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Don’t give up on yourself

By Nicole Clark

I thought I had fear figured out, that I learned how to shut it down, how to overcome it. Recently, fear has been creeping its way back into my life, and I’m not sure why.

Most days, I feel on top of the world, like there is nothing I can’t do. Like anything is possible and this attitude is contagious. I know this because I see how easy it is to give my positive attitude to others when they need it most, and I see how they receive it.  

Then there are some days here and there that creep in like a dark storm cloud. My motivation and drive are gone. I start thinking something is wrong. Nothing seems to go my way and I can appear invisible when out and about if I don’t feel like interacting.

It’s easy to avoid people. It’s easy to avoid places. It’s easy to get annoyed with people. It’s so easy to be negative or to find fault in something or someone. It’s easy to not do something just because you’re scared to put yourself out there or you’re scared to fail. It’s easy to make myself blend in. 

Do you ever stop and think about when you were a child? When you had no responsibilities and all you had to worry about was who you were going to play with that day, or what you were going to imagine. Do you remember being able to belly laugh over the stupidest things, go anywhere, or be anything you wanted in your head? When did that stop? 

I remember being a teenager and walking by Toys R Us in the Regent Mall. There was a display of those plastic playhouses outside of the store and my imagination was instantly kicked into overdrive. The sweet little cottage-style house with a red phone on the inside wall and a matching red doorbell reminded me of a photo of the house my father grew up in, and I had the biggest urge to get inside. Being tiny has its advantages, so I went for it.

I walked away from my friends, pressed on the doorbell, and crawled through the half door, and then stayed inside checking out all of the little details and imagining all of the stories, memories, and giggles that would happen in that little cottage.

As I was sitting in there, adults started scowling and rolling their eyes at me, and my smile quickly faded. I instantly reached for the door to climb out. Just as I began to climb out, a man walked up to me smiling and told me to “Never grow up!” That simple act of kindness and wicked advice has stuck with me for 16 years. I told him that I wouldn’t.

I broke my promise when life broke me.

Nicole’s first day with her Hickman line.

I feel so unworthy of writing, saying, or even thinking that last sentence. I know that things could’ve been so much worse than what they were. I grew up, life happened. I got sick, then I got better. I got sick again, and “got better” again, but this time, something got worse.

Something they don’t tell you about or prepare you for when you’re going through treatment is the mental struggle you may have during the years to follow your “all clear.” You go home, celebrate your victory, and then are left to go back to living your life almost as if nothing has happened. This wasn’t good enough for me anymore.

I started to feel like I couldn’t relate to people’s everyday problems. I started to suffer in silence, I used temporary fixes and I started to question what life was all about. Then came a day where I decided that I didn’t want to feel the way I felt anymore, so started to talk to people and work on finding ways to become a better version of myself than I’ve ever known.  

I have no regrets. Having cancer has taught me so much. It burst my ego and gave me the best gifts that I never knew I needed. It showed me the good in people. It gave me the strength to face death head on without hesitation. I’ve seen other people’s struggles, and it’s made me quickly realize that mine weren’t that bad in comparison. I’m here. I’m trying to be the best mom, wife, and person that I know how to be. I’m not taking any days for granted because I know how scary it feels to know that at any moment, it could be your last. 

We’ve got to spend less time being scared of dying, and more time being scared of not living life while we are here. We need to tell others how we feel about them now instead of putting it off until tomorrow. We need to say yes to new opportunities that come our way and to putting ourselves out there, instead of no because we’re scared of failing.  

If you’re hurting, tell someone. If they don’t know how to receive what you’re telling them, tell someone else until you find that person, that godsend who is willing to hear your struggle and offer you some light for your darkness. Don’t give up on yourself. Don’t give up on people around you. Giving up is easy. Easy is common. Easy is boring. Don’t settle for easy. Be bold, be you, and break the cycle of doing what’s easy. 

Nicole’s last day with her Hickman line.

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