Every so often, something will happen in life that completely shakes your foundation. Something unexpected that will bring you to your knees, and make you question your every breath. It’s a scary, lonely feeling.
It’s been over two weeks since my last blog entry. To tell the truth, A LOT has happened in that time, most of it being of the positive nature. But I will touch on the positives more briefly towards the end of this blog. It has all been overshadowed by the worst tragedy I have experienced in my 23 years.
It’s ironic, when Superstorm Sandy was approaching the Eastern Seaboard, and I heard about people scrambling to get prepared, I wanted to be there. I wished I was at home to experience the event. Truth be told, I figured it would just be like most of the other “superstorms” that have been predicted to hit the Northeast over the past few years. Some heavy rain, heavy wind, power outages, and schools closed, but overall it would be a dud compared to what was expected. I wanted to see the storm roll in, the trees shake, leaves fly, and the wind howl. But ultimately, I wanted to see the spectacle, not taking into account the potential destruction. How could I be so naïve?
When the storm hit on that Sunday or Monday, I heard the storm had knocked out power all over the East Coast, but from what I read everyone and everything seemed to be fine. At least that’s what I told people here when they asked me about my home and my family. But unfortunately, I was wrong. It happened on Monday morning in Dutton Park, Brooklyn, New York. I didn’t get word until Thursday morning here when I Skyped with my dad. My cousin, Jessie Streich-Kest, had been killed in a horrific accident. A falling tree struck her and a friend while she was walking her dog. She was only 24. The dog was in critical condition, but survived and is now healthy. As you can imagine, what I heard nearly killed me.
It’s been nearly two weeks since the accident. My anger, depression, shock, grief, and ensuing fatigue have since been subdued, but they leave behind a gaping hole in my life. After all, even though we only saw each other a handful of times each year, she was a big part of who I am. We shared many of the same demons, and with her being my older cuz (as we affectionately called one another), she helped guide me past them in a way that only a cousin could. As I wrote in a letter to her to be read at her funeral, she was and still is my guardian angel.
My time for venting and grieving has come and gone. This is not the right platform for it anyway, so you won’t get that should you continue reading. I have picked up this laptop many times in the past two weeks to write this blog, but all I could muster was sadness, anger, and no real motivation to write whatsoever. What I CAN comment on, with a more level head, is what I have taken from the situation. Forgive me for spit balling, but in a situation like this, proper writing style and formalities be damned….
I love my family so much. It’s terrible that a tragedy like this has to remind me, but it certainly has. I’ve also learned that life is really hard. Loss is really hard. It takes a huge toll whether you realize it or not. It took me days and days to even feel like doing anything that resembled being productive. I tossed and turned over the decision I faced to go home for the funeral or not, ultimately being told by my aunt and uncle to stay and live my dream. They truly are amazing, and didn’t deserve this.
I’ve struggled with this whole “grieving” thing. I guess it really is true that everybody handles it differently, and that there is no wrong way to go about it. I’ve been terribly conflicted, however. For the first few days, I was a mess. Coping got easier when I distracted myself with other things. That’s what everybody I talked to on Facebook and otherwise told me works best, distraction. However, I felt and still feel that I owed it to Jessie to think about what I had lost and be sad. I felt I was doing her memory a disservice by distracting myself and pretending that nothing was wrong. I’m still unsure about this idea of distracting myself, but at this point I can’t go back.
Side note: Facebook really is an amazing social service. I will never let somebody slander or talk bad about it. Without Facebook, being 12,000 miles away, the disconnect from people I know and hold dear would have haunted me. Facebook was really all that connected me. The outpouring of support and love my family and I received via Facebook was truly amazing and showed the power of social media interaction. Facebook chat allowed me to converse with friends who really helped me cope and deal with the situation. In addition, Jessie’s Facebook page is now all we have left of her. If I so chose, I can see her face and read her words whenever I want. Not to mention, the foundation created in her name using Facebook as a medium has raised over $25,000 dollars in this short time. But I digress….
Being so far removed from the situation, I guess I certainly received a reality check. Only a few days after I heard the news, I was out in Brisbane walking around, noticing the world still spinning. It’s sad, but it really is true that life goes on. How many of these people around me have had similar losses? How many people around me have had worse circumstances? Life doesn’t stop moving, so I really had no choice but to follow suit. Sure, people I told felt bad for me, but they certainly didn’t lose sleep over it. And I guess why should they? It’s a vicious and often underestimated Circle of Life that consumes us. That is, until our foundation is shaken and life briefly reminds us that we are but a speck in the greater scheme of things. But in the long run, the fact that I am so far away and not around other grieving people probably helped me recover faster that if I was at home. Either way, it’s a terrible situation that surely won’t fully hit me until I come home and realize I can’t pick up the phone and call Jessie when I need her.
Fortunately, I have been able to preoccupy my time with some things other than my family’s loss. Tomorrow (Tuesday, Nov. 20), I will be moving into a new house in North Brisbane. Finally, I will be able to assume the independence that I have been yearning for. Two brothers who play for the Carina Red Sox, another team in the Greater Brisbane League, own the house. I met them through my ex-Santa Fe teammates who play for the Carina club. The house is about 200 yards from a train station, with 20-minute access to the main part of the city, where I will be starting work on Wednesday. It will be almost three hours total travel time on the metro each weekend to get to and from my games. At this point, my number one priority is working 4+ days a week, and getting my piece of that $23/hour wage. I was so invested in the game that I forgot that this is technically still the offseason for me, and I should be making the most of a situation that few get to live. Having said that, I really cannot wait to start working at Lululemon, and I’m sure I will enjoy the company and my colleagues.
It is sad for me to leave the Murphy household, after they have done so much to support me for the last two months. However, it is time for me to take this experience sincerely into my own hands. I look forward to starting a new chapter of my down under experience in the coming week. So as I said, not all has been lost, and the darkness of Hurricane Sandy is beginning to fade. Hopefully there will be many more good times to come. Until next time, it’s g’day mate from down undah…