This journey of my recent education, it feels bittersweet how I can’t truly unpack the depths for which it has transformed my life, my self, my self-awareness, my brain, my heart, my entire outlook on life/love/and the universe at large.

I went from having a hodge podge of starts and stops in college, culinary school, jobs, and businesses I entrepreneured; to using school to save my brain, save my life, and help me move onward.
To clear a path. 
Going back to school for me was self-preservation, self -care and -love intentionality at its core.

It has been a very long break but I am finally ready to write and for myself.. again.

In honesty, this blog was never to entertain or explain to people who are committed to misunderstanding and not emotionally capable. It was always a love letter from me to me, and the girls, Shayne, and whoever entered this area of my internet with only patience and compassion, and support. If not to learn anything about/from me, but maybe something about grief.
It’s not all doom and gloom and moods, and it is also not all positivity and joy and sunsets. It truly is all of it, all the time, if you’re paying any attention.

Also why I am ever-presently grateful for the ones who are still and have stuck by my side: forevermore.

I wholeheartedly believe we (widows, grievers, etc.) also just get insanely great at: (1) realizing this is all very temporary and go into seizing joy and peace at all costs without needing outside validation or understanding, and, simultaneously (2) assimilating back into regular programming culture and resign ourselves to the mask we eventually wear to get on with things and pretend we did not just see behind the biggest curtain of life.
Until someone really compassionate and caring, carrying zero judgment and no hurry comes along and gently takes the mask off and says, “Beautiful.”

I’ve been reading and writing myself stupid (not really, quite the opposite) academically for four years which explains the pause in widowy bloggings since 2020.
Discussion boards, likely thousands of pages of those alone, and research papers; my brain is a little ready for the reprieve in academia writing. Although I love it. I loved every absurdly diabolic minute of every paper.

How fitting, though, four years ago today/just yesterday, January 10, 2019, I began again, photo below.
It was a huge day for me.
The symbolism and effort and persistence and the overcoming of many obstacles and chaos. It was a huge day for me on the inside, as well as out. I was unsure where it was all heading but I knew I’d figure it out if I just kept remaining curious about who I could become.
I cried on the way to school, from how empowered I felt because I knew I was doing something enriching and good for myself. A corner was turned. Finally. Felt good.

Something totally for me, to me, from me, to better me and therefore: us.

I started school, again, for about the 3rd time in my adult life.
I was 32 but felt like an infant inside this new life, this new mind, this new everywhere everything everyone all the time.
All registered at the state college, all the basics I needed to begin finishing my AA.
(I had previously gone to college/taken classes but for a long story shortened immensely, never finished any degree program).
I assumed and took to my role as wife and mom and entrepreneur in my 20s.

And after Shayne died when I was 29, wouldntyaknowit, I had all this life and jack-of-all-trades job experience but zero degree(s) to utilize and build a sustainable life upon. After he died, as far as my “career”!? I felt disempowered in that area.
There were options, there always are.

So in early 2019, this face, that face with the thumbs up, you wouldn’t know it, had just been through it in an abusive relationship and was escaping additional compounded disturbance and pain through laser focus.
I am certainly not the person who lays down and assumes victim. I genuinely did not think my life reflected or, in any way demonstrated by who I was and had behaved throughout my adult life, had communicated any differently.

And now I’m sitting here, 36, older, less blonde, more exhausted for sure, but 2 degrees down, 1 more 4 months away, and 1 to shop for and go.

And I’ve done it with a broken heart in the many ways you cannot imagine because I’ll likely never be able to say.

A lot has happened since that photo and, since the last time I wrote. Covid. The death of a very close and trusted friend who I loved dearly, who became a part of our little family so quickly and closely, and since her sudden death, I went paralyzed socially. So many other lowly layers on top and highs mixed in. I worked at the hospital. I graduated with my BSW. I went straight into the Master’s program.

You, whoever you are, reading, do not know the story behind this stubborn joy. And I am understanding the peace in that. Fair, I likely do not know even the half of the reasons you smile in your soul when you do, I don’t pretend to.

This is why I am so aligned, I am the one who’s known what it took.
The pain and anger of grief can save your life if you channel them. I do not imply college education is the fool-proof answer to grief problems, no, but education (whatever it is and however it comes) is my top pick for starters as a great tool for mitigating adversity.
When you don’t know what to do or your next move: go be a student, somehow, somewhere.

I do know, and feel deep respect and gratitude; I’ve had a most transformative last three/four years. Blame it on my acquired knowledge. I laid down my brain for this, what I did not intend or pay for was that my heart has completely been broken and opened again. And I am about to further engage places within myself that have been dormant, I’m not about to just turn this pain into purpose, but my life practice.

My education has been worth its weight in gold and I realize that’s a loaded thing to admit given our student financial/social climate, how resentful people have become toward secondary education, and the Wizard of Oz I have come to learn everything is. But that’s how I define this.

Not everyone’s pursuits are created equal.
I didn’t flippantly choose this. It wasn’t what I knew or was told to do. I didn’t get pushed into it by expectations or legacy. I didn’t have choices and suggestions already made for me. There were no guidelines to follow for widows with young children needing to get their life together with the urgency of yesterday. I didn’t have anyone’s model behavior or close mentorship to do social work.
The abbreviated frank of it is, I got tired of being mentally and verbally abused, didn’t want to expire over it, and knew I was smarter than I seemed and went and talked to a college advisor about taking back control of my life.

I have changed, willingly, in these four years and other parts of me have remained steady and aligned. I’ve grown more in certain relationships and areas and failed others. Each and all: lessons and scaffolding.

It’s incredible how quickly this all happens on the outside. When you’re inside it, it feels like you’re in a between-the-quantum wormhole traversing faster than the speed of speed but everything around you is in slow-mo.

Change has been consistent. In some ways good, others not so good. I can’t control others or the weather but I’m responsible for my outcomes. I’m responsible for my adaptability to scenarios.
I’ve done what I’ve had to do to survive; always, every time.

Grateful to be free in some ways, and grounded, settled, and committed in others. I hadn’t truly been able to connect to who I was outside Shayne’s wife/mother of his children. I’ve had the opportunity to justifiably take this time to carve me out of the rubble. All the while, growing… learning…

A valuable lesson I have learned in general grief is drawing hard lines between myself and opposing energies because PEACE has risen to the top as more important to me than anything throughout this entire process.
And the liberating part, peace as defined by me. Not anyone else.
That’s not up for criticism or discussion with anyone else. That has been peaceful.

If you think you know what that smile really entails and what it took that morning, I guarantee you you do not. I guarantee even more so that you would likely come to feel awkward for having any external judgments regarding an internal situation you aren’t and weren’t ever fully privy to; what I decided and had to do to survive.

However, school gave me something and everything to aspire to breathe new life into, start fresh, a goal to finish, to excel at, to engage all my senses in, keep my memory and brain positively working, to distract my depression (didn’t really help the anxiety!), combat limiting beliefs, to endure with during Covid times and the isolation, to facilitate the necessary transformation within myself in turning my pain into not just purpose but actual practice.

Keeping composure amidst compounded grief with my head down, focus up.
It has been soul-gutting, brain-bustingly hard some days, but it has saved my life. Sometimes it was a simple but effective timeless reminder, “this isnt the worst thing I’ve been through” and continued on. I think that’s why social work and I get along so well, perspective doesn’t threaten me. It sets me free.

My brain. My heart. I do not take this education, this process, and the last four years and beyond… for granted. At all. I know our education system is a piece of work, I really understand and know.
I can also at the very same demented time feel really grateful for what I was able to learn when I have been able to learn it because of my own personal journey and the lessons I am learning on my own time.
For my children, our situation, myself, my sanity, and my thriving survival.

I am looking forward, more than I ever have even before Shayne died. That feels really conflicting.
There are many aspects of my very fought-to-maintain joy-filled, enriched life I feel intense tangible sunshine-burning-my-face gratitude for.
And for so many people places, and conversations I have yet to have in my new field.

Gratitude for the new.


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