Georgia State University, Undergraduate
August 15, 2021
We are pleased to announce Alexis as the winner of The 2021 Life Coach Spotter Scholarship for $1,000. Alexis, an undergraduate student, was selected from a pool of over 400 candidates. Candidates were required to write an essay regarding overcoming personal challenges.
Alexis wrote a heartfelt and moving essay about the sudden loss of her father. A little over a year ago, Alexis’ father passed away and she was left to deal with the many emotions of losing someone so close, so quickly. Alexis decided to channel her love and emotions and push herself to achieve her goals. Alexis is currently preparing for her first undergraduate year at Georgia State. Congratulations, Alexis!
Alexis’ Winning Essay
I hate plastic spoons—or just plasticware in general. I hate them because they remind me of the reusable takeout containers in my house, and I hate those because they remind me of how I used to use them to get food for my dad while he waited in his car. On those daily rides home from school when he was so tired, he’d nap in my driveway for 15 minutes just to get his strength back for the 40-minute ride back to his house, and his expenses stretched too thin to survive on another day of fast food. I hate plastic spoons because they remind me of my dad, and my dad is dead.
June 19th was a year without him.
I also hate plastic spoons because they’re a constant reminder of the morons I live with who never throw them away, letting them clog the dish drain—but mainly for the first reason. When my father died it devastated me. Prior to his passing, I would often ponder how I had no real experience with tragedy or death and was probably immune to them. My cousin, who has basically helped raise me, has frequent brushes with death due to her ongoing battle with Lupus, with her heart had stopped beating on three separate occasions. And I figured, if I never lost her, then I’d probably never lose anyone so soon, either.
And then we hadn’t heard from my father in two weeks.
And then he was in a hospital in south Dekalb.
And then he was in a diabetic coma.
And then he was gone.
Until June 19th, 2020, I thought the most challenging part of high school was the several engineering projects I had to do as part of my school’s advanced STEM curriculum.
How naive of me, I realize now, to think those insignificant assignments would even be comparable to the death of my father.
When I really think about the culmination of my high school experience, it’s a simple car ride home after school with him.
40 minutes to pick me up and another 40 to take me home, and the entire ride he’d just talk to me. It used to drive me crazy how it was always about the same things: he’d repeatedly ask me about my unchanging college list, tell me how excited he was for my senior year so he could stop being my chauffeur, tell me to get some rest, because I was always tired, and he was the only one who could ever tell. And then tell me he was proud of me.
That was supposed to be our year.
And he passed away before he even got the chance to see it.
And in the midst of my grief swallowing me from the inside out, I realized all I had was unobtainable aspirations for more time, but beyond that, a deep-rooted desire to finally figure out how I could love better.
To truly love someone without bounds, without shrinking away from being touched, or getting nervous at the thought of direct eye contact, or not being afraid at the possibility of ‘getting too comfortable.’ Maybe then I’d know what it actually felt like to hold my father’s hand. To rub his bald head and kiss him on the cheek. To hug him goodbye.
Maybe I’d get to know what it felt like to truly love him the way he deserved.
And in the midst of my grief swallowing me from the inside out, I asked myself when I loved him most, and when I knew he loved me. It’s nothing but brief flashes, like bits and pieces of a dream. I hear him singing “Fix You” by Coldplay on our way home, his hands across the table from me at our favorite wing spot that we went to weekly after school, him driving me home in the middle of a rainstorm, his last message to me congratulating me on making it to senior year.
It’s me finding a plastic spoon in the sink last week and remembering the obnoxious way he used to eat.
I see him in bursts and flashes. A myriad of colors and experiences.
And I think to myself, ‘That’s what it is.’
It’s a second. It’s a minute. That’s what love is. It isn’t measured in years, but moments. It was the moment I looked at my 95-year-old grandmother’s face and saw how she looked just like him, even with her close-cropped grey hair and round face. It was him. And he was made of her.
It was the moment I woke up to the news she had passed away two months after he did.
Now I cherish them, these little pockets of time, bursts of cosmic energy and color because each experience is a different shade and hue. A light blue when my friends make me laugh, a deep red when I talk to family, the shade of grey as I remember my father. Life—love—we—are all just nanoseconds colliding into one another in a spectrum of colors. And when this is all we are—all I am—how foolish of me to think that there could ever be enough time. It’s all just moments. I’ve learned to let them consume me before the memories do.
But my father’s passing also taught me the importance of leadership, and that it is never just a decision.
It’s a duty.
I wanted nothing more than to drown in my despair, but I still had to accomplish the dream nurtured by me and my father. The biggest thing I’ve come to understand is that, so often, when I heard the word “leadership,” I immediately connected it to “followers,” foolishly thinking I could never truly be one unless I had them, that I’m not one because I’ve never served in student government or been president of a club.
But sometimes, it’s not the followers we need.
Sometimes. We just need to be leaders to ourselves.
I’ve learned that being a leader isn’t always holding yourself together in order to stay strong; it’s letting yourself fall apart so that you can pick up the pieces to put yourself back together again.
So, I grieved.
I gave myself distance when I needed it, made everything a love letter to my father, and cried when I could.
I opened myself up to let it all out.
At the end of the day, no one was going to experience my grief for me.
And I wish I could say that this revelation magically cured my grief.
That somehow, through those endless nights of tears and sadness that seem so far away removed from me now, I no longer must feel the weight of those two things today.
But I’d be lying.
It still hurts like hell.
Every day I wake up, I have to make the conscious decision to become more than the sharp pain that hits me when I remember that I no longer have a father waiting for me in the driveway, waiting for his plastic container. But that’s just the way life is when you lose someone you love so much. Grief is an open wound that never really heals. Like Justin Robinson, a director known for the film he made in dedication to his late brother, explained. You bleed out for the rest of your life, and there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s the reality. When you love someone that much, it’s always going to be painful, and everything you touch will have blood on it.
So, no, my father’s passing and everything I’ve learned from it doesn’t make it hurt any less. But our moments are vibrant flashes in the recesses of my memory, and the vulnerability from losing him only makes them stronger. I will see him again one day. And until that day, I will continue to lead myself through the pain of it all. Because my life, and the reason I choose to live it in honor of him, is so much more than my grief.
And that will never change.
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