Eight years ago I was a health education teacher. That was not my original plan, to be a teacher. My original plan was to own a successful gymnastics gym where I trained top notch athletes. After Nicole died my path in life changed and I went on to graduate from college with a degree in Health Education. I chose this subject because it was one that talked about life and the decisions that you made and how they affected your health and your well being. I swore that Nicole’s life would not be lost in vain and that I would go on to make a difference in this world. I thought that if I could become a teacher and make a difference in one child’s life than I would be honoring Nicole.
I taught for two shorts years before I voluntarily left teaching to work for my father. My dad was going through some health issues at the time, along with dealing with a rough patch in his business and I wanted to help him. I have been working for my dad for the past eight years and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. My dad is healthy and the business is doing great. It has been a wild roller coaster ride working for him and I have loved “almost” every second of it, but tonight as I was going through boxes of my old teaching stuff, I couldn’t help but feel sad.
I loved teaching. I taught with passion, sometimes too much. I wanted to change the world. As I sifted through my old binders of lesson plans and projects from old students I felt sad for how much pain I was in at that time in my life. The amazing thing is though, that looking back on my past I not only felt sad, but I also felt victorious as I looked through old pictures of my colleagues and myself, along with many of my students.
Looking back at pictures of myself from eight years ago, I can remember vividly the emotional distress I was feeling. I can remember how my body hurt, how painful it was to breathe. I can remember the despair that I felt, how I couldn’t imagine ever feeling real joy again. I can remember as if it were just yesterday, but what I also see in those old pictures was a fighter. Even at my lowest I would never accept defeat. Each time I was knocked down I got back up. Sometimes it took me longer than others to get up, but I still got up. I don’t mean to sound boastful because at that time in my life, when I was trying so hard to inspire the lives of others, I felt worthless. I felt weak and insecure. I felt alone. When you are circling in the cloud of anxiety all you see is grey and it leaves you feeling dizzy. You can only see clearly the reality of the situation when the cloud has lifted. I was a flower in the wind, bendable, but never breakable. I couldn’t see that then, but now it is oh so clear.
I had gone into the basement to look for a lesson I taught almost a decade ago. It wasn’t really a lesson, but more of a personal moment where I shared with my students the story of Nicole. I came across one of the newspaper articles from the accident, “Alleged DWI death shocks Marist College students.” Sitting down on the cold concrete floor I read the article with tears instantly streaming down my face.
Nicole Avery, 19, of Suffolk County, died in a one-car accident.
She was pronounced dead about 7:30 a.m.
The driver of the car……….
It is like a knife going through my heart, even though this article is over 13 years old. I could remember the 19 year old me holding this article and reading it over and over, praying to wake up from my nightmare. I would stare at this article for hours, wishing that it said my name instead of Nicole’s. It was a dark time in my life.
A lot has changed since then. When you lose someone you love the pain never goes away, you just learn to deal with it in a way that it doesn’t hurt you so badly. The 19 year old me would’ve never imagined that I would be where I am today. I will never understand why Nicole’s life was cut so short, but I will always understand why I was put into her life. She has changed me forever and even in revisiting my past I couldn’t be more grateful.