gratitude

Gratitude through adversity

Today’s guest contributor is one of my English Composition I students, Ryan Clack. He’s graciously given me permission to share his first essay of the fall semester with all of you. I was inspired and touched by his essay; I’m sure you will be, too.

What Makes Ryan Clack, Ryan Clack?

pexels-photo-1308713Answering the question above is neither simple nor complicated, but somewhere right in between. In order to start this “Who I Am” essay, I’ll begin with an introduction. My name is Ryan Clack. I am a 20 year-old Caucasian red-headed male from Temecula, California. I was born into this beautiful, yet harsh world on May 18, 1998, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I have three other siblings. Two are my half siblings, and my parents’ names are Ron and Heather Clack. I am not afraid to admit that I’m a little bit of a mama’s boy and have been that way forever, so it’s safe to say I love her very dearly. My father and I share a huge bond in the game of baseball, and he has been such an important piece to my maturity and manhood throughout the years. With that being said, baseball has been my identity my entire life; it’s where I’ve met just about all of my friends, and it has given me the blessing of an opportunity to play collegiate ball on a scholarship on this very campus.

If I were to ask my friends or peers, they would likely tell me that I’m a very outgoing, funny, loving, kind, and smart guy. These are some attributes about myself I cherish and am very proud of. My mama always said, “You’re the most like me,” because she is the same exact way.

Throughout this year I’ve dealt with a great bit of adversity, and that adversity is what makes the overall question a little difficult to answer. Why? I’ve had to learn many lessons since January 17, 2018, the date of my mother’s passing. I feel as if my attributes include being outgoing, funny, loving, kind, and smart. These have not changed due to the fact that those are practically my foundation as a person, but a lot of other things have changed. My mom passed away after a year-long battle with stage 4 colon cancer. The messed up part about everything is the fact that she beat breast cancer in 2016 only to find out six months later that she would be fighting another battle for her life, being diagnosed with colon cancer.

Throughout being there for the process of chemotherapy sessions, sores, and week-long streaks of her being so tired and weak she wouldn’t leave bed, I witnessed a woman who was literally dying become the most positive, loving, fierce, and fearless warrior goddess of all time. Whilst on hospice, she would write on paper because she could no longer speak.

One thing she wrote is so beautiful and powerful that it is what I live by and identify with on this day and every other day. She said, “I live every beautiful day and I can find beautiful on even the worst day.” Since the day that I watched her write this on her deathbed, my whole life changed. I learned to embrace the good, bad, and ugly and endure everything with a smile on my face. I learned how to cope with such immense pain and how to overcome the depression that comes with it.

If you ask “What makes Ryan Clack, Ryan Clack?’ today, I’d be able to give you a great answer. Adversity.

pexels-photo-325790Adversity has turned me from a teenage boy to a man, and although going through it is never easy, I wouldn’t want it any other way. With adversity I have learned countless lessons, great and awful, and it helps me learn through real life experiences. Those real life experiences are free, stone cold, and hard life lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. As of now, I couldn’t be happier with my situation, and I’m extremely blessed to be a part of such an amazing opportunity for me to continue to grow, obtain a degree, and continue to work on becoming the best person that I could possibly become.

gratitude

Lost but not forgotten

Big thanks to one of my students, who is a vivacious and wonderful person, Jessica Nicol, for sharing her story in today’s post.

You know the point in your life where you just don’t feel like being angry anymore? I’m there.
I’ve found that in life there is always that one person who you never forget or stop loving… that is your first love. Don’t tell me you don’t remember. It’s the best and the worst love you will ever have in your lifetime. So, with that being said, here’s my story about my first love.
Photo courtesy of Phoopla Photography & Design
Photo courtesy of Phoopla Photography & Design

It all started in second grade. I was 7 years old and had just moved to Arkansas, so I didn’t know anyone at school. Halfway through my first week at Southside, I saw him. I was going to the only available swing left on the whole playground, and he was in the swing next to it. I had never felt the way I felt at that moment. My heart kind of… sped up. He was short with blonde hair and blue-green eyes. I wasn’t as shy as I am now, so when he got off the swing I went up to him and asked if I could play with him and his friend. He said yes, and so it began. Weeks after, we continued to play together, and the feelings grew. It was such an amazing feeling to care about someone so much. Of course, at the age of 7, I didn’t understand what I was feeling. Later in life, though, I realized I loved him.

The next year, in third grade, I finally found out his last name because his class, which was across the hall from mine, posted the students’ names outside the door, and I already knew his first name. When I found out, I made a note asking him if he would be my boyfriend with a check box saying yes or no. I gave it to him after school let out, and we went home on our buses. The next day after school we met outside of the building, and he gave my note back. It said yes! I was so happy. Did I mention he had a very thick southern accent? That was a lot of the attraction, right there. I’m so attracted to accents.
Once we moved into higher grades, such as middle school, it was all up and down. We were starting to become teenagers, and we didn’t have much of a serious relationship in elementary school. After all, how serious could a third grade relationship be? We were best friends and inseparable, despite my constant love for him. We ended up back together in eighth grade, and that was the year I realized I had been so in love with him for all of this time. I decided I wanted to marry him and that we’d be together forever… ha! Moving into ninth grade we broke up again. So devastating. I simply wanted to be with him, but he wanted someone else. We remained best friends because, again, our relationships hadn’t been super serious.
At the end of freshman year we got back together. It was a joyous moment for both of us. We  felt the same way about each other, and we both agreed we were going to get married and have kids and be happy. Well, that summer his father had a terrible accident. He fell off his truck–he was a truck driver–and hit his head. He lived for two days in a coma, and then he died. I felt so guilty because I was on vacation in Branson and couldn’t be there to love my boyfriend and comfort him. I cried so much and enjoyed nothing. All I wanted to do was go home and be with him. Finally my vacation was over, and I rushed to his house. He was so happy to see me. I stayed strong and tried not to cry when I saw him and his mother. I loved his mother, too, by the way. She was like a second mom.
During the visitation, I could not contain myself. I cried to the point that people thought I was related. I felt my boyfriend slipping away from me, and I just wasn’t ready to give him up. At the funeral, I kept composed. I hugged him and his mother afterward, reassuring them that I was there for them always. Days passed, and our relationship was in turmoil. He closed off and started rethinking everything. I fell into a depression and stopped eating because I was losing him. I had to get a therapist to help me because I ended up with an eating disorder, and I was majorly depressed.
We ended up breaking up. That was a devastation I cannot fully describe. If I could have died, I would have. I went through my therapy, and about halfway through it, we got back together. At the time, I had no idea how bad that was going to be. It was verbally abusive and painful to stay in, but I wouldn’t leave him because I was dead set on marrying him. My therapist said that it was an abusive relationship and wasn’t built on anything, but being a teenage girl, I didn’t listen. I closed off from the world because all I had in my life, I thought, was him. We spent another year together and then we broke up. It was a bad break up, but I continued therapy, and I just finished this past December.
Though it sounds like it was a horrible tragedy, I took away from it a knowledge I could never have gained without it. I learned the essentials of a relationship and the kind of strength within myself that I never thought I had. I rose up from it and am now very happy with my life. I plan to become a therapist for teenagers who are in the same position I was in. I also have a very amazing boyfriend who treats me like I deserve to be treated. I am no longer bitter and sad about this. I take it as an experience. I loved, I lost, I lived.
gratitude

The gift of growing up

Today’s post is written by my student, Regan Doyle, who wrote this essay in response to the question, “What are three gifts you’ve received this year, and what are their significance?” I’ll miss having Regan in class, but I know we’ll keep in touch–I need a good fashion consultant in my life :).

The year 2013 is almost over, and Christmas will be here soon. With the holiday approaching fast, I cannot help but think of all the gifts I will receive from friends and family. Although opening presents and getting new things is nice, the most important gifts I have received this year did not come wrapped. This year I have received the gift of a new job, the opportunity to travel, and a new puppy.

In September, my mom told me since I was in college, it was time for me to grow up and get a job. I applied nearly everywhere in Batesville, and after two weeks of trying, I was finally hired at Maurice’s. Working at Maurice’s is not a job to me because I enjoy what I do. I am required to dress fashionably and have fashion sense to help buying costumers. Every day I am required to walk in with a positive attitude and be ready to sell merchandise with a smile. It is always interesting to see who is going to walk through the door and to see who I get to help that day. Sometimes I get to do something fun like help a lady put together a hot outfit for a concert, or maybe help a lady put together a professional outfit for work. Another great plus about working at Maurice’s is my co-workers. While getting 10 girls to all get along without any drama seems impossible, we somehow manage it. My co-workers are more like family, and I know I can count on them for anything. I’m thankful for the gift of a job because it has taught me responsibility and has better prepared me for “growing up.” It has helped me learn to juggle school and work, and allowed me to make new friends in the process.

Another gift I am thankful for is traveling over the summer. My mom’s friends hired me as a nanny to watch their child while on vacation. With them I traveled to Chicago and experienced the big city for the very first time. The atmosphere of Chicago is busy, energetic, and unlike anything else I have ever experienced. The buildings are large, cramped together, and seem to go on forever. Things in Chicago never stand still, and even at night the city is alive and busy. I’m thankful for the gift to travel because it gives me the opportunity to experience new things. While I enjoy living in Cave City, it was nice to venture out and get to experience a whole new place. The way people live in Chicago is completely different from the way people live in Cave City.

The last special gift I have received this year is my new puppy. I had been begging my boyfriend for a puppy for almost four months. One night he came over, sat on my couch, and a tiny head peeked out of his coat. He was a solid black lab and absolutely perfect.  My boyfriend and I decided on the name Benny, and it fits him perfectly. Benny is black as night, and cute as a button. He just turned three months old and is potty trained and also knows out to sit. He’s rambunctious, playful, and even a little protective. He’s my company through out the day and my cuddle buddy by night. I’m thankful for Benny because he is my best friend. I know Benny, unlike like most people, will love me unconditionally. I love watching him grow and having the responsibility of taking care of him.        Black%20Lab%20Puppy

I know no matter what I get this Christmas, no gift will be better than the three I received this year. Nothing wrapped in a box with a bow is going to replace the things I was blessed to receive this year. My job taught me responsibility, getting to travel gave me experience, and getting a new puppy gave me a new friend. Since the year is almost over I’m ready to see what next year will bring, and the gifts I will receive then. I am so thankful for all three of these gifts, but I am also thankful for my amazing family, friends, and employers who made receiving these things possible.

gratitude

New experiences

*Thanks to my friend Debra Dickey for serving as today’s guest contributor.*

If it hadn’t been for my kids, little people in my life, and even my pets, I would have missed out on an incredible amount of remarkable experiences in my life!  If you recall my previous posts, I have already mentioned that I am not a very adventurous soul, so to say that I am ‘new experiences’ challenged would be, hmmm, an understatement! 

Mt. LandI’ve always wanted to pretend to myself that maybe there was a bit of the wandering pioneer spirit in me, but I will tell you truthfully, that wherever I wandered, I mostly desired the comfort of being able to see my house from wherever I was standing!   But for a time, my world opened up –  often spit in my eye –  and my courage took wings . . . albeit at times, forcefully.

Initial lessons for getting me out of my comfort zones, were learned of course, with and for my children.  We have laughed and had the best times and the most fun just doing things together.  Some of those events were planned, others weren’t as much, and often, we were invited to create the experience for ourselves.  There have also been struggles, rough times, trials by fire, disappointments, and monumental obstacles which have required me to develop strengths that I never imagined I could possess, and doggedly test my resolve; but together, we somehow managed (and continue to manage) those ‘new experiences’ and challenges as well.  My kids have taught me so much, and continue to share so many insights, and such wisdom, strength, knowledge, joy and courage with me, that I cannot begin to imagine a life without the richness and depth which only they could have made possible — treasured experiences memorably shared, an endowment sweetly gained from these two remarkable people.

My most recent opportunity with new ventures has been my privilege and delight to spend time with my 8 year-old niece, who brings her own special brand of prospective, fun and laughter, and genuinely blesses my life with such a myriad of enjoyable hours.

All these experiences serve as an abiding reminder of what is really important, as well as help explain the reason and purpose for my existence, and my presence in the exact right spot at those exact right moments.

MeadowBut only by regular reminders, voluntarily or involuntarily, to make those conscious choices that will, time and again, propel me to step out of my comfort zones, have I been given the incredible opportunities to visit new places, see new sights, hear new music, experience new concepts, value new ideas, appreciate new cultures, share silly laughs, and regard, encounter, and enjoy the world through the eyes of my wise, courageous, and discerning companions.  What wonderful adventures for a homebody like me!  These days, even walks with my dog have prodded me to stray from my typical paths and discover fun tramps through the woods, which often call forward a bit of that wandering spirit.  And at this point in my life, I’ll say, that’s good enough for me.

gratitude

Perfectly enough

 

 *Thanks to my friend Marti for sharing her thoughts on Mother’s Day this year!*

Marti with her mom
Marti with her mom

This Mother’s Day will be new for me; you see, my mother died in January of this year.  Last year for Mother’s Day I planned a special day – something she really enjoyed. This is a product of the program of recovery that has taught me new ways of thinking.  This program has taught me to do things for fun and for free.  To give fully from my whole heart.  These things don’t come naturally; in the natural I am fearful, fearful that you will reject my gift, that my gift isn’t good enough. Really what I’m fearful of is that I’M not good enough and that the rejection will bring shame and pain. 

Through others sharing their experience, strength, and hope with me, I’ve developed courage to try something new.  To not depend on the outcome but to trust the process.  Not everything I try will be successful, but not trying is a guaranteed failure.  In learning from others, I’ve come to believe that there is a Higher Power Who sees around corners and is preparing me to handle whatever comes my way.  I have learned that just for today, I can be a lady of grace and dignity.  And if I “act as if” long enough, I become the lady of grace and dignity that my Higher Power can be proud of. 

Through the gifts of Al Anon, I’ve learned that acceptance is the key to true happiness.  I did my best to accept my mother as the person she was and not the person I wanted her to be.  I accept her as a child of God on a journey similar to mine.  I can accept that I was not the perfect daughter, but in the last few years, we had a kind and gentle relationship that wasn’t always easy but was always worth it.  As I look forward to this Mother’s Day, I am glad to say thank you to the God of my understanding for giving me the mother I had and for giving me the understanding and peace that comes from the love we shared.  Not always perfect, but perfectly enough.