Yes. I am the only one left.
It is no secret that I love to read. Everyone who knows me knows that I rapaciously devour books as fast as I can get my hands on them. I also love to read blogs, listen to podcasts, and peruse Twitter, sometimes at an alarming quantity (how else am I going to find out about the next book I should read?) lol. So, when thinking, and mulling, and pondering, and thinking some more about what I should write my very first blog post about, I kept thinking about all that I have read, along with all that I have experienced personally, and along with what message it was that I was truly trying to convey to others. One theme did seem to ring out above the rest- one that I kept reading and connecting with over and over. Words. The impact words have on us as people. Words matter. Words move people. Words are important. Words have an impact. Words.
In so many ways this message resonated with me, and I started reflecting on the words that have had the most impact on my life, both as a teacher and personally. One of the main reasons I wanted to start this blog was to share what words have done to both challenge and motivate me.
In a casual conversation I was having with someone not long ago, he asked me a fairly normal question. "Do you have any siblings?" This seemingly simple inquisition made me freeze. I wasn't sure what to say. In my head, I was thinking "There is a very long story here, or just go with a plain ole NO." Truth is, I had siblings, a brother and a sister. They were 14 and 12 when I was born, respectively. But when I was 13, my brother died of brain cancer. He was 27. And 23 years later, my sister, who was 48 at the time, died of a cerebral aneurysm. Yes, we were very close. Yes, my parents have endured an unimaginable loss more than once. Yes, I am the only one left.
You see, here's what happens. I get asked a simple question, and I don't know how to answer it. When I tell them the whole story of how yes, I had siblings, but they have both died, and in separate times, from different things... the look on one's face when I tell them is almost unbearable. It's worse than the look someone would give you if you ask when their baby is due, but they're not pregnant. And it is always, most certainly followed by these words "You are the only one left?" YES. So, to avoid all of that, there's been times when I've just answered with "No." And I HATE doing that. It feels dishonest and unauthentic. I have a story, and I should tell it.
Which brings me back to words. The words that have kicked me in the gut time and time again, since my sister passed away four years ago. You are the only one left? I have heard those words many times, and no time was any easier than the one before. But what to DO about it? Where to GO with it? How can I USE those words, or more- use that experience, to move forward and grow? And then, after reading a blog post by Dave Burgess about the book Start Right Now, I knew what to do. I thought about what it might actually mean to be THE only one left. Maybe that is what was meant for me. Not something I wanted for sure, but something I am, no less. And actually, my parents had four children (their first child died only two days after birth), so could it mean that being the one out of four left means I have a very specific purpose? Possibly, I thought, it means that I just need to make QUADRUPLE the effort and QUADRUPLE the impact. On this life, and on this world! Because, after all, I AM THE ONLY ONE LEFT.
Yes, words matter. And words move people. And those words, the ones that would kick me and freeze me time and time again, would motivate me. I have an opportunity to show people that you can overcome adversities and challenges in life, but they shape you, and you will always carry them with you. Use them for good, and don't wait. Start right now.
My first step was to start this blog. Those that have encouraged me, pushed me, and inspired me are right along with me on this journey. Adam Welcome, Roman Nowak, Catherine Williams, Eli Casaus, Nicole Taylor, Jordan Potrzeba, Austin Aeschbacher, Chad Arnett, and the amazing, most awesome BFF Kody Stricklin, you are my TRIBE, and I could not have done this without you. You have no idea what your words, words that have mattered so much, have meant to me.
Now that I took the plunge and started this blog (and you all know why I named it what I did), I have a place to go when motivation strikes me. When words move me, when I try something new (and possibly fail miserably), or just when I know my mind is racing too much and I just need to write.