I just started my sixth year of college.
You read that right. Year six. Fall 2015 semester.
My journey through college has been a little complicated, and most of it has intertwined with my journey through grief. Most of the people I’ve known to die have passed away during my time in school, and that certainly hasn’t made my experience an easy one.
I began at a local community college, and just as I started my second semester of my second year, my dad’s battle with cancer went downhill. I dropped out of school, we put him on hospice, and he passed away shortly thereafter.
Along came Carrie.
Carrie was a very close friend of my dad’s. He actually gave her her first job when she graduated college, and she frequently gave him credit for her entire career (which was a little unfair, as she was a hardcore go-getter and a self-made kind of woman.) They never lost touch after parting ways professionally, and they saw each other through a lot in life.
They were proof that men and women can be life-long platonic friends; I’m grateful for that example and am always thoroughly disappointed when people don’t live up to it or agree with it.
Before my dad passed, Carrie promised him that she would help me figure out my college plans and guide me any way she could. They had very similar insights being in the same line of work, and it was great having her around as a “personal advisor” who was also a friend.
The summer after I dropped out of school was when I really had to consider, as far as college was concerned, what I was going to do and where I was going to do it. Carrie arranged for me to come to the city for a weekend to talk things through with her and to “meet some people” she knew.
By “some people,” she meant the founder of an interactive software company (who happens to be the creator of the You Don’t Know Jack game, if you’re familiar) a children’s book author, a freelance PR associate, a journalism professor at Northwestern, and a freelance writer and blogger. I basically was put in front of a buffet of all the things I could do in my life.
I went to a writer’s haunt called the Unicorn Cafe, I toured companies, I asked questions and got answers. Only Carrie could have pulled something like that together. She was a wealth of connections and it was so inspiring to be surrounded by her and other people who seemed to understand exactly where I was headed and what I wanted.
It was on that visit with Carrie that I started my fashion blog. She asked me what I was interested in outside of writing. I said fashion and makeup. “Then write about it,” she said. “Script and make videos about it. Interview local boutiques. Make car magnets and pass them out. You’re going to be a name.” While that was many moons ago and I’m still not a “name,” I was able to start something with Carrie and I’ve proudly kept it up with her in mind.
Unfortunately, Carrie also passed away a year later. At her funeral, there was story after story of how Carrie always went for her goals, how she was a fierce friend, how she was unstoppable in the face of challenges. Then there were the stories of how she once had her car stolen twice in one day, and how she sweet-talked her way into a classical radio job knowing nothing about classical music.
I wasn’t a huge part of Carrie’s life, and she wasn’t a huge part of mine, but she was one of the most important parts. She was kind of like Dumbledore to me — she taught me some important lessons, connected me with important people, and set me off to succeed on my own.
I wouldn’t call my journey so far a success, but without Carrie I wouldn’t have even made it this far.
Carrie’s life was well lived and full of stories. I can only hope my own will be the same.