Inspired: Letter to Kanye West

I wrote an email to Kanye West and I’m not sure he’ll ever read it. When I get inspired by someone, no matter how famous or not they are, I have to write to them. I feel the burning in my heart and the passion. I know they may never read it, but I have to put it out there just in case. I’ve never had luck with reaching back, not surprisingly, but that’s okay! I got it out on paper, or the screen, so I’m happy to share with others too. I recently listened to Kanye West’s Jimmy Kimmel Interview. If you haven’t listened yet, do it. It’s awesome. Obviously everyone has their own interpretations of things but I felt he spoke to me on another level with everything he said. I’m not going to share the full email I wrote him, but I did share the story of my dad, of course, and I want to share it because I was able to paint our story in a new way. It’s kind of beautiful. What happens in the story of course never changes but the landscape of how to look at it changes with every new perspective someone can give me from it. Isn’t life beautiful like that. It’s also a reminder to form your own happy story about your life, or else no matter what happens in life, you’ll turn it into a bad one instead of a good one. 🙂

 

Kanye West.

I don’t know if you’ll ever read this, but I was listening to your interview on YouTube with Jimmy Kimmel and you mentioned that someone emailed you about committing suicide and you read it. SO.. since I might only get one shot at having this dialogue with you it might be long. And in case you only read this first part the most important thing I want to say is thank you for being the voice that a lot of people are afraid to have. I want to share what I took from what you said and I hope that you do read this and that you know that you really touched my heart.

My dad died this year from opioid addiction. At the end of the interview you said “I don’t know anyone who has f**ked up as much as I have and still be successful so I want to prove that you can get fat you can say the wrong things you can piss off a whole city…”. My dad relapsed when I was 13 and it was really hard because we were best friends and when I say that I mean it. We hung out together more than I hung out with friends and he was the one that took me to go bra shopping, learn how to do makeup, Britney Spears concerts etc. I never would’ve known in my first 13 years he had this struggle because he did so much for me and took me everywhere with him. When he was at the methadone clinic everyday, I didn’t think twice about it. He told me he was sick but this made him feel better and he’d be ok. Ever since his relapsed he struggled. From 13 to 16 he was in and out of jail, switching from crack cocaine to heroin to eventually doctor prescribed pain meds. At 17 he was arrested for a really big crime he did under the influence. I graduated high school and it killed him to not be there. He kept a binder full of my awards LAMINATED and showed it off to his friends like I won an Emmy before he went to prison. Then I went to college and that was tough because I didn’t relate to the kids there. I really wanted him to be there. When I graduated it really crushed him because he missed those 4 years of my life and another milestone. As his pride and joy and the reason for me going to college, he hated he couldn’t be there. In  October of 2015, a few months after my graduation he was released. We both romanticized it. We wanted to take over the world. We wanted to spend every day together. But after 5 years, no way to get a job, and a lot of bills to catch up on, he became severely depressed. He couldn’t get a job with his record and his health condition. He had to be in the streets to make money. He was so scared of ‘messing up’ that I think it really drove him to relapse. I would too if I felt the weight he did on his shoulders. I loved him everyday and we still had that friendship, but he learned to hate himself instead of feel the love I had for him. He only lived for 2 years after he got out. He overdosed 6 times and survived. I’d call the hospital to talk to him afterwards just to tell him I loved him and he’d refuse the phone calls because he thought he was failing me. The love was there but the possibility of being ‘normal’ wasn’t.The last phone call we had, that I recorded and you can listen to on my website, he says he’s sorry he failed me as a father and he hates himself, but he felt like he was the luckiest guy in the world to be on this planet… My dad was 53. He wanted to die every single day. And he told me that. And for a best friend who you care the most about and would give up your entire world for to tell you they no longer want to be on this earth… that’s the hardest thing in the world to hear. And you just cant save people. I wish I could’ve prevented it. I wish I could go back to his childhood, coming to America and being bullied, growing up around the wrong crowd. I wish I could show him the way people remember him now. That he is so loved and has so much to live for.  So when you talked about being strong after being hated, that spoke to me. Because I saw my dad feel so hated and looked down upon by society that I wish everyone felt strength in people telling them they aren’t good enough. To me my dad was successful and I really wish he is looking down, seeing what I’m doing, know it’s because of him and for him, and feel as successful as he was. 

 

 

You are Good Enough

You can be absolutely perfect but not good enough for someone.

It doesn’t mean you lack confidence if your imperfections scream at you when you’re around certain people. How people make you feel about yourself is an indicator of whether you need to remove someone from your life.

“It doesn’t matter what people think about you.” That’s a lie. It does matter what people we care about think of us. If the people you care about are making you feel like you’re not good enough you are risking personal growth.

The longer you let these people’s perception swallow you, the more anxious and unsure of yourself you’ll feel.

These aren’t the people that give you honest criticism. Those people help you grow. These people that give you a bad feeling. They want you to talk, but not to listen or to help. You can see in their eyes they are waiting to hear you open up so that they can celebrate where you fall short.

We’re better than that. We have accomplishments. We have a purpose! We have good to give to the world. We have an impact. We are capable of being outstand and insanely irresistible.

There are moments that take us away from the feelings of doubt. We can escape Have you ever gone home from a place or from being with someone who really cares about you and you remember how you had forgotten about those feelings because in that time you were shining and glowing with sureness? That’s because those places and those people are the ones that should be in your life.

Your confidence, your talent, your skills, your uniqueness haven’t gone anywhere. You still have it all in your possession.

You are absolutely good enough. You can make mistakes. You can fail. Apologies are meant for acceptance of your past actions and improvement of your future actions. Fail and get back up but don’t be fooled by the people who watched you fail and wanted you to stay down.

I wear your judgments like a mask
My downfall is my loyalty 
To be better for you
You tell me what you don’t like about me
And it hits me that I did everything right
And so I search in my mind chaotically 
Trying to vindicate myself that I was wrong
Because my loyalty is greater than my pride
And I just want to be wrong
So that I can apologize
And everything would go back to the way it was
But sometimes you just lose 
I lost
I can’t stop you from hurting me 
And now I’m stuck under this hideous mask
Wearing it like it defines me
I know one day I can take it off
But right now it’s a part of who I am 
– Leanna

Be kind to everyone but be careful who you give your heart to. Remember to smile.

 

 

The Last Letter

My dad lost his arm after an overdose that left him unconscious. He fell directly on his arm and stayed there for two whole days before he regained consciousness. From there he spent over a month in a coma-like state. When he was released, he hated himself.

(These images are 2016 when he spent a month in the hospital after a bad fall)

His arm that hung lifeless by his side along with his early onset Parkinsons Disease, I knew that I wouldn’t be receiving one of those beautiful letters that gave me hope and confidence for a long time. I didn’t realize that I’d never get another letter again.

Regardless, I felt an urge to write my dad a letter. I’d think about it relentlessly and for every time I lied to myself that work was more important than that letter, I despised myself.

A mentor that came into my life at quite possibly the perfect time instantly could see that I wasn’t focused. He called me out, something that is rare for people to do and something that I admire and search for in any relationship especially work. He said make flashcards of all the things you need to do and know you’ll only do one thing. He didn’t ask me what I was writing but I ended up with one thing that trumped all my work.

It was to write and send my dad a letter.

My dad was and always will be the number one person, thing, and faith I have in my lifetime. I am so grateful for that and the addiction he suffered from made me realize that even more. You know that phrase you always want something you can’t have? Or… you only miss something once it’s gone. I felt like I had been living those quotes to the fullest of their potential for a long time.

Every time my dad ended up in the hospital, every time I found out my dad was unconscious for weeks, every time my dad was numb to my words because of his depression, every time he was high… it felt like I was losing the person I loved and that I missed him so much even though he was right there.

Writing helped tremendously. I could write to my dad as if he were the daddy I remembered. Writing to people (handwritten) lets us slow down. It lets us express ourselves and envision the person we are writing to. Have you ever written a letter to someone you’re angry at? By the end, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how you aren’t angry anymore. Writing to my dad was always a happy experience and I loved being able to express my love to him.

Along with the letter I sent him a card as you can see below.

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The letter is what I had said I was too busy for but when I looked at what I really cared about, it was expressing my feelings to my dad. There’s no hiding what you care about and if you do, you’ll feel mundane and have that feeling like something is missing.

After he received his letter, he texted me this:

My dearest Daughter I stayed in my room for two days and did not want to even get up because I am so depressed I finally got up just now and Grandpa told me that there is a letter from You so I just read it. I love You so much my Baby , You are the only thing in my life that makes me happy . I always brag about You to everyone . I am a very lucky person . I thank the good lord above for a doughter like You . I only wish that I could live up to what You deserve . I love You very much . Thank You so much for Your letter . You have no idea how much it means to me. Thank You very, very much for Your letter I love You with all my heart I think You know that . Thank You Lord for my Daughter. My love I wish I could hug You and cry, instead I get to cry by myself . I realize how much pain I caused to my family , I hate myself in a way that only I can understand . I love You my Baby , I failed You my Angel , please forgive me

 

I think hearing that my dad thinks I deserved better than him is impossible for me to comprehend because to me he is perfect and maybe a bit of the truth about what I believe is that I wouldn’t be considered a strong person if it weren’t for what I went through. In fact- it’s not a bit of the truth- it’s the whole truth.

When I told John this, he said that I should accept that he believed that I deserved better. And that I should still believe I deserve the best- from everyone- especially myself.

It seems impossible to expect better from my dad because of the unconditional love he gave me. But when it comes to friends- I am a mess. I can’t seem to have real friendships and that’s been my hardest battle. It choked me up when he said I deserve the best because honestly, I don’t know if I expect too little or too much. I want to tell you the story of how weak I really feel because I deserve to be honest with myself.

My dads fall happened at the end of May. For the last week of May, I was in Colorado. Then I spent a week with Eric while he had surgery. Immediately after that, I flew out to Chicago, then I came back to watch Eric get sworn in as a lawyer and within 24 hours I was in Washington DC for a week in a half.

By now it’s the end of June and I am dealing with bad anxiety. It wasn’t the worst I’ve ever felt, but I was on the road which made it uneasy. I would spend at least 2 hours on the phone with doctors and social workers who were trying to understand my dad’s situation. While I was in Chicago I remember sitting at a coffee shop trying to quietly whisper that this wasn’t the first time my dad had problems and that I was more worried that upon being released he’d kill himself.

I felt hopeless and guilty by the time I got home from my trips. All I wanted to do was be told it was okay and feel supported. But that is in fact not what I came home to.

On June 20th I came home and I found a half drunken bottle of Vodka in my room which was alarming. It made me feel uneasy. Since I live with roommates a bedroom is the only sacred place you have. It felt like that feeling that someone had broken in- someone uninvited was in your space. It hurt not knowing answers. Worse than that, I overheard one of my friends say that my friend would be way better off living with her than me.

I was crushed, but being a coward, I tried making myself smaller. It’s when I really first decided to minimize. Get rid of anything that made me take up more space and that made my life more meaningful- making a positive out of a negative I suppose. I wanted to make up for why I was being talked about by seeming less of a burden. But still- nothing will fill the void of hearing people you care about talk about you.

On July 8th my mom left for Washington State to be with her family. I was so happy for her, but that was the last time I knew we were a family. Dysfunctional of course, but now it wasn’t unified dysfunction and I could taste my dad’s downfall. I visited her to say goodbye and stopped by to see my dad first.

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For 15 minutes my dad stood here like this, hollow as if he had been in a concentration camp. Staring blankly. Dirt on his face. Lifeless. It scared me to see him like this because unlike heroin which made him nod off and come back, he was frozen. He looked starving. For both hope and food. His arm unbandaged lifelessly hung by his side.

On July 15th my dad texted me:

BabySo, I am so sorry for everything I put U through , please forgive me .. I am serious , I just feel like my end is near and I had to at least apologize.. I love U my darling

I can only stand so much. I felt like I was losing everything (besides my love, Eric who would bring me flowers for most of the month of July to cheer me up).

In August I was distant, overwhelmed, scared and trying to make lemonade out of lemons. I visited grandpa and dad and knew I was the key to their livelihood. I was trying to flourish at work and trying to be the happiest I could be while still making myself as small as possible.

On August 26th I ditched my best friend on her birthday.

I guess it’s no surprise that when I was a bad friend and called out for it, I exploded with anger. I’ve never been a bad person but I certainly have been a bad friend and I’m ashamed to admit it.

It hurt me because, in that instance of already feeling vulnerable for being a bad friend, my friend looked me in the eyes with hate and said: “You just feel so bad for yourself because of your dad.”… wow. It didn’t hurt because it was true, it hurt because what I had thought I was doing was begging for support and love and acceptance and help. I couldn’t have been if my own friend believes that I feel bad for myself. If I felt bad for myself, I would’ve given up a long time ago on everything. I would probably still be on disability and not be living in Boston.

I felt like I lost two friends because I didn’t know how to tell them what I deserve, what I want, and what my boundaries are.

Eric and I talk about how hurt I am a lot. A lot of our deep conversations lead back to my insecurities about ruining the friendships I’ve had.

“I hate that I feel like I ruin my friendships,” I said out loud at dinner one night a few weeks ago. I locked eyes with him and looked for an answer in his. You could tell he wanted to help me but he couldn’t give me an answer. Instead, he did what he’s best at and made me feel like there’s a reason for the way I am and that its okay.

He said, “Your dad was loyal to a fault and you saw that. You saw your dad leave you at such a young age when he went to prison but he was still so loyal. So maybe you expect the people around you to either be extremely loyal or to leave you completely.”

I teared up. Exactly.

Eric has said it before- I need to stop acting like the world is against me. Sometimes I pin myself against the world because I want to take on everything. I want to be a superhero for everyone but then when I can’t express what I need in return I become sad.

So as I’m sitting here without my dad giving me advice, I’m searching to find the answers within.

It came back to that last letter and how disappointed I’d be in myself if I hadn’t expressed myself in those words. My strengths are that I am as genuine as they come and wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m also very emotionally invested in everything I do.

If it weren’t for those letters where my dad and I were 100% honest with each other, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to love each other as much as we did and have as deep of a connection as we did. Looking back on it terrifies me to think in my 25 years we only spent 12 years together. But, because of the letters, it feels like we had the full 25 years and an eternity lives through them.

So how are these two situations related at all? Because when we are going through something that we don’t understand and that hurts us it makes us lose ourselves and makes us feel like we don’t belong in our own bodies. For me, it’s losing friends but for you maybe you’re being fired or you’re going through a divorce. It makes you feel like what you had believed to be true wasn’t at all. You doubt yourself. It affects your confidence.

I was forced to really revisit my priorities today and to remember that letter I wrote and how because I wrote it made me be able to do everything else better. I am flourishing in all aspects of my life but because I can’t process and put aside losing my friends, I have a void in my heart and my soul.

I lost my dad for God’s sake and I dealt with that better than this.

I keep trying to hush these feelings and prioritize other things before addressing my insecurities. Because of that, I’ve tired myself out. Instead of being honest by writing down my feelings on paper, I’ve been trying to tell myself I’m okay in my head. I am a positive person to a fault and I will always say everything is okay- and truly believe it in my brain.

It’s just not. John has brought that to light.

I have been losing touch with my positivity and momentum to change the world. I find myself getting angry at little things. And I know it’s because I keep asking myself questions that make me doubt myself because of my insecurities. Do my friends keep canceling plans with me because they don’t care? Did my friend spitefully text me “Sending you good vibes” when my dad died? I didn’t want good vibes. I wanted to be hugged. Did people not see that? Is every compliment I hear another lie until you stab me in the back? Then it gets worse. My friends don’t even believe in me, how are other people going to? I can’t even get my friends to come to an event, how am I going to get total strangers to want to? Those aren’t healthy questions to have in my head.

I don’t need to be loved or forgiven but I do need to take care of myself and stop acting like I am okay. A lot of people think I’m a strong person because of what I’ve been through with my parents but that was easy. Feel bad for myself? I had a man in my life that even while he was dying he prioritized my well being. That’s pure beauty I was apart of.  It’s easy for me to love someone when that person is never going to betray you or leave you or ever stop loving you.

It’s nearly impossible for me to accept that people I care about talk bad about me. That is a self-mutilating weakness. It’s my Achilles heel. I hope that I let go of my unrealistic expectations or if I’m going to have them, at least express myself better. I hope that I never have to write a last letter to a friend.

Valentines Day is My Favorite

Valentines Day is my favorite holiday. The unpopular vote, but I have a few reasons why and it’s not because I have a boyfriend that I spend a romantic day with. I haven’t done a personal post in a long time, but tis’ the holiday!

 

1. It’s not an official holiday so people are still working and people go out in public. I love seeing lots of people. Family holidays are great, but making a work day special is fun to me.

2. It’s not a drinking holiday like St. Patricks Day which of course I love because a lot of drunk people in the streets of Boston is overwhelming, scary, and less magical.

3. It’s about love and I loveeeee love! My dad is always going to be my number one Valentine but I have lots of number ones. Including grandpa, Alison, Sofia, Amanda, Eric… etc. Don’t forget that this day of love is for friends and family too! Don’t be selfish and drown is sorrows of being single- embrace the ones you love and make them feel special.

4. I love dressing up in pinks and reds!

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5. I love the funny pun cards. Here are some of my favorites.

 

 

What Society Thinks VS. Who He is to Me 

I wrote this about a year before my dad died. I was going to change this so that it is past tense since now he is gone now. I think the message is even more clear as you read below how much help people like my dad really need before they are gone too and writing is the only thing that keeps another broken heart going. I have been told I don’t know how to ask for help. But that doesn’t mean that inside I was literally exhausted inside begging and screaming for something to make everything a little bit easier.

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I looked people in the eyes and they ask, “How is your dad?” and it made me a little bit angry because it’s as if I could paint it black and white. Not good was never enough to describe how “not good” it was. And so even though sometimes I’d lie and say, he’s doing okay now, I knew I was always one call away from losing him. It made me angry because no matter what my answer was it wouldn’t change how much that person understood. What I really wanted was someone to shake me and say, “Let’s go see your dad. I want to feel your pain.”

An addict needs to want help before they can get help. My dad was begging for help. Unfortunately, he thought the only help he deserved was to stop being a burden to the world.

Here’s My Dad What Society Thinks vs. Who He is To Me

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For the first 9 months of 2016, the number of confirmed cases of unintentional opioid overdose deaths was 1,005, with an estimated additional 392 to 470 deaths.

Since Massachusetts began the pilot program seven years ago, there have been more than 2,500 reported overdose reversals.

My dad counts for 4 of those 2,500 reported

He doesn’t even know that I know that, but if it weren’t for Narcan, I would have already buried him.

In 1992, my dad was in prison for crimes he committed under the influence

In 2007 my dad was on the front page of the local newspaper for assault

In 2010 my dad was sentenced to prison for kidnapping, assault, and burglary

In 2016 my dad was released and overdosed 4 times

What does the future hold for my dad?

My dad, by society label, is a criminal

But this is who my dad is to me

The man who wrote me a letter every week to tell me how much he loved me.

The man who taught me how to ride a bike, to ice-skate, to play softball, and to stick up for myself.

And for the things he couldn’t teach me, he made sure someone did.

Singing lessons, dance lessons, math tutors, and appointments at makeup salons to learn the right way to do makeup.

The man that laminated every award I won in school and kept them in a book.

The man that took me to a Britney Spears, Shakira, Missy Elliott and Beyonce concert.

The man who cemented a basketball court in our backyard because I wanted to learn to play but didn’t want to join the team.

The man who sat by my bedside all night and held my hand saying every single great quality I had when my first boyfriend broke my heart.

The man that would come to my high school and leave little notes and flowers in my car window to let me know he cares.

The man that cried the first time he saw me in a prom dress.

My dad has always been my hero. He is just too sick for us to appreciate that together.

The two sides of my dad made me completely aware of people struggling with identity. No one is completely evil. No one deserves to be treated by what they are labeled as. If it weren’t for my dad, I wouldn’t love as hard, or be as compassionate to those in need, or an understanding to those with a broken past.

Some could say my dad is an immigrant who deserves to be deported. But I say my dad is the light of my life, my reason for being, and the only person to keep me strong when I want to give up.

Addiction is an issue that needs extreme attention, especially for kids that are trying to understand their parents’ disease as I struggled to do for so many years. I was fortunate that my dad can fight so hard to always get back on his feet, but I know there are addicts that can’t. It’s not their fault and as a child of an addict, I need to be the voice to say we can we will and we have learned to love and understand those with addiction.

If you know a parent that is struggling with addiction or a child that is witnessing addiction and needs help, please let them know I am their voice, that I am there for them, and that I am always here to talk.


My dad was my best friend and to me- a teddy bear. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know what the solution is, but I know that along with everyone else we’re begging for a different outcome. It’d be such an honor in my dad’s name that instead of children like me saying my dad will either end up in prison or dead, can really have high hopes on saying that my dad will be okay.

Maybe our way of looking at addiction is wrong.

From my dad’s last phone call you can hear his fear of being put back in prison. It was worse than death. And everyone knew he didn’t need prison to help him change his ways. It’s just not a solution. My dad made his bad decisions when using drugs- not because he was a bad person.

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The Book I’m Writing on my Dad’s Addiction

While my dad sat in a cage to think about all the scary things that could happen upon his release and his fear of being deported, he wrote it all down and sent it to me.

He wrote the pain he felt every time he thought of how he would ever be able to find a job, how he hated himself for not seeing either of my graduations and how he hated addiction.

Then he’d write his dreams. To get out and conquer the world with me. How he wanted to just travel and laugh and be able to call me without being cut off after 5 minutes and paying $50 each time.

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ICE Kept my dad in prison longer than his sentence, and two years after his release I no longer get to conquer the world alongside him. BUT that doesn’t mean he isn’t watching. He’s making sure that my pain and love to brings awareness to a disease that took his life. This book of letters is the most precious thing I own. I bring it with me almost everywhere.

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It holds every piece of advice my dad gave me from the time I was a senior in high school until my first year out of college. I’m going to publish our story because it’s a beautiful thing to share my treasure with others. To know that I’ll have copies made so that these thoughts are never lost gives me hope for others that this will be a part of history. You can sign up for my book release here.

The power of breathing

Sometimes when I think about my dad on his last day I almost feel that feeling. That one that people usually feel when you lose someone. Like that the world is ending and that you’ll never recover and that you don’t have any internal organs just shattered fragments of your heart infiltrating your body.

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Today I was working on something and I noticed my breathing. I was breathing through my nose and became ultra aware of my chest rising and falling. It brought me back to the hospital. Before I saw my dad, I was told that he was brain dead and if it weren’t for the breathing machine, his organs would shut down completely.

It made sense to me. It made sense that because of westernized medicine some people would find it normal to keep their loved ones breathing just so they could feel their presence for as much time as possible. But it didn’t make sense to use that as an excuse for the cold truth that my dad was no longer ever going to say I love you again.

The doctor was so strong as she looked at me in the eyes and told me my dads brain was no longer functioning.

When I saw my dad I watched as his chest rose and fell. I heard the sound of the breath. Sometimes I take deep breaths to get through times that make me feel weak and vulnerable and nervous and it just hits me that my dad will never get another breath and that he isn’t there to call to substitute my meditation practice.

If I ever had a tough day where I thought the world was unfair, that people didn’t understand me, I’d call him and he’d just make all my worries disappear because he loved me, he believed in me, and he knew exactly what to say to make me feel like I could conquer the world.

I think a lot of people are surprised at how well I’ve handled the passing of my dad. I guess you could say I’m back to “normal” but when I have these moments like the thought of my dad in the ICU I feel my brain physically moving the feeling of pain out of me. I wouldn’t say I’m in shock but in order for me to go on with my life and do what I’m meant to do in this world, I can’t let the shattering infiltrate me completely. I have a mission in this world. Hope for addiction will be spread through the story of my dad and me.

I get the feeling that once the pain infiltrates my body I will be nothing. I will lose my health. My organs will literally shut down. I will begin the process of death. My dad was truly my everything. My world will end when my mission is over.

For now, I’m here and as I am crying at the thought I just experienced I am slowly starting to snap back into pilot mode.

“Work hard, stay on track. Your dad is dead. You’re okay,” is what my mind is saying. My tears are drying and I am ready to get back to work.

Love is confusing because we don’t know whether to define it as a weakness or a strength. Well, I’d say it’s both. It’s what’s keeping me going but I think it’ll be what kills me too.

The important part is that I remember to breathe. Even if sometimes it brings me back to the most painful moments – just keep breathing. The simplicity of breathing seems a fleeting thought but the power it holds is tremendous. I guess when you see someone taking their last one it reminds you of it’s power.