If life were a loaf of bread, adversity would be the yeast. You see, adversity does one of two things; it either pushes you to a better place or gives you an excuse to remain where you are. For most of my life, I have experienced adversity. I have both risen and remained stagnant. The complex paradoxical nature of my life. Nonetheless, I am very familiar with adversity. For me, my greatest accomplishments were completed while I was under pressure. For example, a few days after my son was born, I was fired from my job in an ice cream factory because I decided to take paternity leave before paternity leave was a thing. I remember that day vividly. I was walked into my plant manager’s office and told that today would be my last day. He informed me that it was important that I was at work because production had to continue. When I was taking that long walk to the locker room to change out of my uniform, I could barely breathe because I had no idea what I was going to do. I had no direction. However, I did have obligations. With that being said, I did something that was unprecedented for someone like me; I enrolled in college. That one decision changed the entire course of my life as I knew, and would have known it. Throughout my professional career, I have experienced adversity because I want the very best for the students that I serve. For me, it has proven challenging to watch the advancement of others while watching the decline of those that we are supposed to support. Nonetheless, I kept pushing. Today, I find myself wrestling with the big questions of life. Why am I still here? Am I walking in my purpose? How will the world remember me? What’s the difference between happiness and joy? Despite my flaws, will love be kind to me? It may sound funny, but the truth of the matter is that these questions sometimes keep me up at night. I am in a constant state of self-improvement. Recently, I found myself scrolling through social media, and everyone looked so happy. It seemed that they had solved the riddles of love, wealth, happiness, and family. While I smiled for them on the outside, I found myself shedding a tear for me on the inside because my real life was nothing like the life they presented on social media. I then walked outside. When I had the opportunity to see some of the people that seem so successful on social media, I quickly realized that they had just as many issues, if not more, than I do. When speaking face to face, we used our ability to cope with, and overcome adversity as the tie that binds rather than comparing our success stories. So, after that experience, here I am. The greatest form of adversity that I have ever had to overcome is the death of my mother. Since 2008, nothing in my life has been the same. January through October, I am able to handle it. However, November and December are hell for me. Sure, I’m able to visit friends for food, drinks, and conversations. For me, Thanksgiving and Christmas was rarely, if ever, about the food. Thanksgiving and Christmas was about my mother. My mother was the Picasso of the kitchen. Thanksgiving gave her an opportunity to present a culinary masterpiece. Christmas was about the sparkle that appeared in her eyes each time that she opened a gift with her name on it. I watched this woman that suffered through hell for me smile like the child that I never knew. For a moment, I forgot what she went through. I forgot what I witnessed. The only thing that I knew was that I loved my mother and I was so blessed to share the holidays with her. Those days are behind me now, and I am dealing with the adversity of her absence. If you find yourself without a loved one this holiday season, please know that you are not alone. I understand what you’re going through because I’m going through it too. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to feel. However, it’s not okay to not believe that you will ever heal. You will. For me, I know that my mother only wanted the best for me. I’m certain that the person you are missing wanted the best for you too. I believe that our adversities serve as a compass that will ultimately point us in the direction of where and who we were ultimately meant to be. Although we are on this very difficult road called grief, I do believe that our exit is coming up very soon. Hang on. If you need to talk, I’m here. Honestly, I could use someone to really talk to about the death of someone that you couldn’t imagine living without that has actually experienced it. It makes me feel, well, human. Unlike the images that I often see on social media, I live my life like the rest of us; with hope in my heart one day at a time…..Patrick
As always, this week, please do something for someone else other than yourself for no reason at all other than to make their lives better. As I always say, if you make it to where you’re going, please don’t forget to leave a map for the rest of us. Always Choose Love.