My Dog

I’m 19 years old now. Since I was 7, Coty was my dog. Year after year, he sat there like a lump on a log. With more of a grumpy demeanor, it’s safe to say that anytime Coty was happy, we were happy. He liked a couple things in life: cheese, turkey, getting his ears scratched, and always making sure to create a ruckus anytime somebody left the house. He would do everything he could to keep you in his house: bite ankles, run circles around you, bark, bark some more, and then keep barking.You always knew when someone was leaving if you heard Coty in a panic – a way to show his protective love and gratitude to his masters. The noise never stopped. But as he got older, the noise softened, his bark echoed less, and his energy diminished. Still, though, the noise never stopped. As his arthritis got worse and the days wore on, barking turned into whimpering. I watched as the animal who tried to practically tackle you to stop you from leaving, remained seated and cried. The transition was slow, like waiting for the last leaf of a tree to fall off in autumn.

Coty has been in my life longer than he hasn’t, so memories of life without him aren’t too extensive. That must’ve been the reason why saying goodbye to him today was so difficult. Sure I’ve played through the scenario of our last encounter throughout my head a million times, but I always pictured myself being strong and composed, asserting my maturity and being a shoulder for the rest of my family to cry on. I didn’t imagine how difficult it would actually be. When I got the phone call that it was time to say goodbye, I left work and broke just about every traffic law to get home. Running through the front door, I ran to his spot – the edge of the carpet in a room where he was able to watch the door to see anyone entering or leaving. I pet him while he was fed, you guessed it, cheese and turkey. I felt his hip bones, his shoulder blades, his spine…all the parts of his body that let him chase us down for so many years; a body that has lived a life full of protecting, loving, and supporting.

Our moments together dwindled, as myself and my family cried while petting him. But as he left, we gave him what he had always been trying to maintain, everyone he cared about the most, surrounding him. But he gave it right back to us, as we all remained together with the animal we cared about more than anything in the world.

I learned from Coty that when the people you care about the most leave you, remember to remind them how much they mean to you – and that’s what I’m trying to do here. Instead of barking and running around as Coty knew best, I express my love and gratitude for the animal that I have known for a majority of my life through writing, the way I know best. And I hope and pray that when Coty left me, some how… some way, he was able to feel what I felt every time I left him.

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How a “hi” changed my life

When I heard the news that a dear friend of mine, Nick, had killed himself while away at college, I didn’t know what to think. Obviously sadness was the first reaction. Nick was one of the most genuine people I’ve met. Even though we never shared a class together, Nick and I played on the  tennis team. Nick was actually the first guy I met at high school.

I was apprehensive to sign up for the high school tennis camp entering freshman year. Literally not knowing one single person, I showed up the first day in a camp with 30 girls and only 1 other guy besides myself. That was Nick. Nick seemed to notice my discomfort as he inched closer and closer to me while we waited on the court for instruction. Nick said hi to me and asked if I was an incoming freshman. When I responded, “yes,” he asked if I was nervous. I think he could feel a faulty sense of sureness in my bravado. Even when I said, “No I’m excited. I’m so ready for high school.” Nick proceeded to tell me the ins and outs of the school and stories of the mistakes he made as a freshman. Being a sophomore, Nick seemed to have all the answers for my questions. “How’s the work load?” “Is Geometry hard?” “Are there any teacher I want / don’t want to have?” “Are there a lot of cute girls?” 

He was my first friend. 

Camp continued for another week, and we got to know each other better. We talked about our previous schools, favorite topics of study, and goals after high school. When school started, our interactions didn’t get too far passed a wave in the hallway or a, “How’s everything going?” And that’s how our friendship continued for the next two years when we were in high school together. Nick always waved and said hi. Always. Never one time occurred where we saw each other and he didn’t say hi to me. He had a gentle smile. I had no idea the pain he was experiencing inside. 

Almost a year after graduating high school, Nick ended his life. Still a senior in high school, I found out when everyone else found out. I’ll never forget it – the Twitter thread coming in while we sat in the parking lot of a Portillo’s on a field trip in a school bus. It wasn’t until I received further details about what happened when I figured out that he couldn’t find peace in this life. That is something that still rings in my head. In a world full of so many options, so many outlets, so many people, how can a world be so distorted to make one feel this way? I don’t think I’ll ever find an answer to that question. Reactions are things that are different for everyone. No person is better at reacting to something than the next person. No person is worse at reacting to something either. Our reactions all differ greatly, and it’s impossible to steer every person in a healthy direction as external circumstances are reacted upon. In no way, shape or form am I aware of the stress that depression can put on a person. But I tend to think that depression is the most silent of killers.

Who could’ve thought that the person who always seems totally satisfied with life is the one struggling with it the most? How can a man like Robin Williams, with access to the most qualified of doctors and treatment, find no reason to live anymore? But it seems to me as if the answer is in the question. It’s not the power of the letters after someone’s name that is going to cure all the sick. It’s not the potency of a pill that will be a permanent fix. We, as Nick did for me on the first day of tennis camp, must reach out and offer assistance. We must reach out and show care. We must reach out and provide protection to each other from a world that can unfortunately be so cruel. 

I will say 100% that my high school experience would not have been as great as it was without my friend, Nick. From day 1, I felt his support and encouragement, and his openness and kindness inspired me to do the same. That is why I decided to write this blog: to restate yet again that there is always someone out there that can help you. There is always someone who can relate to you. And there is always someone who will listen to you. If I can be that person of comfort for just one individual, I am beyond blessed.

I write this today, at 1am, to reach as many people I can. Just the way Nick extended himself to comfort me, I can only hope to do the same for anyone who reads this. 

 

“Thats our job – to spark somebody else watching us.”

– Tupac Shakur 

 

 

Live Joyfully

I went to an event tonight. At the front entrance, there were buckets of promotional wristbands that read, “Live joyfully.” Speaker after speaker, slideshow after slideshow, I found myself madly distracted by trying to figure out what exactly “Live joyfully” means. I figured coming back to my computer after the night was over would be the best way to figure this out and exercise my amateur blogging skills.

How can two words spark so much thought? I guess the fact that every person in the world is going to have a unique interpretation of living “joyfully” is what makes it interesting. My first grade self would describe living joyfully as having unlimited ice cream and lots of friends. Oddly, that actually doesn’t sound much different than how I would describe joyful living thirteen years later. I think living joyfully is a completely individual experience for everyone. Dancing in the rain can sound like pure happiness to a teenager in love, but a nightmare to a burn unit nurse. I could find joy in watching the sunrise, and you could find joy in sleeping past noon. Whatever the case may be, our joy is determined by our pursuit of self-fulfillment.

I tend to find joy in simple things – ice cream, fresh snow, and wind — just a few things that come to mind. Whatever chemicals in my body react to produce the feeling of “joy” are unknown to me. But as I continue to think about “living joyfully,” I think our joy comes from fleetingness. I know I can only eat so many scoops of ice cream before having to go back to real food, I know the snow will melt, and I know the breeze will calm. Maybe it’s the realization that the certain thing I’m extracting joy from is only temporary. If those things became permanent staples, I wouldn’t have anything to look forward to. I wouldn’t have anything to miss. What I’ve come to think is that living joyfully is harnessing that temporary feeling of joy when the sun is tanning your skin, or when you get the perfect coffee blend, or riding a bike for the first time, and emitting that feeling constantly – as if nothing has changed since.

I do also believe that living joyfully comes from being thankful. It comes from recognizing gifts and embracing the ordinary. Because it is our gifts that bring about change in the world. Our gifts shape and form communities and cultures, and our gifts advance life as we know it. The ordinary contains characteristics of life we take for granted and brush over. We fall short in our thankfulness for what we consider to be ordinary. Elijah didn’t feel the significance of God in the violent earthquake or the spectacular fire, but in the slightest of breezes.

And the most powerful thing about joy is that it can spread. Joy can inspire, motivate, and enthrall. It is limitless and can reach all. Joy has indescribable capabilities.

Live full of joy – live joyfully

What is living joyfully to you?

My career – part 1

My career path so far…

1st grade – firefighter

2nd grade – police man

3rd grade – shoe maker

4th grade – baseball player

5th grade – male model (still thinking about that one)

6th grade – singer/ songwriter

7th grade – tennis player

8th grade – neurosurgeon

9th grade – motivational speaker

10th grade – Ryan Seacrest (if that’s even a title for a career)

11th grade – politician

12th grade – lawyer

1st year of college – business man, gameshow host, speech pathologist, lawyer, pediatric cardiologist, then back to lawyer

As you can see, decisiveness is not my strong suit. So here I am, as the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college winds down, starting a blog. Maybe I should add world-famous blogger to that list. What made me start this, you ask? Well, looking back on my career ideas, I seem to notice a trend – that is, most of what I thought about doing involved some form of helping people. After sitting down with myself and seriously trying to figure out what the best route for me would be, the only solid thing I knew 100% was that I wanted to help people. So maybe that’s what I’m trying to do here – help people: people looking for inspiration, people looking for another take on life, people who were just asked the question, “what do you want to do for the next 50 years of your life?”

I’ll share some stories, thoughts, and ideas. Who knows…maybe we’ll both get something out of this whole blogging thing