Monday, May 21, 2012

It's About Never Giving Up

"Sometimes you gotta lose to win, you gotta never give up, and never give in." -Emmanuel Jal

There are always moments in life that will bring you to your knees. You know, the “come to Jesus”-“rock bottom”-“hell froze over” kinds of moments that end up defining you whether you like it or not. But what isn’t always the case, is having someone who will reach into the snake pit you’ve found yourself in to pull you up. To be brave enough to extend a hand into that kind of circumstance takes a special breed of courage and determination, with a side of fearless stupidity. While I’ve been lucky enough to have a monopoly on people who are willing to do such things, I’m going to focus, mostly, on just one.

An excerpt from a poem I wrote serves as an appropriate preface:

The cuts will heal and fade with time,
But there will always be the scars,
To remind me of what happened
To the life that once was ours.

Looking in the mirror seven years from then,
At the fighter I’ve become,
I wonder how I ever even fought the war
I never should have won.

Once upon seven years ago,
A stranger passed me by,
Once upon seven years ago,
That stranger saved my life.

Indeed he did. That stranger, turned saving grace, taught me one of the best lessons I’ve ever had the privilege of learning: the importance of never giving up. Perhaps, even more meaningful than that was the underlying importance of being willing to reach out to others in that capacity – like he did for me. In other words – to pay it forward. I was on the fast track to nowhere 7 years ago, but in one conversation, everything changed. In one conversation, I learned about the value of empathy, the spark that ignites authentic compassion, and the importance of giving back instead of giving up. I am fortunate to have received that gift when I did... what could have been a negatively life altering defining moment was pushed, molded, framed, and conjured into something positive and sustaining. Because of that, and also in part because I cant actually express to him my deepest gratitude in person, I have committed myself to never giving up on myself or anyone else.

It is true that giving up is the easiest thing in the world to do, but I have found myself surrounded by people who understand what it takes to hold it together - and do so - when everyone else would get it if they fell apart.. now, that’s true strength. Today, on the seventh year anniversary of when this world lost a great man and I lost a hero, I remember with heartfelt gratitude that the journey does not end there. Legacies don’t die with the dead unless you let them… in the same respect, they don’t stay alive unless you perpetuate them. I am so lucky to have found myself at a place in my life where I can look back on the past and be so grateful, even for what I've lost, while at the same time looking forward with pride, purpose, and passion for perpetuating the legacies I am fortunate enough to know. 

To Dennis Gryder, who made me promise never to give up - seven years later, I’m still fighting like crazy… Even on my weakest days, I get a little bit stronger cause I know I have to. Thanks for that. To my grandmother, Marlene Schneider, who I cannot believe has been gone from this earth for nearly a year - I miss you like crazy, but I’m still doing everything I can to keep my heart open… I hope that you’re proud of who and what I’ve let in. And to Morgan Harrington, whose legacy is newest to the list of lives that have changed mine, it is a privilege to have the chance to pay it forward in your honor - we would have been great friends... We are doing everything we can to do you justice and to find it at the same time. 

Seven years have gone by entirely too undetected… I have no conceptual understanding of how time has passed so quickly. A wise person once told me you never know what life is going to give to you, but more importantly, you never know what might be taken away - so don't take anything for granted.  If I die young - not to dwell, or suggest, but rather, to be a realist - I want to know I used every single nano-second I was given. The fact of the matter is we are ALL terminal and what we do with the time we're given  determines our legacy. I'll probably never hold the brush that paints a masterpiece, and I'll probably never find a pen that writes a symphony, but if I will love than I will find that I have touched another life - just as others have done for me - and that's something worth leaving behind. So, to the friends and family who I am humbled by and grateful daily to still have by my side – don't you ever give up. I know the value of an unexpected extended hand, and you can bet your heart and soul I’ll dive head first into a snake pit any day for every single one of you. 

Cheers to stupidity: life is way too damn short to be anything but fearless.  241 

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