"once you choose hope, anything is possible"

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

lessons from the tiny humans

When my family began their journey with the foster care system, I heard the saying "you don't need to share DNA to love someone unconditionally." While I believe it wholeheartedly, I didn't know what to expect when it came to loving foster sibilings as much as my real sibilings. I reassured my mom time and time again that I would love the new additions to our family, but I figured it would be something I have to work at. I have five sisters who already take up a lot of space in my heart, I didn't know if I would have enough love to give to whomever else came to stay with us, especially because you never know how long they are going to stay. These doubts and questions came simply from not knowing what to expect. We had never gone through this before and I had no idea how my entire family was going to react.
It took all of about 10 minutes after meeting my foster brothers to realize that those were the stupidest doubts in the world.
This summer I came home from Italy to find my room occupied by two tiny humans. I found my parent's usually clean living room cluttered with children's toys, sippy cups, and baby gates. I found that my family of 8 had expanded to a family of 10, and I got to meet my two foster brothers who would come to change everything about my life in the next couple months.  Instead of coming home, relaxing, and sleeping in like I had planned on, I was woken up everyday to J* sitting at the end of my bed asking if it was time to play yet. I spent my days chasing M* around the house, playing soccer outside, changing diapers, reading bedtime stories, and cuddling on the couch with Cartoon Network in the background. Instead of my head being filled with doubts about the foster care system and the way my family would react, I spent the summer falling in love with my new family and becoming completely enamored with two little boys. Loving them unconditionally wasn't something I had to work at and I realized how much love I still had to give and receive even though I already had 5 sisters. I don't think of those two little boys any differently than I think about my other sibilings. I don't have two foster brothers, I have two brothers. My love for them isn't temporary, it will be forever whether or not they stay with us forever. I didn't know how completely a 7 and 1 year old could change my life, but they filled my already very happy life with a new light and joy that I am so unbelievably lucky to have.
My family being in the foster care system has been a whirlwind of emotions and at times it feels like a roller coaster that just won't stop throwing us curves. It is a day to day battle not knowing how much longer we get to spend with my little brothers. It is a life full of tearful phone calls, endless prayers, and a blind faith that this will all work out the way it is supposed to. Our new life pulls me up, down, and all around and yet every monday when J calls me after school to tell me what he got on his spelling test, it is all worth it. Getting to show the boys Marquette and hearing J tell me he is going to come here one day just like me, makes it worth it. The phone calls that get cut short because M is running up the stairs or feeding the dogs and my mom has to catch him, make it worth it. The family picture that sits on my desk, the one with all of us smiling and the knowledge that this is the happiest my family has been in a very long time, that's worth it.
J and M have taught me more in the last 4 months than I have learned in my first 20 years of life. You don't need to share DNA to love a sibiling, and your heart is big enough to be filled with love for as many family members as  you want. It's okay to be scared of what will happen in the future, as long as you continue to laugh and cherish today.

***names have been edited out for legal reasons within the foster care system

Sunday, July 27, 2014

pure bliss

You know those moments in life when you look around and are just so content with everything that is happening around you; those moments of pure bliss when you seriously cannot complain about a single thing and you’re just plain happy. I found that this week, but I didn’t find it in just a moment; I found it in an entire two weeks. For those of you who do not know, I had the extreme blessing to spend the last two weeks in Rome with an International Business Program at Marquette. I came into the trip expecting to learn a little in our lectures, see some pretty sights, and meet some new people. Little did I know that I would find so much more; a new insight into other cultures, a better understanding of myself, and a better understanding of what I want with my future.

Saying Rome was beautiful would be the understatement of the year. The views that I saw are the most amazing things I have ever seen in my life, whether that is in person, on TV, or in a picture. They are spectacular and indescribable. I took pictures everywhere I went, but they don’t even come close to doing these views justice. I don’t know how to put into words how absolutely perfect this country is, but it was. I fell in complete and total love with the people, the scenery, the different cities, and the way of life. But more than that I fell in love with the person that this city made me. I didn’t realize how close minded I was, how much I was scared of change. That is until I was thrown into the middle of a big city and pretty much told to figure it out. It overwhelmed me at first, and made me feel very vulnerable. I wasn’t there long enough to completely get over those two overarching feelings, but I was there long enough to embrace that vulnerability. To open up my walls just a little bit and open my mind to an entirely different way of life. We had the opportunity through the program to hear from different business professionals and different professors. They were all so passionate, so driven, so excited to share their country and their culture with us. It inspired me, it woke me up, it made me think for the first time in my life that maybe I could do something different with my future. Maybe I could deviate from the plan, walk down a different path.

In the end it was only two weeks, which is such a short amount of time to let a place change you, but it definitely woke something up inside me. I don’t quite know what I am going to do with it yet, and I am not sure if it is even going to matter once I get home, but I had an unforgettable two weeks and I could not be more thankful to everyone who helped me get there.

Friday, May 30, 2014

it's a love/hate relationship

It's been a weird week as I am sure many could tell from my last post. The best way I can describe it is that I've been in a funk. Not sad, not happy, not really anything, just weird. So I wrote my last blog post and felt okay about it, but then I read it again and I hated it. I hated what I said, hated what I meant, hated that I had to even write it because I hated that I felt it. I hate that the past is still so much a part of me. I feel like I am constantly at battle between letting the past make me who I am, and letting it run my life today. I am always hearing conflicting things about not looking back, but at the same time never forgetting where you came from. Like, what? That's confusing and the world needs to stop being so confusing. Everyone has a different opinion on how to handle the past and this week, after writing, I was mad at myself for looking back so much. I was mad at letting myself be hurt by something that happened months ago and I was mad that it still had the power to make me sad and minimize all the progress I felt like I had made in fixing my broken heart.
And then Maya Angelou died.
I spent hours rereading some of her greatest quotes, her little pieces of wisdom that she shared with the world through her writing. Maybe it's because she was a dancer, or maybe it's because she wrote amazing works of art that I can only dream about writing, or maybe its because her poems and her speeches spoke to my soul, but Maya Angelou could bring me to tears any minute of any day and she could get me to stop, and really think, and even sometimes listen to what she was saying. So I paged through my notebooks that are lined with Maya Angelou quotes that I have read and been inspired by, and I sorted through thousands of social media postings about this literary hero that the world lost too soon, and I found the quote I was looking for. I found the little snippet of wisdom that helped me stop being so mad at myself for being affected by my past.

I hate looking back. I hate seeing the endlessly happy carefree girl I was one year ago today. I hate looking at the pictures and I hate reading my writing and I hate that I can't go back. But I love who I am today. I love my independence, and I love my friends. I love my job and my city and my family. I love the way my future looks and I love the feeling I get when I think about that future. I love the confidence I feel every morning and I love that for the first time in my life I am 100% happy with the person I am. I love all that knowing that I wouldn't be here today if the past didn't happen. I love it all in spite of the fact that I had to have my heart broken, I had to struggle, and I had to endure all the bad days to get here. I love it because of my past. I know the changes that I have been through firsthand. I know them all too well, and I know they have prepared me for this, for my happiness today. I wrote about a new kind of happiness in my last post and while I didn't write it because I couldn't actually bring myself to say it, I was thinking, "I miss my old happiness." And I do, don't get me wrong. But my new happiness, this happiness I feel today, is stronger, its genuine, its lasting. and that is something I definitely can't hate. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

a new kind of happiness

"but the struggles make you stronger, and the changes make you wise. and happiness has its own way of takin' it's sweet time"
It's crazy to me how so many things can change in just one year. 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, and I can barely recognize the girl I was 1 year ago. As I finish my junior year of college, I am once again at a loss for words about how fast the time flies by. I cannot believe that I have finished another year in college and that I am going to be a senior. Part of me feels like it was only yesterday that I was moving into Schroeder and meeting my FFP roommate. This week though the bigger part of me is reflecting on how things were for me last May and is incredulous that it was only a year ago.
There is this horrible wonderful genious (the jury is still out) app that I have on my phone called Time Hop. Basically it links with all of your social media sites and shows you what you posted in the years previous on that same exact day. Usually it's pretty cool to see the things you were doing 4 years previous: the friends you were hanging out with, the songs you liked, the pictures you took.... but sometimes its a weird feeling to think about how things were and how much they have changed. Between Time Hop and old blog posts it has become really apparent to me that things are drastically different than they were a year ago.
Last year at this time I was returning home from ending my sophomore year of college and finally feeling like things were really good. I wrote a blog post about overcoming the homesickness and my lack of love for Marquette. I posted about finally falling in love with my college and not being able to wait until I got to move into my apartment and stay in Milwaukee for the summer. Last year at this time I was watching my little sister graduate and get ready to come to Marquette with me. I was helping my family move out of our Texas home and start a new adventure in Philadelphia. I was deeply and madly in love with my high school sweetheart and I was getting ready to say goodbye to him, knowing that I would see him in a couple weeks. Last year at this time I remember being so so happy, and obviously being really annoying about it on social media. I'm kind of kicking myself for that this week. I keep opening my Time Hop every morning and seeing how great things were and, because I can't help it, thinking about everything that has changed in the last 365 days.
Don't get me wrong, I love my life right now. I have amazing friends, two jobs I adore (most of the time), a family that I got to see last weekend, and I am getting ready to spend my summer in Milwaukee, Rome, and then I get to go home. So I am happy, really really happy. But it's not the kind of happy I expected to be, and I can't help but feel a little pang of sadness everytime I think about how I expected my life to turn out 1 year ago today. I planned on spending this summer in Texas with Kyle. I was supposed to have one more semester of school before starting to student teach. I wasn't supposed to be going abroad because I had so much back here that I wasn't able to leave.
So things are weird (understatement of the year). I am looking at pictures and reading the things I wrote a year ago and I recognize the girl that wrote them, but I don't know that anyone who has met me in the last month would. Same smile, same sarcastic tone in my writing, and still trying to figure out how to find my way in this crazy world, but definitely a much diffferent person. I guess I'm still trying to figure out whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Monday, May 5, 2014

facing my fears

There's something to be said about facing your fears with the help of your friends and family. It's scary, and nerve racking, and tear inducing, but when it's over, when it's all said and done, it's the most rewarding thing in the world.

I've never really been a fan of public speaking. I've also never really been a fan of talking about myself, of sharing my story. So when I decided to speak at Marquette's Relay For Life this year, I instantly regretted my decision. The idea of standing in front of 500+ people and telling my story was enough to make me sick, and yet I knew deep down that it was something I had to do. Pretty much everyone who knows me also knows that Relay For Life is a huge part of my life. It is something that I swear by, one of my favorite nights of the year. It has been a huge source of hope and healing for me over the past three years, and I knew this year would be no different. Standing in front of 500 of my classmates and community members is something I will never be able to describe. Getting to share the story of some of the strongest people I have ever encountered is an honor I will never be able to verbalize. Looking out at the audience and seeing my sisters, my friends, my team, my sorority made me feel more loved and cherished than I ever had in my life. Saturday April 26th is a night I will never forget, it's something that I will hold with me for the rest of my life.

My day started hectic and busy, much like I expected it to be. But I got to spend the day with an amazing committee who had all been working their butts off to make this event go off without a hitch. It was so great to see everything come together. We had spent all year planning this one day, and with the guidance of our amazing leaders, Christine, Kristen, and Megan, everything came together so perfectly. My day was also spent with my stomach in knots. I had practiced my speech all week and yet I was still so freaking nervous. I so desperately wanted to be able to accurately share the story of the angels looking over me, and I knew that this was a huge responsibility. I also really didn't want to stand in front of a crowded gymansium and cry, something I was almost positive I wasn't going to be able to achieve.

Right before the event, I took off with another committee member to pick up some last minute donations and the dinner for our survivors that were attending the event. When we stopped at the second restaurant I went to pay the remaining total on the bill after discount and what do you know... it was $12.12. For those readers new to this blog who don't know the significance of this number, when Anna was diagnosed with cancer in high school her family friend started a modern day prayer chain, 1 Million Prayers, in an effort to try and get 1 million people to pray for Anna everyday. We were asked to pray at 12:12, in honor of her favorite bible verse Romans 12:12. After losing Anna, 12:12 has always been my little reminder that she is still with me, so when I saw the total of the bill, I was obviously brought to tears instantly in Buca Di Beppo. I had been so wrapped up in the stress of the event and nervousness of me speaking that I had lost sight in why I was doing this to begin with. Leave it to Anna to put it all back into perspective to me. It was exactly what I needed at that moment and it gave me strength to get through the rest of my night. I have an amazing guardian angel looking out for me, and I know she was with me in that moment and that she was giving me strength as I struggled through my speech.

At my next pick up location, my sister surprised me. Not only my older sister Kaitie who lives in the area and who I knew would be at the event, but my older sister Alyson who came from out of town just to be there with me. This time crying in Panera, I realized that not only do I have the support of the angels above me, but I have THE most incredible support system right here with me. I am so blessed to have family that will literally drop everything they are doing to be with me because they knew I was struggling with the day.

In the end, my speech didn't go as smoothly as I dreamed it would, but I got through it. I cried in front of a crowded gymnasium like I hoped I wouldn't, but through the tears I was able to see 500 new people who were touched by my, Anna's, Megan's, Jane's, our story. We raised over $40,000 for cancer research that night. I cheered as our survivors took the first lap of the night. I listened as our other speakers talked about their stories, and for the first time since getting involved with Relay For Life instead of feeling a pang of jealousy when people talked about their loved ones beating cancer, I was genuinely able to feel happy for them. The selfish side of me had always longed for their happy ending before, this year I realized I had found my own happy ending.

I still miss Anna, every day. My heart still hurts for Kyle who lost his mom, and my classmates who lost Anna and Arie. I still hate cancer with every fiber of my being. But this year, Relay For Life and the American Cancer Society helped me to see the bigger picture. This year I not only faced my fear of public speaking and talking about myself, but I also faced the fear I have of this disease. Anna, Arie, Jane, and so many others have been taken from this world too soon. But there are SO many of us still here, committed to fighting, and I got to spend all year seeing this on a daily basis. I stood in front of that gymnasium and I talked about how cancer had changed my life and I committed to fighting until it stops changing people's lives, until people don't have to hear the words "you have cancer" anymore. So I faced my fears in more ways than one, I was comforted and surrounded by the most amazing support system in the world, and the hope I felt last Saturday is enough to get me through another day because deep down I know that this all isn't for nothing. This loss, this pain, this struggle....its all leading up to something much greater, and that's finally enough for me.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

100 Happy Days

While I was filling out a job application the other day I had to answer a series of 50 questions on a scale of 1-5. One of the questions I came to was "would your coworkers describe you as someone who is always happy?" and it definitely made me think for a minute. Once upon a time my answer would have been an obvious yes, 5, completely agree. This time though I had to really stop and think about whether or not I still gave off the happy go lucky, smiling persona I used to have 100% of the time. And that upset me more than it should. I used to pride myself on always smiling and in turn making others smile, and I can't confidently say 100% that I still do that all the time. 

As always, God has a way of sending me a sign exactly when I need it and as I was spending my lazy saturday checking all my forms of social media, I came across a friend posting with #100happydays. I followed her links and came across the 100 happy days challenge. And naturally I immediately fell in love with the idea. It is a challenge set up to get you to think about something that makes you happy every single day for 100 days in a row and either send it in privately or share it with others through social media. I adore the idea of trying to come up with something that makes me smile every single day, and taking 5 minutes out of a busy day to make sure I have time to reflect on things that still make me happy.

So as of today I will be joining that 100 Happy Days challenge and encourage those who are having a hard time getting through the day lately to join me. I will be posting through my instagram (kelshau) and am sure I will be blogging about the process as well. In the end I still do consider myself a happy person. Maybe a little more grown up, and definitely a lot less naive, but still happy. Sometimes its a little bit harder to get through the day, but I know I am still incredibly blessed with the life I have and the people I am spending it with. Today I will start the challenge with a picture of the happiest part of my life, my family. I miss them terribly most of the time, but their phone calls, snap chats, and my countdown until the next time we are reunited make me happier than anything in this world., 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

my new grasp on hope

Over the past three years you have all heard about how cancer has come into my life and changed pretty much everything about it. Between losing Anna, other classmates, and seeing people I love also lose their family and friends; cancer has left a permanent stamp on my life and bruise on my heart. Three years ago I learned what “the call” was, and then I got it, again and again. This year my “call” was different. This year instead of knowing the pain of someone you love having cancer firsthand, I got to know it all secondhand. This year instead of trying to convince myself that everything was going to be okay, I had to listen to my best friend lose faith and admit to me that he didn't think his mom was going to make it My best friend, and my rock, lost his mom to cancer and my hatred for this disease rose to heights I never thought it could. I didn’t know it was possible to feel someone else’s heart break until this year, but I also didn’t truly understand the importance of hope until this year. Today, while I would do anything to take away the first lesson, I know my life is better because I learned the second.

The American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life has been a huge source of hope and strength for me since coming to college. My participation in it every year is typically the highlight of my semester and brings me so much joy. This year I had the huge honor of being elected to their executive planning committee. Not only do I get to experience the hope and joy of Relay For Life on the night of the event, but I also got to experience it all year round. I have had the chance to meet some of the most incredible people, those battling, those who’ve survived, and those who’ve lost. I used to think that hope was about wishing for the best, holding on to the promise of tomorrow. This year I learned that hope is more than that. It’s about not only holding on to the promise of tomorrow, but doing something today to make sure that tomorrow happens. With my new grasp on the concept of hope I was able to hold my best friend’s hand as he buried his mom. I was able to wipe his tears and still have faith in the fact that one day cancer won’t take so many lives. One day there really will be a world with less cancer, and more birthdays.

Today the number of people I know who lost their lives to cancer far exceeds the number of people I know who have survived it. Today I still miss Anna and my other loved ones. I still wear her bracelet and my heart still skips a beat when the clock flashes 12:12 or I hear her favorite song. Today I still have bad days where hope is hard to come by. Today cancer still sucks. But today I can finally see the bigger picture. Cancer may have taken my friends from this world, but there are still so many fighting and countless survivors. Cancer hasn't won, the hope and healing that the American Cancer Society provides every single day is proof of that. But the American Cancer Society can’t continue that hope and healing without the help of others. This year I will be participating in Relay For Life as a committee member and a team leader.  I will walk in memory of all the angels in heaven that I am blessed to have watching over me. Please consider giving back to the American Cancer Society in any way you can, whether that be a prayer for those we’ve lost and those still fighting, or a contribution to my fundraising goal. Together with the American Cancer Society we can hold on to the hope of a better tomorrow, and start working towards that today.

Friday, February 21, 2014

meet monte

You know those weeks where you just feel like no matter what you do you are 2 steps and 15 minutes behind? It has definitely been one of those weeks for me. After a weekend spent with my family in Milwaukee, my monday started off with a lot of tears and even more priorities that I had forgotten about during the weekend. I have spent the last 5 days running around like a crazy person, working ridiculous hours, forgetting about necessities like food and sleep, and trying to catch up even though my efforts sometimes seem futile.Yesterday after I finally got home from a 14 hour long day I sat down at the kitchen counter and within minutes I was surrounded by my 4 best friends, my roommates, asking me how my day way, if they could make me dinner, if I needed any help. As I sat there trying to fight back the inevitable tears, I realized how incredibly lucky I was that these 4 incredible women were brought into my life.

Through my blog you have all heard about my 2 closest and first friends here at Marquette, Catherine and Shannon; the two that have stood by my side through all of my best and worst times. Last year when we decided we wanted to live together, we also chose to live with two girls that Catherine knew, but I didn't very well: Emma and Lauren. While I was a little hesitant at first, looking back on it now it seems silly. These two girls have become some of my favorite people at Marquette and life at Monte is definitely the highlight of my whole college experience thus far. Sometimes I try to imagine what junior year would have been like if we would have decided to find a three bedroom, or if we had chosen two other roomates, but it is honestly something I can't even picture. Between Emma's incredible sense of humor, Shannon's endless hugs and outpouring of love, Lauren's kindness and compassion (and cleanliness :) ), and Catherine's energy and spirit, Monte just seems to work. This year has been filled with so much laughter, impromptu dance parties, snuggle sessions, family dinners, nights out, and memories I will never forget.

Sometimes it is really easy for me to lose sight in all the amazing things in my life. I get so wrapped up in the stress of school and work or the personal things that I am dealing with that I just forget that I have such a happy life. I am so lucky that I get to live with 4 of my best friends, go to a school I adore, work 2 challenging yet rewarding jobs, and have the time of my life as a college dancer. I hate those days where I lose sight of that and have breakdowns sitting at the kitchen counter, so I am even more thankful that I have 4 girls who will put on Beyonce Pandora and gently remind me that I have a really great life.

My upcoming birthday has me a little bit down. I feel like I always have a hard time around holidays or mile stones because it reminds of how much or how little has changed in a year. This year especially with all the ups and downs that have happened in the last 365 days. After last night though I know it is going to be okay, and that this birthday weekend will be one of my best. And I know I can thank Monte for that.

So today I choose joy. Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

why do you wear purple?

I wear purple because the six letter, two syllable 'c' word was enough to change my entire life. and it continues to change others every day.

I wear purple because nobody should have to watch their family, their friends, their neighbors die from cancer.

I wear purple because the words chemotherapy, radiation, oncology, and limited time went from being words that I had to look up in the dictionary to words that I used in everyday conversation. The change happened far too fast, far too young.

I wear purple because I met Anna, because her spirit and strength changed my outlook on pretty much everything, because losing her impacted me in ways that I didn't even think possible.

I wear purple because to this day, almost three years since we lost Anna, I still wear her bracelet. My heart still skips a beat when the clock flashes 12:12, in memory of the prayer I used to say daily that she would get better. I still smile every time I hear the song "Float On" because I know in that moment she is right there beside me. 

I wear purple because the American Cancer Society has become a part of me. The hope and healing that it provides everyday is something I live by and work constantly to spread to others.

I wear purple because last year I watched my best friend ride the roller coaster that is cancer with his mom and ultimately lose her in the end. I wear purple because I would do anything in this world to take his pain away. 

I wear purple because according to the American Cancer Society there is an estimated 1,665,540 people who will hear the words "you have cancer." 585,720 of those people will have family members who get "the call." The one where they have to hear the words that their loved ones are finally without pain and suffering because they have left this earthly life.

I wear purple because I have received that call too many times and people I love have received that call too many times.

I wear purple because cancer sucks.

I wear purple because I have faith that together we can make a difference. Together we can create a world with less cancer. 

Today people unite all across the world on World Cancer Day in order to show their support of those fighting, those who we have lost, and those who have survived this awful disease. We all have different reasons for wearing purple, every cancer story is a little bit different. Why do you wear purple?

If you haven't already, purple you profile by joining the fight with Chevrolet, who will be donating up to $1 million to the American Cancer Society for every social media profile turned purple, the color of cancer survival. 

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer" Romans 12:12

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

closer to heaven

Yesterday I was cleaning out my documents folder on my computer and came across an old post I never published that was written at the end of my sophomore year. It is clearly a little outdated, but I decided to still post it for a couple reasons. First, it's always nice to see how far I have come, how different things are after time and distance. And second because it highlights the beginning of my time with Colleges Against Cancer and how much I hoped it would add to my life. Little did I know that the impact CAC had on my life, would be far greater than anything I could have imagined...and Relay isn't even here yet.


I hate, hate, hate flying. Sitting still for hours on end, being suspended in the air and not really sure what is keeping us from crashing, mixed with the people sitting way to close to me and reclining their chairs so their heads are practically in my lap all add up to be a recipe for disaster for me. I spend the majority of the time I fly praying the rosary and hoping we don’t crash (paranoia problems) or trying to drown out my discomfort with some loud country music. My only hope most flights are that I am so exhausted that I just pass out. Today’s flight unfortunately (or fortunately I guess, depends on how you look at it) was not one of those days.

As much as flying and heights in general make me nervous, there is something so beautiful about being high above the clouds. I love the moment when the plane ascends just high enough that the city below completely disappears into a blanket of clouds. I remember when I was a little girl I used to think that being in the clouds meant you were in heaven, I guess a part of my 20 year old self still really wishes that were true. How great would it be if we were able to just make a quick trip to heaven every now and then? Naturally in my post finals exhaustion and slight delirium this is what I was thinking about 10,000 feet above.

In the past year and a half, I have been looking for ways to feel closer to my lost loved ones, wrestling between moving on and still holding onto memories close. I’ve found it’s a really difficult balance to find. You want so badly to forget sometimes, but then on those really good days you have, there’s always that small part of you that feels bad for being happy without them. And then you just feel ridiculous because eventually you are going to have to find a way to enjoy life again, and before you know it you are in this unending cycle of sadness, happiness, guilt, frustration and so on. Lately my days are easier to get through. My first thought every morning isn’t, “when can I go back to bed.” Smiles and laughter are more genuine, and I’ve really started to love my life again. But I am still constantly looking for something to bring me closer to heaven, closer to those I’ve lost, and closer to the person that I want to be because I was privileged to have them in my life. I want so desperately for my seven-year-old self to be right, and that heaven is a simple plane ride away.

When I lost my second classmate to cancer, my first thought was that I officially knew more people that have died from this disease than have survived it, and that was a really sad moment for me. I had watched my sister get so involved in Relay for Life and I really wanted to believe in the cause as much as she did. Alyson lived and breathed by the American Cancer Society for so long, I wanted that passion and complete faith she had in a cure. Even as I walked in Relay for Life, the selfish and really broken side of me couldn’t wholeheartedly believe that one day this disease would be eradicated like so many had hoped for. That all changed this year when I heard the student speakers at Relay for Life 2013. Students that I had seen walking around campus, living lives completely normally had been battling this unknown battle with family and friends suffering from this disease, and I had no idea. It was an extremely sobering moment for me, one that snapped me out of my self-centered sadness and made me realize that even though my friends died, so many others survived and even if they didn’t, those they left behind were still okay. Life moves on even when we don’t want it to, and in the cancer world, we have the American Cancer Society to thank for a lot of that. I don’t want to sound cliché and say that night changed my life, but it did change a lot of my views on the way I was dealing with things, and it did contribute a lot to my lighter spirits and happiness today.

The American Cancer Society and Marquette’s Colleges Against Cancer have provided me with my newest project and what I am really hoping is my way to grow closer to heaven. As of the beginning of May I have been elected to CAC’s 2013-2014 E-Board and I will be helping in planning Relay for Life 2014. I could not feel more blessed or be more excited about this opportunity. I know that this event means a lot to so many people, and I am thrilled to be playing a bigger role in it this upcoming year. I want nothing more than to honor the lives of my friends in a way that I know will help other people. Already I have been welcomed into the CAC family, a group of people who believe in this cure and cause as much as I do for their own personal reasons. I may have lost my friends, but I find so much comfort in their memory and through other people who are working so hard to fight back against cancer and everything it has taken away from everyone.

I am continuing to look out over my blanket of clouds and unfortunately am not met with the sight of my beautiful angels that I know are watching over me. I may not be able to take a plane ride to heaven to visit, but I know their memories, their spirit, and their love is with me, always. I know that through volunteering and helping the American Cancer Society I will be able to focus my sadness in a constructive way that will hopefully help so that less people feel the need to grow closer to heaven next year. I know that the short time that I had with my lost friends was for a reason. I know that something more is going to come from that, and I know that I am a better person because I knew them. Right now I just need to focus on what I do know because in a world of uncertainty it is really difficult to find meaning and reason. I know Colleges Against Cancer Exec is a really big step in the right direction though, and I could not be happier to join this family.

“but maybe the miracle was even getting one moment with you” –Taylor Swift “Ronan”

Sunday, January 19, 2014

breaking the cycle

It always makes me nervous when I go to write a post about how well things are going. It's like I am scared to be truly happy because I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. It makes me sad that at 20 years old that's the first thing that comes to mind when I realize how well things are going, and it is something that I have thought a lot about these past couple days. 

For the first time in a really long time I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I have spent a large part of the last couple years questioning if I was on the right track and doing the right thing. In the past couple weeks though I have realized that I am at a really great point in my life. I have two incredible jobs that not only challenge me, but bring me so much joy. I am dancing with 13 incredible girls and cheering for a team I adore. I am on a sorority high with recruitment right around the corner. I have a boy that makes me smile constantly, a family who supports me in everything I do (who I get to see in less than a month!), and I am living with 4 of my best friends where there is never a dull moment. And so I look around and realize how seriously lucky and blessed I am, but I can't help but look for the thing that's going to come into my life and screw all this happiness up again.

I remember my freshman year when I was in a really dark place a friend of mine told me I had to make sure the grief didn't win. It isn't really something I ever real thought about, I knew grief was temporary and that I would eventually be okay. It wasn't until this week as I was writing about how scared I was that something bad was hiding for me around the corner that I realized I had let the grief win. That famous quote "don't let your struggle become your identity," I let that happen in some ways. I don't know when or how it happened, but by being afraid to be happy, afraid to share how happy I am, I let the grief win.

So I'm done. I'm done being scared. I'm done minimizing my happiness because I feel like I shouldn't get to be that happy. I have a great life and I need to stop denying that for whatever reason I might have. My struggle might not have become my identity completely, but it definitely became a crutch, an excuse. From here on out I am really going to try to break that cycle. I am going to try to stop taking my happiness for granted and really embrace that I am where I am supposed to be right now. There might be something bad waiting for me around the corner, but that shouldn't make me any less happy today.