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Day 36: New chapters, running shoes, parades, and finding strength.

I didn’t go to yoga today, so I didn’t cry at yoga today. But, once again, Kate’s wisdom popped into my inbox this morning and I’ve been sitting on this all day.

In short, we need to stop skipping over the hard stuff.

I touched on this earlier this year, and this idea keeps presenting itself in the different exercises, challenges, and self-reflecting I’m doing.

Kate put it beautifully: This is my truth: My own life has been an evolution into my darkness, that has resulted in a revolution into my own light.”

Let that sit for a minute.

When shit gets tough, how do you deal with it? Do you ignore it? Run away? Focus on setting goals and making lists and finding more affirmations?

I’ve done all of the above, and at times, my strategy has been to run far, far away from the hard stuff. Because starting over was less threatening than looking inside and seeing what the fuck I was doing and how I got myself into these situations in the first place.

I can talk myself into or out of anything, which is a blessing and a curse. Sometimes, my “new chapters” were just that, new chapters – new opportunities that I’d be stupid not to pursue. Sometimes, I’d frame my running away as a new chapter. And sometimes those lines were really, really blurry.

Some highlights of running away and/or new chapters:

  • 2005 New Chapter: Moving to Florida with my family in the middle of spring semester, sophomore year, when I was still going to KU. I was running away from a horrible breakup (you know how horrible these things are when you’re 19), but this turned out to be epic for my education and being able to put myself through school. And hello, NO MORE SNOW!
  • 2009 New Chapter: Moving to Chicago to pursue my career in agency PR. This one was a legit new chapter, but my friends who didn’t understand said I was running away from Florida, and that I should have stuck around to wait for an opportunity closer to home.
  • 2010 New Chapter: Moving to Austin to start at WCG and skydive more, make more money, and do more work I loved. This was a legit new chapter with the back story that I really really wanted to be closer to Barry and he was supposed to be going to Spaceland for the winter and I wanted to have employment options in the event that he wanted me to come with him. Then he had neck surgery, didn’t go to Spaceland, and I moved to Texas anyway.
  • 2011 New Chapter: Moving back to Illinois to work at the DZ I started skydiving at. Legit new chapter, unless you were one of the people who said I was “throwing away” a “promising career” for something that “sounded more like an obsession than a job” – man that was a lot of air quotes.
  • 2011 New Chapter: Moving to SoCal. Legit new chapter, all the way. Year-round employment (not all that common in the skydiving industry), promises of 4-way greatness, and duh, hello, California.
  • 2015 New Chapter: Starting Planet Green Socks.

It’s so easy to parade around and say affirmations and seek the silver lining and project boundless optimism to the world. Actually, scratch that. Doing the work to get to a place where you can be all of that, all the time is hard work, no doubt. And happiness is most definitely a choice. And we most definitely have control over how we react to the things that are out of our control. We’re all in this together, this whole journey that is life. We aren’t really all that different. We can draw inspiration and insight from how other people handle the hard stuff. BUT, if the parade is what is seen, how do we get to learn how to do the work? If the parade is the new default, how can anyone relate to that? The parade is not the easy, natural choice. Pity parties are way easier than parades, but equally annoying in large doses.

Real talk: I left Illinois to move to California in 2011, and every once in awhile, I wonder if I made the right decision. Should I have stuck it out and figured out a way to stay in Illinois during the winter? Should I have tried to figure out how to do the “chasing the sunshine” routine that a lot of seasonal skydiving instructors do? Did I let some of the stuff that happened that season get to me? Was I running away to California?

I don’t think so. Well, I was running, yes. Actually, I was sprinting. But I was sprinting TO California, and all that it promised, not running AWAY from Illinois. And I think there is a distinct difference.

When I gave notice at Skydive Elsinore, part of me felt like I was running, as the situation presented itself much like it did when I left Illinois.

It was mid-November, I had been through some serious tough stuff in 2014, and the timing just felt right to make the next step. I knew that leaving at the end of the year would make the most sense. I didn’t want to delay the inevitable and leave right before a huge event. At least this way, they’d have plenty of time to figure out what they wanted to do, and I could do my best to transition my work as efficiently as possible. Was I running away? Could I have made decisions differently and stayed there? Shit was getting hard, I was immensely unhappy. Was I bolting as soon as it got hard or did I give myself adequate time to try to sort it out?

Was my willingness to “throw away” the “dream job” in pursuit of something totally unknown ballsy, courageous, or crazy? Was this me finding my strength or was this me finding a new pair of running shoes?

“I’ve never met a woman who is not strong, but sometimes they don’t let it out. Then there’s a tragedy, and then all of a sudden that strength comes. My message is let the strength come out before the tragedy.” – Diane von Furstenberg

Six months ago today, I sat in a chair at the salon I go to and explained to my stylist, still very numb, what happened to Adam. She was the first person I had talked to about it that wasn’t a skydiver or a BASE jumper.

Up until then, we had made small talk before about how I worked at the skydiving center in town, whether or not we were busy, how I didn’t want bangs because they’re a pain in the ass when it comes to ponytails and helmets, and how when it’s super hot outside, training is a sweaty mess. Up until then, whenever we talked about skydiving it was all sunshine and rainbows and me regurgitating the facts and analogies that make non-skydivers feel better about the safety of our sport.

I felt like I was telling the story about someone else. It was all very disconnected, perhaps a bit cold sounding. Surely, a hair stylist sees and hears a variety of stories while painting strands of hair and wrapping them in tin foil. If those stories involve death, I’m pretty sure the client probably doesn’t talk about it so matter-of-factly, seemingly devoid of any emotion whatsoever.

Six months ago, I sat in the chair at the salon and I wondered what was going to happen next. The fact that I had lost a friend just days before plopping down in that chair didn’t make sense yet. And the last time I had been there was the day after my Uncle died. Apparently I get my hair done after tragedy strikes.

I remember sitting in the car for a bit with the AC on after I finished getting my hair done. I knew that something had changed, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Losing Adam has been an intense experience of loss, grieving, making major life decisions, and growth. When I launched the Planet Green Socks website, his mom called me. I was so nervous when she said “hey, it’s Linda, Adam’s mom.” I didn’t know what she’d say. Automatically, I assumed the worst. I thought maybe she’d be mad at me for using Adam’s pictures on the website. I thought maybe I should have cleared the story, inspiration, and everything with them first. Between the time she said “it’s Adam’s mom” and I said “hi, Linda” – I had already vomited all of the self-doubt over and over in my mind.

She told me Adam’s sister, Nicole, had shown her the website, and she couldn’t be more excited/proud/honored about it. I had a huge sigh of relief and just LOST IT on the phone. I miss Adam on the regular, and I try to honor his memory the best I can, every single day, by continuing to do things that absolutely light me on fire. I try to carry his legacy of dreaming big and doing big things every single day when I’m brainstorming new events, sending proposals, or doing anything with this business.

I still can’t believe he’s gone, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. It’s most definitely not always sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns. Allowing myself to realize and embrace that has been the most eye-opening part of the whole process. I don’t always have to be strong. I don’t always have to have my shit together. And in owning the fact that I’m human and this is a process, I’ve grown immensely. 

I’m getting to the point where I can find more strength than sadness in his absence.

This is super long already, but I want to thank you for being here. Thank you for the emails, comments on Facebook, text messages, phone calls, and conversations. I tend to assume that only my family and husband read these posts, so when you guys reach out, it really means a lot. Thank you for being here, for being part of this journey, and for your support – through the funny stuff and the hard stuff. It really means the world to me, and I want to hug and high five all of you.

It’s been a rough start to the year already for fatalities, and it hurts me to see my friends hurting. If you ever just want to vent, scream, cry, talk it out, or get your mind somewhere else as you process what’s happening, I’m here. You’re not alone. This shit sucks, and we can get through it. Hit me up. For real.

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