To me this combination of numbers, letters and symbols is a reminder of a pivotal turning point. More specifically these coordinates. Coordinates to a place where my life changed entirely.
London Heathrow Airport.
Yes, a strange place to have a heartfelt connection with. However, to me the first day I stepped foot onto these coordinates is a day I am eternally thankful for.
To explain this I need to start from the very beginning. All the way back to 2014. I was twenty years old and a junior in college. I was also battling between a thousand different versions of myself that I wanted to be, choosing major after major because I thought it was the “right” path. At the time I thought I had everything figured out. I had my dance career on hold and was finishing my college years with a career path that was sure to lead me to most people’s idea of success. However, it didn’t make me happy at all. It did, however, make others happy. That became my reassurance that I was on the right path.
Around Thanksgiving I became ill. After a couple of weeks of what I thought was a bad cold, my swollen lymph nodes started to swell to an unreasonable size. The area became so swollen that it started to effect my breathing, which resulted in me spending Thanksgiving in the ER. After a round of steroids and no results I was then taken to a specialist who over the course of two or so weeks ran dozens of tests. This ended in myself, my mom and my doctor in a small room having a terrifying talk centered around the words “lymphoma” “emergency surgery” and “prepare yourselves”. Nothing has made my mind go numb quite like that day. It was the first time my mother’s words didn’t comfort me and the second time in my life I had seen my father cry. I headed back to my house that night and cried myself to sleep with my roommates holding me and keeping me sane. That night I thought about all the things I really truly wanted to do in my life. The two things I cared about were dancing and seeing the world and it made me unbearably sad to think I wouldn’t be able to do these things anymore. I promised myself if I got through this that’s exactly what I would do.
A couple days later I went into surgery to remove my cervical lymph nodes. I then waited for what felt like a month for a phone call that was going to change my life. These were the most excruciating days I have ever experienced, sitting by the phone waiting for what was essentially a death sentence and having no control whatsoever in this circumstance. Finally the phone rang and my mother and I stared at each other with pure fear in our eyes before we answered. In the swiftest, quickest sentence I received news that changed my life entirely. I was cancer free.
To me it was the wake up call I never knew I needed. I know without a doubt that if I had never gone through this my entire life would be a different story. A story I’m sure I wouldn’t be proud of. My fall semester of college had ended but I spent many meetings and phone calls deciding a different story for myself, one that had me graduating far earlier that expected. I graduated in a quiet, subtle way. I didn’t walk and I didn’t announce it. I just left. I eventually had my degree mailed to me and moved back to Nashville to start a life that I truly wanted to live. One where I was not wasting away in a classroom. I constantly thought back to the night I spent crying with my roommates talking about everything I wanted out of life. One night I stayed up till roughly five o’clock in the morning researching a European trip. Specifically a month long, multiple country trip with a tour company my friend had traveled with. After stalking multiple YouTube accounts, blogs, and Instagram pages I put a deposit down. Just like that. I didn’t have any friends going with me and I didn’t care. I spent the next five or six months saving every dime I could and working a ridiculous number of hours every single day all for a trip I thought I would never be able to take. I looked up pictures of the destinations every day for motivation and counted down the days for months. It was my first big “purchase” and I had never been so excited for anything in my life.
Finally the day came, the one I didn’t even know I had been waiting my whole life for. July 6, 2015. I packed up my bags and headed off to the airport to start a trip I had no idea would be so prevalent to my life. After two flights I touched down in London Heathrow Airport. The feelings that rushed through me when my plane landed have stayed with me to this day. An intoxicating mixture of overwhelming excitement, pride, fear, and pure happiness. A feeling so strong I vowed to myself that no matter what I do in life, if it doesn’t fill my soul with this same feeling, it’s not worth it.
The entire trip was beyond my wildest dreams. However this is an entirely different story in itself. A story filled with growth, love, and experiences I will cherish for my entire life. If I had never gone on that trip everything would be different. The lessons learned, the lifelong friendships formed, and the growth I went through have shaped so much of my current life.
If there is one thing that I could tell every single person in the world it would be that life is what you create it to be. We hear it all the time but you only have one life to live. You have to ask yourself: Am I living how I truly want? If someone told you that you were going to die in a month how much would you change about your life?
Create your life for you, and make it a damn good one.