A Heavenly Brunch

When both college boyfriends die in the same year. Your quarter life crisis is especially interesting. If you’re interested in grief, death, or spirituality you’ll love this post.

A blue and red cardinal zip by my bathroom window as I drop my toothbrush in shock. A new sighting after a few weeks of not being visited. I chuckle as I wash my face and think, “For two guys who hated each other in life, they sure do spend a lot of time with each other in death.”

Life comes with unexpected curveballs. Time doesn’t wait until you’re well-adjusted to bring tragedy to your doorstep. And when both of your college sweethearts die in the same year, you develop interesting coping techniques to manage the new normal. Including believing that the souls of said former lovers being reincarnated through two uniquely colored birds.

When Harrison died, my best friend told me I’d see red birds, feathers, and pennies as signs from him on the other side. I never believed in angels, ghosts, or spirits. As a child, I was drawn to talk shows that hosted a weekly psychic or medium. I hung on to every word of the hosted mystic as they relayed the words of the guest’s dead loved one.

“How could someone be so desperate for something that they ignored all logic?”

I thought as I rolled my eyes at the tearful guest. I was sure that all the events were staged. There was no way that anyone would believe that a living person could connect with the dead, grieving or not.

I found myself that desperate after I got the news that Ben died. My quarter life crisis was off to a dashing start. Most girls I know married the guy they spent more than two years with in college. While I was dealing with funerals and wakes; my peers were looking forward to wedding bells and the pitter patter of tiny feet.

Which is cool. I had already decided long ago that I wasn’t going to be anyone’s mama. I also made up my mind that I was going to buy my own damn diamond and keep my damn own name. I was, however, envious of the clear lack of tragedy in the lives of others.

I had wanted all those life events before with both Harrison and Ben. For different reasons and in different spaces of my life of course.

Harrison is my foundation. Our love story was my first and dearest. We shared my first two years of college together.

My relationship with Ben was a lesson. A lesson about the negative consequences of low self-worth and hero complexes. I truly should have stayed friends with Ben. Our worlds collided after a drunken night of divulging our shared ills of being one of the tokens in our predominately white fraternity and sorority.

Each of these men were fundamentally different people. Each of these men taught me integral life lessons.

Each of these men hated one another.

A fact that had me constantly exchanging the stroking of one ego for another. I often laugh thinking about the hoops I jumped through to assure each man of their place in my life. Much to Ben’s dismay he often lost battles and ultimately lost the war to Harrison.

Ben had an unfair life. His perspective of women had been marred by abandonment, the cruel words of high school girls and college peers alike. I had taken it upon myself to “fix” him; which turned out about as great as you can guess it could’ve.

Time had moved on.

I lost touch with Ben after an explosive end to our often tumultuous relationship. I had gained the confidence to stop allowing myself to be a verbal punching bag.

Harrison had a new love, a Ben of his own. And this time I found myself losing both the battles and the war. I was devastated, yet I deserved it. Karma had made me eat crow many times in life before. After fighting tirelessly, I choose to bow out gracefully. I prayed and waited for time to be on my side again.

In the interim, I had decided to focus on myself. I had been in relationships for four years. College was over, and it was time to transition to a new beginning. Harrison and I were still best friends despite the ire of his new lady. I had blocked Ben after a failed attempt to get me to “catch up” with him at his hotel room while in Dallas for business and I had restlessly settled into my post-graduate life.

I was working at my dental job for about a year when I’d gotten the text from Harrison stating that Ben had tried to contact him while in DC for business. We laughed on the phone for hours imaging the scenario of the two sitting down for a cordial meeting with each other.

” You guys should totally have brunch and talk about how much you love me!” I stated excitedly as I giggled awaiting his witty response. I was ecstatic to hear from him. Calls and texts came less frequent during those days; so I savored every conversation I had with him.

I craved laughter and no one makes me laugh as much as Harrison does. I can still feel the rush of excitement I’d get when I saw that name flash across my iPhone screen. My cheeks would pang with soreness for hours after our conversations, a never-ending smile would grace my face as I recalled particularly funny bits of dialogue.

I recall that same conversation as I stare at the red and blue bird splashing together in the newly installed fountain of my current boyfriend’s backyard. Time has brought more change. The second anniversary of Harrison’s death has come and gone. The first anniversary of Ben’s is steadily approaching.

“Good morning Harry, Good morning Benny

I greet the cardinals as I load my coffee pod into my Keurig. I smile as I sip on my caffeinated beverage and ponder when I became the illogical person who believed in signs. I shake my head and place a kiss on my boyfriend’s forehead on the way up to the office.

I have a long list of tasks to complete for the businesses.

My new normal makes me lean on my imagination often. When I dreamed up this life for myself, I had no idea that it wouldn’t include either of these men. My identity had been crafted by my relation to both for so long.

I am navigating what life means when you lose two people that mean that much. I am coping in ways that may seem strange to outside perspectives. I am finding confidence in this journey. I am finding hope in this journey.

I am finding logic in the illogical, with two unlikely guides.

That calls for a heavenly brunch indeed.

For Harry

Happy Birthday my beautiful babe.

 

-Shampaigne Graves, CPC Creator of The Healthy Shampy Blog (2)

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Walking Boldly in your Purpose: I failed so I could win

Finding yourself and your purpose in life is the largest challenge of the human experience. If you’re interested in life direction, story telling or purpose you’ll love this post.

My first work of art was displayed in my daycare for years. Our class was just introduced to finger paints and while the other toddlers in my class choose more abstract styles of painting; I choose to paint my favorite TV character, Clifford the Big Red Dog. The director hung the painting on display at the front of the preschool with me credited as the artist. I made a ritual of stopping to stare at my picture, and read my name with the word artist preceding it. I knew my passion was art and I was sure that it would be my career of choice. That is until my father told me, “You know baby girl, most artists starve their whole lives. And I know how much you like nice things.” As I admired the diamond necklace I was gifted for my twelfth birthday.

Journalism lit me up in my secondary school years. From being a host on the radio show freshman year to writing for the Allen Eagle newspaper and yearbook; a career in writing I was destined to have. I mean it made so much sense. I had always used my writing for entertainment for myself. In middle school I managed to amass a following of over ten thousand kids who waited on bated breath each week for the Degrassi fan fiction posts on my Nickelodeon forum. And to this very day I still have a closet full of old notebooks filled with short stories, fiction novels and poems. Although I stopped pursuing writing as a career when my journalism teacher kindly pulled me to the side one day after yearbook and told me that I was too smart to waste my life on a career in journalism. Apparently it’s a dying field and again most journalists starve for their craft.

It was time to get practical.

When I started college I was determined to be a doctor. I saw my pediatrician practice thriving, my 2.5 children, and doting husband right in my mind’s eye I just had to get through the mountain of schooling. And things were going well, my adoring boyfriend had plans of being my husband and we agreed on the idea of kids, I had a spot in the school of science with a major in biology, I was going to do it. I was going to make this whole “stable ordinary life” thing work.

Then I took chemistry, and plans changed because I mean have you taken chemistry?! I reevaluated my desire for medical school which involved a lot more chemistry, and decided that dentistry would be a better path for me. I mean sure it’s harder to get into dental school than medical school and of course there was more chemistry but I had a plan to live a rational life and I was going to stick to it but again plans changed. Are you catching the overall theme here?

I had to transfer schools.

Unfortunately I didn’t meet the requirements for the school of science and had to pick a place holder major until I could get my math requirement and apply to be a biology major again. So I picked Kinesiology, it had a medical track and I actually liked the description of the course material. I took my first introduction to human nutrition course and fell in love. Utilizing something as simple as how and what people ate to analyze the psychology behind the person opened up a whole new world to me. And I finished my math requirement but after taking Childhood Obesity, I knew I found the right fit and graduated with a bachelor of science in Kinesiolgy.

It was still a social degree but it was social science. Big difference (trust me.)

After graduating, the disappointment of adulthood set in. I found myself being underpaid, underappreciated, and overworked. I knew that whatever career path I choose throughout adolescence, I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. The art gallery, magazine, and pediatrician practice were all goals I saw myself working towards after I established myself as an authority in those fields.

I had to make yet another change.

The only hope I had was to invest in myself, so I took a leap. I took certification courses, brushed up on my nutrition material, applied for business certificates, created a website and opened up business accounts. I utilized little pieces of my old dreams to breathe life into my new one. Entrepreneurship presented the opportunity to become the artist, writer, speaker and life changer I always wanted to be.

Whether it’s creating new graphics for my business marketing, writing for my blog and other publications, or working with my coaching and business clients; I am utilizing all the talents I already possessed to make my dreams come true.

My ambitions have come full circle. For so long I was sold the lie that in order to be successful I had to do work that was “sensible.” Sensible got me a job as a receptionist, making just enough money to pay for my monthly expenses and tuition to get a new “sensible career.”

Bold gave me purpose. Being bold enough to amplify my voice in the world gave me an audience. Being bold enough to build a business, gave me a career in a profession that feels like home. Being bold enough to enough to make peace with failure gave me a fire for success that I never knew.

And a realization that I failed so many times before so that I could win right now. I walk boldly in my purpose now, with my intuition, and life experience as my guide.

-Shampaigne Graves, CPC Creator of The Healthy Shampy Blog (2)