i am certain that every single one of us has done one of those lists. you know the list i’m talking about. the ‘where will i be in five years?’ list. i know i had one five years ago. i was in my first year of teaching in the public school system. i was overwhelmed and working twelve hour days. i absolutely loved my job but was so unprepared to do it. it was survival, every single day. my five year plan was obvious. my then boyfriend but now husband and i had just moved across the state line to virginia and we were young and naive and working all the damn time. we didn’t know how to spend money but we weren’t saving it that’s for sure. our six hundred square foot apartment could be vacuumed from one outlet. and we hated it. but we basically just slept there. between working, commuting, catching the metro, grading papers, working in maryland and dc but living in virginia. those definitely weren’t my favorite moments. but my five year plan was pretty simple- make tenure, get engaged, get married, move back to maryland, pay off student loans, get a dog, get a tattoo, be a good friend but be an even better person and teach your freakin’ heart out. guess what? it’s been five years. and i have done most of those things. except off pay my student loans [bahahahaha]. sorry- student loans are my favorite joke to tell. i also never made tenure. but that’s not the point and that’s not important.
i did everything else on that five year list. but let’s talk about the most important ones- to be an even better person and to teach my freakin’ heart out. and lemme tell you something; over the last five years, i have done exactly that. because five years ago today, i lost one of the greatest people to ever walk into my life. one of the best people i know. one of my best friends. my true soul match. my greatest mentor and confidante. five years ago, i experienced a loss that still shakes me to this day. i can remember the violent flood of tears and the vomit on my classroom floor. i can remember her last words, her last hug, our last goodbye. i can remember her standing room only funeral and the ten days of unpaid bereavement i took to lie in my dark bedroom and cry. but in the last five years, i have come to remember so much more. because while my loss was great and my loss was impactful and my loss changed me- it also pushed me. pushed me further into myself and into the work that i do every single day. i won’t stretch on for hours about who my person of loss was to me or for me. i carry a lot of strength and value in knowing who she was for me and what she left behind for me. and in these last five years, i have walked every step with her beside me. she holds me a little bit above the ground; just enough to know she’s there and to challenge me ever so slightly. in the last five years, she has stopped appearing everywhere i look and i miss the sound of her voice. in the last five years, i have recreated an identity, shaped and shifted around the trauma that comes with a grief like this. unexpected and unfair. i welcome the embrace of our memories and our laughter and turn my face away from the shadows that bring how hard her death was. in the last five years, i have come to a new place of acceptance- one that settles into knowing that i can’t change her horrific death nor can i bring her back to a tangible existence. but that i can carry her solitude and her sure footing with me wherever i carry myself. that i can make my classroom and my space and my profession, one of solid ground. one with patience and acceptance and light. i can cherish what we had and in the time that we had.
and on this fifth year mark, i find myself sad. sure. always. but not stricken with grief like that past years have brought. and i believe there are two reasons for that. one: i understand that the world that exists now and has existed over the last five years isn’t one that she would appreciate. in fact, she would hate it. she would hate that the world isn’t collectively vegan. she would be the one at home depot buying plants every single day of quarantine. and she would most definitely drive her college aged children insane while they were living back at home for awhile. but she wouldn’t hate the extra time outside in the garden or the excuse to stay inside in front of criminal minds. she’d make kombucha and tell you a million times on the phone that you should drink it too. and she’d send you links to all kinds of health foods and sites. and she would be a damn good teacher. even though teaching in a pandemic is no one’s strong suit. and maybe that’s the message here. i know, you’ve read this far so you deserve a message. so two: maybe people are only here for awhile. maybe a year. maybe ten. maybe a lifetime. and whatever they offer to you in that time, is of great value. it may change your life or shift your soul or wake you up. for me, i know that she came into my life for the sole purpose of making sure i could make it, with or without her.
and even though i crossed almost everything off that five year plan back in twenty fifteen, i wake up every morning, keep my head up and try to do everything she ever taught me. and if that’s all i do for five more years, then it was all worth it. because she made me who i am now. and i am so damn proud of that. and i know she would be too.
so here’s to the first five. i survived them. some days i cried, others i had to crawl through and some i truly thrived. but she’s been the backbone the whole time; holding up the frame. supporting the structure. making sure that i love and teach and grow with the fiercest passion there is.
i owe it all to her. may today be easier than the previous years. and may your light and guidance be present always. i carry your heart with me; let’s go crush monday together.