After

"Real strength has to do with helping others." Fred Rogers


Cannot believe I'm writing my annual birthday blog post. What a year it has been. What a year it really has been. What a year it has been. This has been the worst year of my life, and there's no spinning it. The loss was too great. The impact was too pervasive. The devastation was too life-changing. It's so challenging to properly weigh the scales on evaluating the most surreal year of my life. My mom passed away. Everything in my head is organized into the before, and then there's the after. It's the jumping off point. It's the reset. If there's no acknowledgement of that, there's nothing for us to talk about. Everything from that morning (5:03AM) forward has been different. Everything from that point on is just the aftermath of the biggest heartbreak of my lifetime to date. 

Everything is just the falling action from a climax that should have never came. How could this be my life story? How could this have happened to me? How could she have been forced to leave me? Why did God do what He did? How could He? When will I ever stop being mistrustful of the Great I Am? If He wanted me to be drawn closer to Him why was this His chosen mode of operation? See the thing is I know. I know the answers or have the capacity to know them. I know so much, and there is so much yet still to learn. I hate silver-linings, bright-sides, and blessings in disguise. Some things are just awful, traumatic, and painful. Let them be that way. People don't always need light - especially when it's used to diminish the gravity of their truth. It has been made clear to me how losing my mom further expanded my ability to demonstrate empathy beyond human understanding, to speak to the essence of others, and to give like nobody else. 

This year my world, or at least my understanding of it, was destroyed. Nothing makes sense. Everything feels empty. I am still going through the motions even when I'm making those motions. I'm feel like I'm waiting. Waiting to wake up for this to be an awful nightmare. Waiting for my mom to be home whenever I visit. Waiting for my family to be complete once more. And I know those things are impossible. What happened did happen, and every single time I wake up in the morning, after a nap, or from daydreaming about the persistent thought of being forced to live in this world without her, for the rest of my life I have to remember. I have to remember. I do remember. That is living with loss. That is is lifelong mourning. That is grieving the antithetical notion of death that is diametrically opposed to life. AND, this year has been transformative in so many ways. 

I stopped working a job I loved with people I loved even more. I started law school which was both a challenge of endurance, and a test of my convictions. I proved to myself that I could do it by surviving my first year, and even more so that I could it my way - with kindess, empathy, and self-care at the forefront of my approach. I made friends that will already be part of my life for the duration of my life. I saw my circle expand, more people be added to my community, and more love abound. I laughed amid sorrow, danced in between pain, and performed when it seemed impossible. My world is different in devastating ways, and in awe-inspiring ways as well. I often think of all the moments in my life that to precisely occur in their sequences for me to be who I am, where I am, and when I am. Placed in the path of so many so we could connect.

I'm in the after now. Life is nothing like I imagined it to be. It never is. Things never happen how expect them. All our predictions are for nil. I'm okay with that. I have to be. What choice do I have? What I have learned is that the after matters. How we carry ourselves in the after speaks to our character. Who we are after is key. I get to feel all that I feel, AND I get to be all that I am. It's both. It's not one or the other despite the ways that the world and its people want to place you in those absolutes. It's the dangerous tragic story of the guy whose mom died while in law school or that strong, resilient guy who pushed through a difficult experience. 

I hate, and I rarely use that word, the way that resilience and grit are used to praise the forced ways people deal with trauma. It's not laudable. Don't praise my strength when I shouldn't have had to be strong. Don't express awe for my performance when you didn't give me room not to perform. We need to reframe vulnerability, rest, and pause as strength instead of glorifying endurance. People should not receive accolades for their suffering. Stop. Stop telling students of color that you admire their grit. Stop telling women you value their resilience. Stop saying disabled folx are inspirational. If you did nothing to remove the barriers, inequities, and hardships that these people faced, then you are lauding survivorship in the face of inaction. Maintaining the status quo when it doesn't include everyone to begin with, makes complacency ... complicity. 

What do you do with the knowledge of your own remarkableness? What do you do when you are constantly made aware of your destiny to be someone distinctly significant? What do you do when you are told endlessly that you're different, there's something unique about you, and that you're unlike anyone else? Sometimes I wonder if I know too much. Sometimes I question if I am too much. Sometimes I wish I didn't know ... about me. Life be a perpetual crisis of existential proportions. More and more I am seeing why people quickly figure out I'm a bit of an anomaly. It's normal for me to be how am I and do all I do, but in the grand scheme it's extraordinary. I think a combination of immense gifts, the resources/space to cultivate them, and opportunity have culminated in me. I wholeheartedly believe each one of us is an expert in something. We carry doctorate worthy dissertations within us. 

Very few people get to put theirs on display, let alone be praised or compensated for it. Somehow I am a blogger, photographer, social justice educator, graphic designer, career counselor, casual therapist, pop-culture connoisseur, chef, gamer, artist, stylist, life-coach, interior designer, and on, and on. Oh I'm a law student. It's like pick one and that by itself is enough to sustain a lifetime. That's me. Endless depth and the breadth to embody it all. As much as it feels like a curse to be "capable" it is also a profound gift to be able to help people in so many ways. I get to give people guidance, help them be better people, love who they are and appreciate their bodies, and abilities, and on, and on. A one person crew to uplift, empower, and move people forward. I thank my parents, especially my mom for being a kindly ferocious voice to tell people their possibilities. They may not know. They may just need to hear it from someone else. Tell people that there is an after, and it is boundless in it's opportunities.

Thank you for following my story through this decade of living. Thank you for being with me through this tumultuous year. Thank you for spending time with me, for engaging, and for being present with me. Thank you for the laughter, the light, and the love. Thank you for the space to exist, to express emotion, and to just be. Thank you for giving me permission to disengage, to not respond, and to cry. Thank you for being willing to be doing the work of living with me in the after. Much love to you and yours. Peace be with you. X

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