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A promise to a stranger and lessons from 2017

I want to start by introducing you to a man I met at a coffee shop in downtown Erie last year. This wasn’t some extraordinary human. Charles didn’t stand out from the rest of the crowd but my short encounter with him changed the way I look at life.
Along with what I learned from Charles, I put together a small list of unexpected lessons that I learned in 2017.

Lesson 1- A lesson from Charles: Be aware of your surroundings, you never know who you’re going to meet.

Charles was a lawyer who had a full head of grey hair and a pleasant smile.
I had just sat down at one of the square tables facing a window and began to open my laptop.

As I was about to untangle the mess of wires that were my headphones, Charles tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the stack of newspapers on the table beside me and asked if he could borrow them. This sparked a 6-minute conversation with the stranger who left an impression on me.

Before leaving, Charles asked me to make him one promise. To be honest, making a promise to a stranger that I just met seemed a bit odd at first, but he was quick to explain:

“Just promise me you won’t be like the rest of the young people that come here, sit down and block their ears with those headphones. We miss out on so many conversations this way.” Charles said.

…and Charles was right.

Keep your eyes (and ears) open to the people who surround you. Start conversations. You never know who you’re going to meet.


Lesson 2- Don’t take your parents for granted.

Growing up and watching the strength my dad had almost made him seem invincible.

One December morning changed that for me. I received a text message from my sister that shook me. It was a short “Dad needs open heart”.

The first thing I did was google everything I possibly could about a procedure that I, even with my nursing background, seemed to know very little about. Cardiology was always my weakness and I wanted to kick myself for not studying it enough.

The next day, I was on a flight to Boston for work while my dad went into surgery. Sitting on that plane was one of the most uneasy feelings in the world. I pushed back the tears that pooled in my eyes and hoped that the woman next to me wouldn’t notice.

In a way, it was a reminder of how short our time here on Earth really is and that I needed to make the most of it.

Call your parents more, send them a letter, apologize if you have to, don’t put off for tomorrow what needs to be said today.

This was dad’s first trip to the grocery store less than a week after his surgery! It was a short trip but one we were grateful for. He continues to improve each day.


Lesson 3- Do NOT name your plants.

This is one of the touchier subjects because it is about my dear Harper.
Harper was a String of Pearls plant that I had brought home all the way from Toronto. After a week of being away for work, I returned to a clearly ill and wilting Harper. With little knowledge on how to revive the poor thing, I was forced to toss her. It’s MUCH harder to throw away a plant after you’ve named the thing.
Needless to say, I have since stopped naming my plants.


Lesson 4- The STUFF you own simply doesn’t matter.

In September, while I was still living in Florida, we faced Hurricane Irma. It was a time of uncertainty, confusion and honestly some fear. I do, however, remember how little I cared about my STUFF. That week, my family spent a lot of time together. We made crepes, ate sushi (for days!!!) and cracked a whole lot of jokes. When faced with uncertainty and watching the news so closely, all we cared about was that our family was home. Safe.

Crepes are a must in times of chaos. The wall in front of me was a window covered with hurricane shutters.


The calm before the storm- my brother Russ and dad went for one last swim in the pool before we all got back in the house and locked up for the night to wait out the storm. I am so grateful that my dad has a great sense of humor in times like these.


Lesson 5- “Busy” is not a badge of honor.

Three months ago, after much thought, I quit my nursing job at an orthopedic office in Venice, FL and moved to Erie, PA to live with my sister and her family. Busy was a word I used too often in my vocabulary. I was almost PROUD of how busy I was. Between flights, weddings, going back to work at my nursing job and everything else- I was TIRED of being “busy”. Since my move, my daily pace slowed down drastically and I couldn’t be happier. I am finally doing what I love and spending more time with the people I love. “Busy” is what I would like to be less of in 2018.

This was one of the very first days in my new home. I would sit outside covered with a blanket and watch the leaves fall. Sometimes we just need to stop and take a break from the “busy”. 2017 ended with a season of rest for me.


What about you? I’d love to hear at least one thing 2017 has taught you. Maybe a specific event led to a change in mindset like it has so often for me? Let me know in the comment section! I’d love to read about it!