I’ve never seen the film, “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” but I’ve heard remarkable reviews on the impact it has had on the perspective of how we live our lives. In pondering my near 25 years of life on this earth, the details elicit a need to seek out those individuals that have shaped who I was, who I am, and who I will become. It’s amazing to analyze their quirks, qualities, and views that make them stand out to me. I also realize how each of these human beings has molded my existence.
When I find myself deep in this thought process, I wonder, “Am I the outsider in my peer group that’s pondering these larger questions about life? Should I close myself off, have fun, and forget all of this nonsense?” The truth is, I don’t know. Episodes throughout our lives, whether positive or negative, contour the very core of how we think, feel, and react. The five people I didn’t wait to meet in heaven each encompass various chapters in my life.
Educator/Coach: I’m not an author, I don’t dig poetry, and do not “fit” in this mold called, “writer.” I constantly ignored what my teacher told me in high school. My philosophy on writing was that it was for girls – period, end of story. I had this absolutely misleading notion that my teacher knew nothing about her students, and I was the only one who knew what I could and couldn’t do well. Heck, she had only taught thousands of students for umpteen years, and she had only held a bachelor’s degree, right? Had I listened to her encouragement, tremendous insight, and constant push to “write-on,” who knows if the talent she saw then, had I chosen to work on it, would have placed me today? Would I have worried so much about societal norms? Would I care about the pressures of what everyone else thinks about men who like to write?
“Gentleman, I want you to know that we, as humans, need to respect everyone we encounter. Having said that, we also will fear no one.” With these words ingrained into our heads, my football coach had the uncanny ability to motivate students and players even under the worst of circumstances. The combination of his deep love for the game, appreciation of life, and the intense focus of molding his young players into responsible young men harvested a level of respect that I doubt will ever be challenged. “Once you step on that field, you have earned my respect for life.” I’ll never forget his leadership, coaching, quotes, or the lessons that I learned from this man, nor will I ever overlook the opportunity to pass along the same perspective to those I encounter.
Angel on Earth: My faith is not something that has not always existed, nor has it been so strong or so deep. I don’t believe I would be alive today had I not been blessed with a woman who planted the seed of the love of God and allowed my faith to grow. Having met, laughed with, and even loved as my own mother, this angel of love and understanding introduced to me what forgiveness is and that my (and everyone’s) purpose in life is beyond magnificence. I never had to reach out to her for strength, as I felt her prayers, compassion, and support even in my darkest days.
Unconscious Role-Model: There’s excitement and joy when referencing the primary role-model a person hope to emulate as I grow and mature. What if that support system I perceive as “perfect” encourages unbending and unpleasant examples of life; rather than the rosy picture I have envisioned? Everyone has someone in their life that displays the not-so-great behaviors I “learn(ed) to accept” because of my love for them, toxic or not. In a different part of my journey, I used to feel angry, defeated, and filled with self-doubt when I was constantly left to wonder, “Why?” However, I cannot blame someone for not knowing “how” to be a role-model, “how” to support someone else, or “how” to provide positive reinforcement. Not so long ago, I decided to “let go” of those feelings. I’m not happy those feelings are endured by millions of people every day, but for me, I am fortunate enough to perceive to have come out on the other side. I know I have learned from each mistake, disappointment, hurt or downfall, and it is now my responsibility to “make my own bed” and change how I project what I have learned onto others. Learning to “let go” is one of the most liberating experiences one stumbles upon in his/her journey.
Unforgettable Stranger: The man you see walking down the street, the woman on her cell phone in the lane next to you, and the representative at the other end of the line all have their life-stories, but are you willing to read-into them? Outside of my illness, I’ve experienced tremendous support, joy, and even a few impressive moments. However, the feeling of life-fulfillment, the encouragement to fight always, and the determination to go on have never been as present as they are now. In these past two years, these “unknown allies” helped broaden the horizons I was completely closed-off to seeing before. I hate to admit it, but I now realize that I am actually human, and I make mistakes. I remain dumbfounded, terrified, and become emotional when I recall a young girl classifying me as her “hero.” I’ve been schooled in the sense that I don’t have to abandon my core values when I open my eyes and heart to the world outside of mine.
Indefinite Confidant: In the last three or four years of mountains and valleys traveled so far, it’s difficult to narrow this down to one person or influence in my life. However, these individuals aided the establishment of unconditional, always-accepting, non-judgmental, and brutally honest building blocks that kept my recovery intact. When they are invested in whole-heartedly, relationships can become as permanent as blood. In order to start, we must make a decision. The decision is a commitment to daily self- cultivation. We must make a strong connection to those that support us through our highest of highs and lowest of lows, because outside matters are unessential. If we leave ourselves alone and exposed, we tend to hash-over our life struggles. Alone, we cannot make everything of ourselves. Together, we need to make the investment in someone who has been there for us and dive into the instruments relationships create.
We do not need to wait for heaven to recognize who our “five people” are. Nor do we need to distinguish if what we are doing—good, bad, or indifferent – has meaning and has purpose. Seek out those who have touched your heart, who have seen your faults and even those who have caused some pain in your time here. Our lives touch so many others, both known and unknown. We often like to think that we are alone, that the weight of the world is on our shoulders, that an action today has no impact on anyone else’s tomorrow. Instead, consider those in your life, who have made a difference, big or small. These events, large or inconsequential, recognized or not, do make all the difference in the world.