster the dog, and the whole situation would be resolved without my involvement. But in this case, that just didn’t happen. And usually, every other time, something in me told me it wasn’t right. This time was different.

Shea knew the person I was when he married me. Within the first year after we were married, he definitely knew what he had gotten into. We were still living in South Carolina then, and he was riding with me to a sales appointment. It was a rainy gray day and we were getting off the interstate. As we drove on the exit ramp, I saw two dogs wandering precariously in and out of speeding traffic. They were muddy, the rain was coming down and drivers were swerving in the bad weather to miss them. I started to pull over immediately and Shea stopped me. He said something to the effect of “Are you insane?” I drove a little further and stopped. I looked at him and said, “You knew who I was when you married me. I am the person who will stop on a rainy, muddy day and pick up strange dogs. I can’t live with myself otherwise.” I knew I was with the right person when I saw his face soften as he looked at me and then got out of the car with me and called for the dogs, who at first seemed to have disappeared, but then gratefully ran to our car. They jumped in, mud and all. A funny side note to that day, after they got into the car, they immediately both jumped over the back seat and all over Shea, licking him in gratitude, but also covering him in mud. We had to throw away his shirt. But he was such a good sport. We were able to find a local vet nearby who took them in and called a local rescue after checking for microchips.

We had agreed to meet the rescue contact at a local pet fair on the upcoming Saturday, and even though Shea was not on board completely, he said he knew how I felt and would come with me and see what happened.

Both of us were most concerned about Bear. If Bear was unhappy or overly jealous, or if this would impact him negatively at all, it wouldn’t happen. Period.

They brought out this shy little puppy, warning us that he probably wouldn’t even walk around with so many people around. But when he saw Bear, a light went on. It was love at first sight. He immediately jumped and romped and wagged his tail. Bear became a big brother right away.

We had already decided on a name if things worked out…Boone (for my husband’s college town). Boone’s foster mom was there and the rescue contact and they were both so happy and touched watching him open up so much more quickly than they thought he could.

I kept coming back to Shea. I knew he was unsure. I knew he was right about all his worries. He always says he loves my heart. And despite his concerns, and everything else, he looked at me then at Bear, and said, “Bear, let’s take your little brother home.”

I was home for for five days before taking off for a six day business trip to Chicago. In those five days, I suddenly remembered how hard it is taking care of puppies. Boone was still very shy for about five hours. Then, it was as if he suddenly knew he was safe and he bounded through the house, and romped outside, and ate and ate and ate. (something we couldn’t get him to do at first). But it was tiring, and non-stop. The thought of leaving Shea alone with all of this for six days was daunting. I laid awake at night worrying if I had made the right decision, and if Shea would be ok, and if everything would work out alright. But, I remembered that I felt the same way when I first brought Bear home and sometimes felt overwhelmed, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that bringing Bear home was the best decision ever. I just had to trust my gut and my heart.

As I prepared to come back from my business trip, I worried. Six days was a long time for Shea to handle everything alone, especially in the early days of helping a puppy adjust. But I came home to find that he had fallen in love with Boone, and vice versa. How could he not? Look at that face! But I was so relieved. I knew seeing Shea and watching him and Boone that everything was ok and I had made the right decision.

My love for Bear has only grown, sometimes I think my heart will burst as I watch him be such a patient big brother. Shea and I both thought he would be more possessive and jealous about his food, but he has been surprisingly forgiving. He is learning to share his toys, which is taking a little more time. But overall, the two boys are romping and playing, Bear is getting so much more exercise, and they are both having a blast.

I could never have known the love and comfort my animals would provide in my life. I have been so lucky to find my way to these animals at just the right moments. I have written before about this, but as much as I have saved them, they have saved me. There is something so magical about being a part of a rescue animal's journey, about seeing that light come on when they know they are safe, and that everything is going to be ok. It fills my heart, and honestly at times, gives me purpose. Thankfully, my husband understands. We are at full capacity now, though. There's no more room in our house, or our bed for that matter, for any more fur babies for a long time. 

But I am so, so thankful that we had room for just one more.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Here Before

Usually when I am at some sort of crossroads, when I am struggling or hurting, the words are everywhere. I can write and write, no matter how tired or busy or how little time I have. But, that hasn’t been the case for the last four months. It has been almost physically painful to write, and I haven't been able to find my way out of whatever writer's block or obstacle I am up against. I have worried that I am too far gone this time. But really, I can’t be any more far gone than I have been before, can I? There are too many good things in my life now that I never thought I would have. Too many right things. Too many things that should make everything easier.

This time of year always sneaks up on me. Even though fall is my favorite season, this time of year – heading into the holidays, has always been hard. Even though I have a husband who loves Christmas with such passion that he reverts back to a six year old’s excitement over every ornament, decoration and Christmas movie on television, it can’t erase over 30 years of this being a really horrible time of year for me. I honestly love this time now, as we have our own traditions, and I don’t have to make excuses to avoid going home (and feel guilty for it) or feel like the most single person in the world (as the holidays can really make you feel). But I think there is something to the fact that my body, soul, and spirit learned to start preparing for hard times around September, and somehow I haven’t “unlearned” that yet. I get more emotional over everything, and think too much about everything, and in general, feel a little more of the weight of the world on me.

It started in September, when everything I read and heard on the news and from my friends just started weighing on me. Just the unfairness of life. Just hard stories and hard times and sadness that seemed to be outnumbering the goodness and kindness in the world. I kept telling myself I was just seeing things that way, and I was honestly getting scared for myself. We have been under so much financial stress for such a long time it seems. That will wear on a person. That, and family stress and every day stress, and just life has seemed, well, so heavy. I worried that, like addiction and other life-long battles people have to fight even once they are recovered, my depression was always going to be something that I had to keenly be aware of, sitting in the corner beckoning for me when I feel this way. At times, it felt as if I was fighting not to be taken in. I think we all have low moments, and I know I have had enough on me to justify feeling overwhelmed.

A few key moments stopped me in my tracks. The first was on the drive into work a month or so ago. I was already emotional that morning, and traffic was backed up on my regular route, and I had to take some back roads as I neared my office. I got a little turned around, as I always do with my lack of direction, and as I pulled up to a stop sign, trying to figure out which way to turn, a homeless man sat on a tiny patch of pavement between me and the oncoming lane of traffic. He held a small cardboard sign, with messy letters in black magic marker that read: Dreaming of Tacos and a Clean Pair of Socks. He was looking off in the distance and the pain on his face and that sign…well, I lost it. I was sobbing in my car, soon serenaded by multiple car horns pleading with me to move on. It just broke my heart that someone wanted such simple things and didn’t have them. The next morning, I tucked a pair of my husband’s socks into my purse, and went the same route to the office, but the man was no longer there. I cried again. I see so many homeless people here. Every day. And my heart is torn every time, and especially when I see elderly people or when I know someone is mentally ill and lost in a world that has discarded them. But this man’s simple sign has stayed with me. I have tried to remember that and be so thankful for all that I have. I have punished myself for feeling down when I am NOT by the side of the road begging, and I will sleep in a warm bed and have food tonight.

The other key moment came just a week ago. I was at work, and got a call on my cell phone from a sales person, trying to sell a conference sponsorship. She was trying to reach me, but in connection with the company I last worked for. When I explained that I no longer worked there, she responded, “Oh, Kim, I hope you are doing something  you love to do, something you’ve always dreamed of doing.” I sat silent. She and I had worked together briefly at my last company, and she let me know she had enjoyed working with me so much, and was glad to see I had moved on (my last working environment was not a very positive place to work). And while my new job is much better, much more geared to my work strengths, and while I make a good salary, what she said made my stomach drop. It was such hard timing when I have been struggling to write a single sentence for months and at times have given up on my dream of ever publishing a book. I want so badly to finish my novel and just try to get it published, and to just really feel that first and foremost, I am a writer. I know that can’t happen all at once, but I have always felt I was working my way there. Lately, I have felt like it just isn’t going to happen, like I am losing something, a part of me, a key core of who I am. I know I am so lucky to have a job in a time when people don’t. I know we are lucky to be paying our bills when others can’t. It is just so frustrating to be working so hard and turning over what feels like every cent to just cover our asses—barely—and it’s not even doing what I love- what I really want to do. But, that’s life. I know it. This is no surprise. It is just harder right now for some reason.

I feel time ticking by right now, it feels like the clock is speeding up. I had to check my age on a form recently, and I have a birthday coming up in a few short weeks. I will be 44. FORTY FOUR. How in the hell did that happen? And how did I LET that happen, without going after some of these dreams sooner? How did I let depression rob me of so many years? I know I didn’t “let” that happen, and that second question kind of answers the first, but it hurts my heart all the same. I know I still have time. I am constantly telling people that it is never too late. And it isn’t. It just feels that way right now. I just want to make up for lost time, and go grab everything I want to do, and do anything and everything that makes me feel better, and worthy, and hopeful about the world, and most of all, myself.

One thing that helps, so much, is this. 

This is the end of my day every day. My dog Bear. This face in the window. There are no questions or worries here from this sweet boy, just love. It amazes both me and my husband just how much love you can feel for a dog and how loved you feel in return. On my way home from work, when I honestly have cried a few tears for reasons I can’t explain, when I need to feel needed and worth more, and need to know that I am making my mark and a difference in the world somehow, I pull into my driveway, and Bear somehow knew five minutes before that I was turning on our street, even though I never arrive home at the same exact time. He looks out the window and waits. He sees me walking up to the door and explodes into a happy dance and pulls to get to me so much that my husband cannot hold him back until I have put my bags and purse on the kitchen table to turn to him. There is such joy in me just being there, just arriving, after only hours away. It seems small, and maybe even silly to those of you who aren’t dog lovers, but I can tell you that there are days when that moment is everything. 

It's a small sign that in a world of weight and sadness and lost and forgotten dreams, that there is boundless love waiting for me, just behind my front door, and somehow, I am doing something right.

 The beautiful painting featured in this post is called "The Fisherman's Wife" by Scott McLachlan. More of his work can be viewed here.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Be Ready as Best you Can

As I watch my Facebook feed fill with pictures of my friends’ kids, almost grown up in their caps and gowns preparing for high school or college graduation, I am always taken back to those times in my life. There you are, right on the cusp of the beginnings of your life, or what you think your life will be.

This year was different for me, because while hearkening back to those times, I am also finding myself in this frustrating point of life where I just get angry because life seems so unfair. It is unfair to watch good people suffer with disease or horrible pain or loss—sometimes one after the other, while truly awful people, people I know to be manipulative and malicious, just skate through life, seemingly without a care. It’s not like I just learned this, there have been instances my whole life. But lately, so many people I know and care about are struggling, and I want to make sense of it all.

The thing is I can’t. You can’t. We just can’t. It is life. Life is fragile, hard, and yes also beautiful and precious, but the truth is, it isn’t always fair. It won’t ever be.

I have written a time or two before about commencement speeches that have touched me or meant something to me. A few years ago, I wrote a poem that makes me believe I was having similar feelings when I wrote then, also.

Today I decided to write my own commencement speech, even though I have not currently received an invitation from a university to give one, and I doubt any are forthcoming. It’s the best way I knew to combine my own nostalgia for this time, along with the wisdom I hope I am gaining with another year behind me.

So here it is, Entitled:

Be Ready as Best you Can

Life is not fair.

I don’t say this to discourage you. I say this to you as a challenge for this next stage of your life, as you sit in these seats in caps and gowns, excited about the next chapter.

Be excited. Do whatever it is that calls to you in the small hours of your life, in between the things you think you have to do. Make the thing that calls to you the “have to” of your life. If you don’t, you will always wonder, you will always wish, and when you find yourself older and wiser, you will know it is what you should have done. Many years ago. The good news? It’s never too late. But don’t wait.

Because, I will say it again, life is not fair. None of us is guaranteed another day, another hour. Whether you are religious or not, whether you fear death or not, whatever you believe, all of us are on borrowed time.

As I stand before you, I am farther along this path of life than you. Your path may be remarkably different than mine. You might get lucky. Everything might go just as you planned. But then again, it might not. Be ready for this, as best you can. Know that you might not get your dream job, but the one you get may be where you were destined to be. You might not get married as soon as you would like, but you may find that the wait was worth it after all. These sad, perplexing moments will be the threads of your life that weave together a pattern you couldn’t have foreseen. And at some point, you will be grateful for that. You will surprise yourself and be grateful that it wasn’t all so easy.

Know this: absolutely no one I know-- friend, acquaintance, co-worker,  or family member has ever said to me: things in my life went just as I planned. Anyone that does say that is probably not being honest with you or themselves. Everything will not go as you plan.

Be ready as best you can.

Let yourself mourn the losses of your life however you need to. It will make the victories that much sweeter.

Know that life and people will break your heart more than once in your lifetime. In fact, many times. Each time, you will feel that you can’t survive the pain. But you will. It will change you a little each time and teach you things you wish you didn’t have to learn in such a painful way. You won’t be able to see things clearly until much later when you look back and know that coming out on the other side of heartbreak made you stronger.

Take every chance you can. Don’t hold back. Because what will holding back get you? There won’t be photographs of you holding back, or friends sitting together laughing, remembering when you held back. There will be memories and mementos and stories handed down of all the chances you did take, the things you tried that scared you, that excited you, that made a dream come true, that ultimately will make you who you are.

There will be an a-ha moment when you finally become who you were meant to be. I can promise you, it is not right now. You may be far away from that moment, or you may be closer than some, but you will know it when it happens. When you have hurt enough, laughed enough, cried enough, experienced enough, and learned enough, you will have a moment where you sigh, take a deep breath, and know that this is it. Who you were meant to be. It won’t be an ending, it will be a beginning. You will relax a little more, quit trying so hard, and appreciate things more. It will hit you how precious it all is, and how hard you fought to get where you are, wherever that may be.

Be ready as best you can.

Everything is harder than it looks. Work, marriage, parenthood, and balancing more than one of these things at any stage in life- it’s all so much harder than you can imagine right now. But, it’s been said before, the best things in life are hard. And these things, the paycheck, the spouse, the children, they will also make up the most amazing, fulfilling, life-affirming moments. These moments will be more beautiful than you can imagine-- they will take your breath away.

I know now more than ever, that life is not fair. I watch friends struggle with disease, threatening to rob them from their young children, and I can’t make sense of anything. Years ago, I watched my best friend suffer as her three year old was diagnosed with leukemia. You cannot find any kind of fairness standing in a pediatric cancer ward. All you know is life is fragile, precious, and at times, so unfair. My friend’s son is healthy today. He is whole and healed. These moments will happen too—when you weep through laughter over amazing things, miracles, it seems. Hold onto those moments. They are rare, few, and far between.

So tonight, when you watch the last of the day fade away- your graduation day- take this with you: life is not fair. So, there’s absolutely no reason that you shouldn’t do everything you want, be everything you want to be. You have no excuses. If life were fair, it would all be spelled out for you, which steps to take, what not to do. If life were fair, you would know all the hours and days you have left, and there would be plenty, so why rush—why take a chance? If life were fair, it would be easy, lovely, and effortless.

But it’s not, thank goodness. It’s an unpredictable roller coaster ride, and you can’t ever see what’s coming next. You have no warnings, no guarantees, no map to follow from one stage to the next. Open your eyes, hold on, and be ready for all the surprises, catastrophes, and overflowing happiness. It’s all coming.

It will be wonderful, sad, and achingly beautiful.

Be ready as best you can.



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