Lessons Learned: Make Your Mark... and Be Thankful
Two weeks ago, I learned that a dear friend that I have known for practically my whole life had tragically passed away in a car accident. To say that I was shocked – and consumed with grief – is a severe understatement. I keep thinking that I will wake up from this surreal nightmare and receive another call or email from him, but it unfortunately never comes. Living over 1,000 miles away from "home" has made his loss much more difficult to process, and closure is, at this point, an obscure and very distant concept. Needless to say, the immeasurable void that he has left behind will last for all eternity.
Rob* and I met in kindergarten four decades ago. I have to admit that, yes, he was my first crush – ever. When we were 10, my family and I moved out of state. It was actually just twenty minutes over the bridge, but at that age your world is quite small and it literally felt like it was cross-country. At 15, he tracked down my phone number from a mutual friend and asked me on a date – dinner and a movie – near the local mall. Our parents dropped us off and to this day, I still cannot remember what Rocky IV was about. We continued to talk for the following weeks, but lost touch after awhile. Our lives went on in separate directions, yet we both remained close to the area that we grew up in for about 20 years. I'm amazed that we had never run into one another out and about or reconnected sooner. I often wondered about Rob and what he had made of his life. Shortly thereafter, I moved out of the area to take a job in NYC where my life drastically changed. I met my husband, got married and 5 years later moved 1,000 miles away and became an entrepreneur.
Thanks to Facebook, Rob reconnected with me in 2010. It was great to catch up with one another and reminisce about our youth. We came to realize that although many years had passed, the deep and soulful connection that we shared seemed to transcend time. We still had so much in common, and it was as if we had never lost contact. We collaborated on business projects over the next few years, and were highly supportive of each others' professional pursuits. On a personal note, and despite the fact that we both had someone special in our lives, it was only natural for us to often wonder what life would have been like if we had connected sooner. Some things just don't change no matter how much time passes, and the question of "what if" has been on perpetual repeat in my mind for the past two weeks.
If there is anything that Rob would have wanted to come out of this horrific tragedy, it would be the lessons learned as a result from how he lived his life. The two most important lessons he bestowed upon me were to make your mark and to be thankful for what you have and what you've accomplished. These lessons can be applied in life both professionally and personally, and are even more relevant at this time of the year – the holiday season.
Make Your Mark
Rob was extremely intelligent, accomplished, funny and well ahead of his time. He became a successful entrepreneur in his 20's in the fitness and athletic training field. A few years after that, he made a bold move by switching careers and establishing yet another highly rewarding business in the technology industry. Rob was adventurous and was certainly not afraid to take a risk when it came to business. He seemed to make his mark in every endeavor that he was involved in; however, his successes were not only measured by his professional accomplishments. More importantly, Rob made his mark by how he treated people. He understood that being a great leader meant empowering and supporting his staff. He understood that solid relationships were the foundation of a profitable business, and he had a deep respect and appreciation for others' opinions, ideas and beliefs – even if they differed from his own. He was a great advocate for the small business owner and he did whatever he could to guide and educate those around him. He made people feel good about themselves and his positivity was infectious.
Rob was very humble about his many accomplishments. He had very strong ties to his large, close-knit family and especially adored his nieces and nephews. He was grateful for his upbringing, his experiences and the people he had around him... and he always made it a point to express those feelings (to me anyway). He knew never to take things for granted, and he lived his life to the fullest. Rob often told me how proud he was of me, of my accomplishments and how I handled my life throughout the years. I always threw that ball back into his court as I felt the same for him... and was extremely grateful to have him back in my life. Our last lengthy phone call was about a month prior to his tragic accident, and I am so very thankful that we had that conversation.
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It is said that there is a reason for everything, and that God works in mysterious ways. Although I can accept that these reasons are not for me to know, it does not in any way lessen the overwhelming feelings of loss. I will be forever thankful for my dear friend Rob and his presence in my life. I will continue to live by his example, and hopefully I will be able to emulate the lessons he set forth and make a positive mark on those around me in both my professional and personal life. Until we meet again, my friend...
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words – but to live by them. ~ John F. Kennedy
* name changed out of privacy and respect.