Every human person can describe in searing detail the most awkward time in their life. For me it was the Middle School and early High School time frame that makes me wince. I suddenly, supernaturally shot up in height beyond my peers and the vertical growth brought on a humiliating lack of coordination. I was forever dropping the baseball, extricating myself from the tangle of my own legs and slamming my shoulder into door-frames. It was at this supreme moment of awkwardness my skin broke out and having spent my early childhood in the school uniform of Catholic schools, found myself bewildered about what to wear to a public High School. My sartorial confusion resulted in trousers enviably too short at the ankles and too wide around the waist. I could go on but you get the picture.
In my sophomore, year I was invited to join the staff of the school yearbook edited by a Demigod. HE was of a normal height and the highest ranking member of the Honor Roll. He was handsome, could sing, wrote beautifully, was a superb athlete, an easy conversationalist with boys and girls—in short; your basic nightmare! My admiration made it impossible to actually envy or resent such a staggering specimen, but he did provide me an image of aspiration. I could never compete but I could attempt to imitate. We became superficial friends and attended the same University.
At the conclusion of the second year of undergraduate studies he inexplicably took his own life.
It’s difficult to describe the darkness that swallowed me at that time. Although we were never close friends, I admired him and wanted to be like him. It was unimaginable that such a gifted and superior individual would think so little of his enormous persona that he could abandon all future possibilities and the fulfillment of such obvious advantages. At this time in my life I was a runner and some weeks after his death. I found myself on the track when the cloud of my depression unexpectedly dissipated and I felt this surge of the life force within me—sad about the ending of my mentor’s life but buoyant with the opportunities and adventures that awaited me in living. Even then I knew there would be black days, tears and setbacks, but the desire to keep moving forward and the quest for the unfolding of my story gave me a great spirit of anticipation.
Recently I received some rather worrisome news about my health. At this stage there is no cause for alarm but the original diagnosis was a jolt and I felt a paralyzing sense of fear and a new and unwelcome awareness of my own mortality. Initially after my medical consultation I became mired in an ominous atmosphere of dread and then again, the unexpected lifting of my spirit to a place of gratitude and hope. I do not know from where that life preserver was tossed, I only know how grateful I am to be alive today. To walk by the sea, to eat pasta, to lift my voice in sung prayer to God, to listen to my mother’s voice, to engage my body in motion (these days on an elliptical machine) the crackling sound of the spine in the opening of a new book or the exquisite feeling of laughter rising up from my belly—these are the moments I live for. I wish I could explain this strange phenomenon but I know not how. I only know that I live in a beautiful place, have work that brings me great purpose and friends who enrich my life, and these wonders are enough to sustain me in my journey through the minefield.