I started drinking early yesterday.
I have gotten rather good at *not* turning to the bottle when I’m down. Alcohol is part of a celebration of life, not a tool to numb myself from it…
Not anymore, at least.
But it was not a normal day, and the dark clouds that hung low were nothing so trivial as lost love or a forced change in career paths.
One year ago, I lost an important person to me. One of the most important, in fact.
I could go on and on about what made her such an important person to so many.
But I already did that.
This isn’t about losing Stephanie.
This is about what has happened since.
I don’t shed a tear, once a year to prove she was here.
I shed a tear often, with every fond memory recalled.
But the tears aren’t pure sorrow; they are more.
She was more. More than my high school love, my summer romance.
She was more to so many. She impacted people the right way.
And that is what this is about.
Making the right impact in this world, making the right impact with the people around me.
When Stephanie passed, I tried so hard to pick up where she left off. To volunteer my time, to mentor and inspire.
I was too busy watching my own life fall away to help anybody else.
Further proof of how strong Stephanie was. She was fighting cancer, six years longer than they had given her. She never once let it stop her. Her personal tragedies were hers, but she still took on those of others.
I failed at being Stephanie.
I am someone else. I had a hard time swallowing my failure to emulate her; where was my impact? What had I done for anyone?
And then, one year to the day, I met two young men. Fans of my work. Fans of my writing, with no mutual friends nor connection. They found my novel randomly at a bookstore, drawn to the design of the spine, and were sold after the first sentence, by their own accounts.
I spent the afternoon with them, talked about the book, my work and process, talked about them, and their lives.
They told me as they read Rorschach’s Ribs, they found themselves saying, “yeah, that’s exactly how I feel,” and “I feel like this was written for me.”
Which means it was. It means I made an impact. I moved them, inspired them; but not in the attempt to be someone else.
When I was their age, I was inspired by the work of Douglas Coupland. I met him, had him sign my book and gave him a letter I’d written.
He was uncomfortable and never responded, and I began to wish I hadn’t shattered the illusion.
I’m not as famous or successful as Coupland. I probably never will be.
But I will always be more accessible. I will always simply be me.
The afternoon probably meant as much to me as it did to my fans, my new friends—if not more.
I failed at being Stephanie, but I did not fail to properly honor her life; by doing my best to inspire those around me—to make a positive impact on the world.
This is, perhaps, the greatest lesson she left behind for me.
She impacted me.
Now it’s my turn to do the same.