Sometimes, life isn’t just unfair – it’s downright cruel. It punishes those who deserve reward, praises those who deserve reprimanding, and at worst – takes the lives of those who deserve living. The year after I graduated high school, my best friend of nearly a decade was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Not just any cancer – but one that’s most often diagnosed in men over the age of 60.
She biked several miles a day, trained ballet multiple days a week, and didn’t lay a finger on drugs. With an energy so addictive, you could feel it a mile away, and a laugh that echoed through the walls, she turned heads in any room she walked into. Two years later, I was traveling abroad when I got the news she was entering hospice. I booked a 15 hour flight home the next morning to go be with her and sit by her bedside.
We made jokes, caught up on the latest Beauty And The Beast remake, reminisced about embarrassing childhood pictures, retold our favorite stories, and made plans for the future. Three months later, three days before my 22nd birthday and a few months after hers, her cancer won. I watched the most incredible soul get robbed of a life and a future they deserved. And I didn’t understand why.
As many people do, I spiraled into depression for the first time the following month until one day I had a dream with her in it. The next morning, I thought of her and what would make her proud.
“Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.” – Robert Kennedy
All of a sudden I realized I had two choices: To use her death as a reason to hold back, avoid healing, and never step outside of my comfort zone for the rest of my life or to use her death as fuel to begin living a life she’d be proud of, and make the kind of impact – and legacy – she didn’t get the chance to.
I knew what I had to do. The next day, I opened my laptop and shared my full story on social media for the first time. No walls, no barriers, no filters. Less than a year later, I’d built a six figure online business helping hundreds of other entrepreneurs grow their businesses by sharing their stories and showing up authentically and vulnerably on social media.
All because I realized I had a choice in the face of tragedy. And so do you. You can choose to let your next hardships serve as an excuse for not creating the life you want. You can choose to play the victim, and stop moving forward because life decided to hand you – or someone around you – a poor deck of cards. Or, you can be the difference.
The 1% who sees opportunity amidst the downfall. The 1% who seeks inspiration during healing. The 1% who gathers the strength to build something bigger than yourself and take one step forward when it feels like the world is pushing you three steps back. It’s up to.
Adversity is to be expected. Curveballs are thrown often. And tragedy is unavoidable – that’s why they call it tragedy. Whether the next time it’s you or someone you love facing tragedy head on, remember that joy wouldn’t be in existence without pain. If you never experience the lows, you’d never feel the beautiful, unforgettable highs. Life would be one long, dull ride.
Let yourself scream, cry, curse the world in the moment – but whatever you do, do not blind yourself from the opportunities that lie ahead tomorrow. Most times, they’re in front of you as clear as day, waiting for you to open your eyes and grab them.
“Every tragedy has a lesson equal in significance to its heartbreak.”
Allow yourself time to heal, process, and grasp what is today, then wake up tomorrow with an open heart. Be open to the idea that perhaps everything does happen for a reason, even if we cannot see it.
Open to the idea that the world only deals us cards we’re strong enough to handle. Open to the idea that pain is temporary, and time truly does heal. If you choose to, I guarantee you will come out on the other side a stronger, better version of you.
Your world may be gray, and you may feel like the weight of it is on your shoulders, but I promise, if you take one-half of a step forward every day you will heal. Not only will you heal, but you will find a way to turn your most painful chapter into your most powerful chapter.
A way to leave a bigger impact, create the life you or your loved one would be proud of, and make this world a better place.
So the next time life decides to test your strength – and it will – remember that you control what happens next. A poor deck of cards might be dealt to you at a moment’s notice, but it’s what you do with it that counts.
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