The last couple weeks have been both challenging and reaffirming. It's one thing to miss your friends and family when things are good, just wishing you could share all of the amazing moments with the people you love. But when you're away from home for an extended period of time and things aren't all sunshine and rainbows... That's when it's really hard. I'm not the type to reach out or express my feelings, but there's a certain comfort that comes with being around people who know you, regardless of whether or not you share what's bothering you.
Last week, on a gloomy, rainy day in Paris, I woke up to a text from my best friend. Her Aunt (who I refer to as the same) had a stroke. She didn't have a lot of information at the time and due to the time difference, I was left wondering if she would pull through all day. Rushing from one wifi hotspot to the next, avoiding the rain and hoping for good news. I felt helpless. There I was, looking at the stupid Eiffel Tower, wondering if this vivacious, hilarious and vibrant woman I've known since I was a little girl was still breathing. Another block, more old buildings, still looking for wifi. Finally, a new message. She was out of surgery and going to make it. Over the next several days she continued to make a miraculous recovery. Speaking and breathing on her own almost immediately. I'd call it a miracle if I believed in such things.
Just in time to get over the shock of that, I heard about the death of my former colleague, Mike Majchrowitz. I wrote about how his passing affected me on my Facebook page, but since I keep that private for friends and family, I'll repost it here:
"It's hard for me to express how I felt when I heard about my former colleague losing his battle with cancer. I didn't know him very well, he was just a guy on the other end of an IM or email with a weird last name. Until I found out he had cancer. I was included in a company-wide email updating everyone on his condition. He was brave enough to bring the entire company along on his journey, accepting thoughts and prayers from friends and colleagues. Something I could never bring myself to do. At that time, I was in the middle of my own battle. I was sick. And no one knew.
As I suffered silently, I continued to get updates on Mac's condition, and one day, I responded. For some reason I decided to confide in this complete stranger, this man with the weird last name. While only a handful of people in my life knew I was sick, I told Mac everything. In that moment, we were the same. It didn't matter that he was a seasoned professional who reported on politics, while I was basically a child blathering on about Lindsay Lohan. We were both in a fight for our lives. We were friends.
When I started getting better, no one was happier for me than Mac. When I went into remission, more words of encouragement from the man with the weird ast name. This veteran broadcaster who loved his job and had a serious passion for news was completely on board with my plan to quit my job and flee the country to travel the world. When I sent my first and last company wide email, detailing my plans for travel, Mac was among the first to respond. "Live every moment. Feel everything. Keep choosing life while you have a choice. Way to go, Kiddo." It was the only email I saved.
I never met the man with the weird last name, I never even responded to that last email. I left Fox and then the country. My heart broke when I heard he was losing his battle and wouldn't be returning to work. I wanted to reach out... but I didn't know what to say. Survivor's guilt was setting in. I was getting better and he wasn't. When I heard about his passing, I went back and read that last email. While he was dealing with his own battle, the man with the weird last name still found time to encourage a silly little girl and for that I will always be grateful. For Mac and all of the people who are still fighting... I will continue to choose life."
Between my friend's aunt's stroke and Mac's passing... I felt a sort of reassurance. A calm came over me that I haven't felt since I began this journey back in May. I got the sense that I'm in the right place. That I'm doing the right thing. Some people have called this world tour of mine ill advised, reckless and even selfish. Many calling my very sanity into question. But as I sit here writing this post from the balcony of a modest apartment in Barcelona, overlooking the sea, I can firmly say, "fuck off." Not just because I've been through hell and back. Not because I'm a cancer survivor. Not because my mother is a cancer survivor. Not even because I'm fairly certain I'm going to get sick again before this is all over. Nope. I say, "fuck off" for everyone who wants to pursue their dreams and thinks they can't. For people who care too much what everyone else thinks and are scared to take a risk. Those who question my sanity and call me selfish are the same people who are holding everyone else back from their dreams. You don't have to almost die to justify doing what you love. Or simply not doing what you hate.
I was chatting with a friend the other day about this article I told her to read. http://markmanson.net/fuck-yes/ It talks about taking tock of what's important to you. And hits on one of my favorite topics; self awareness. It mostly focuses on relationships but I think "fuck yes" or "no" is applicable in every situation. You can't live your life waiting for things to get better tomorrow. Even if tomorrow comes, it doesn't mean you can still do the things you put off. People always talk about how life is so short and it can be over in an instant. But what if it's not? What I mean is... when you die, you die. What you didn't do today won't matter because you'll be dead, what do you care? And religious types say you'll be "in a better place," so fine, you won't care that you never accomplished your goals here on earth. But what if tomorrow comes and you're still alive, but not able to do the things you put off until tomorrow? That's the real death, isn't it?
I don't mean to be a downer here, but I'm just so tired of people acting like the only reason I'm making this trip happen is because I almost died. And could potentially almost die again. (But not just in a murdery way based on the precarious situations I constantly put myself in.) You, just like me, could end up sick. If there is something you want to do, do it now. Don't make excuses for why you can't do it and certainly don't make apologies once you make it happen.
Not to brag, but it's pretty hard to top my mother having cancer more than once, followed by my own bout with that asshole of a disease. Seriously?! Does it get much worse than that?! But even with all of that, people STILL don't think I should be taking this trip. I still face almost daily criticism. The moral of the story here is that you're never going to be almost dead enough for people to give you a pass on doing something completely for yourself. You're going to be called selfish, and worse. But trust me, it's worth it. And remember, if it's not a "fuck yes" it's a "no" and if people don't like it, they can fuck off.