October is a month that many people look forward to. It is associated with fall weather and the start of the holiday season with Halloween. For the past decade, October has had a different aura attached to it. Nine years ago October 30, 2006 changed my life forever. To this day, I can not think of a single day that has impacted me more. Unfortunately, the whole month still puts a pain in my heart and an empty feeling in my stomach. Don’t get me wrong, I have slowly grown to appreciate pumpkin picking and carving, dressing up and fall decorations once again but there is a sadness attached to October I simply can’t shake. A huge part of my coaching business is personal development. The leaders on our team constantly demand and remind us how important it is to have a strong WHY for why we are in the business and why we decided to dedicate ourselves to helping others. Personally, as a writer, blogger, teacher, and self diagnosed over thinker I have always had a driving “why” in my life long before it became something I was asked to do for my career. The further I develop as a professional, a business owner, and a person; the more I realize how deeply intertwined my “why” really is with my life choices. If you know me well, you probably already know about my friend Corey and how deeply her life and friendship has impacted me. As time goes on and I continue to explore new countries, new horizons and add people to my ever growing network of humans I care about; I realize that Corey’s story is not something that is always at the forefront of conversation. October 30th and this time of the year is and always will be a reminder of her death but more importantly her life, her friendship and how her words are still a driving force and why in my life.
For those of you who don’t know Corey’s story I will give you a glimpse into who she was and what she taught not only me, but a whole community. Corey was an absolutely gorgeous girl from the inside out. She would befriend anyone and had an incredible talent at making everyone feel important. She gravitated towards people who needed an open ear or a shoulder to cry on, despite the fact that she was battling so much of her own pain. She was a talented cheerleader, a dedicated friend and student but deep down a huge goof ball. She was outgoing (once she got to know you) but extremely self-conscious and worried about her appearance and how others perceived her. She would randomly belt out singing as loud she could (usually Mariah Carey or a 90s boy band), eat tubs of raw cookie dough and spend hours listening to music or talking on the phone to her crushes or girlfriends. I had the honor of being her best friend for three years and have struggled to find a more loyal or supportive companion since. She sincerely wanted the BEST for everyone around her. She struggled deeply with depression and even in our tender teenage years she could verbalize a sadness that was hard for my mind to fathom. On October 30, 2006 Corey lost her struggle with depression and took her own life. The ripple she created is far more powerful today than any of us could have realized at the time.
Suicide and mental health issues are both topics that continue to have a stigma attached to them. Due to my close friendship with Corey, my mother’s struggle with mental health, and various close relationships with family members and friends who struggle significantly with mental health issues; I have and always will be an advocate for discussing them, celebrating them, and acknowledging them for what they are, a disease or disorder not a disability or a sign of weakness. Just because mental health disorders are linked to emotions does not mean they are something that can be controlled by the person. Depression is a widely misunderstood topic and one that people shy away from talking about. If I have learned anything it is avoiding difficult or sensitive topics HELPS NO ONE and if anything exacerbates the problem.
The pain and debilitating sadness I felt when I lost Corey gave me a glimpse at what it feels like to not be able to get out of bed in the morning. Since I lost Corey I have been pushed on a life long quest to be the best me I can be. I have been on a life long quest to be a voice for subjects that matter, no matter how hard they are for other people to hear or to talk about. Corey gave me the gift of a voicemail, one that I have memorized and often replay in my head when I feel discouraged. On days where I am not feeling my best, I remember her words urging me to not waste my potential. She knew about my dream to write books and change peoples lives. She knew how deeply I desired to touch the lives of others whether it is in my classroom, through my words or through my relationships. Little did she know, it is her life that has given me the motivation to consistently chase my dreams. Loosing her at the age of 15 showed me how precious and short life can be. It led me to get a tattoo to remind myself to “Cherish every day” and encouraged me to go to university 8 hours away from home and move to two foreign countries in my 20’s. I have urgency for living life and appreciation for every single day I wake up healthy, happy and full of life.
I’m not sharing this because I think this merits any praise. I don’t require or desire praise. I am sharing this because my journey has taught me that some people simply don’t feel the need or the inspiration to share their thoughts with others. Recently, my mom sent me a link she found when she was browsing on the Internet of a girl’s blog from the UK. She wrote eloquently about how Corey’s story had saved her life and gave her the strength to not go through with her plan to commit suicide a few days later. This article floored me. It gave me chills and left me speechless. The ripple effect is INCREDIBLY powerful. Corey literally saved a strangers life.With everything that is floating about on the Internet, I feel like spreading positivity and hope with my words is the least I can do. I feel like my experiences are useless unless I use them as a source of inspiration and hope for someone out there who needs it. We all fight battles the public knows nothing about. We all need to feel loved, encouraged, inspired and supported. I am more than willing to offer myself as a source of hope, light and love to anyone who needs it. I’m not scared to put myself out there because my aspiration to help others is stronger than my desire for privacy. I am an open book. After reading the blog from the girl who said Corey’s page saved her life, it has reaffirmed the fact that I have to continue to share, to inspire, and to motivate others. Someone has to do it. Luckily for me, it is impossible to feel this much and keep it all inside. I have had the ability to find ways to channel my pain into beneficial habits such as physical exercise and writing. I also went through a period of time where I channeled my pain into alcohol and drugs. We all have our own poisons and it is very easy to get trapped in a cycle or routine, whether it is positive or negative.
So today and every day, Corey, to celebrate your story and what you mean to me; I am sharing with the world what I know to be true. You are my why. You are the reason I live a life full of adventure and risk and I treat everyone I encounter with respect, empathy, and compassion. Just because someone looks a certain way does not mean you can pigeon hole them into a category. Pretty girls aren’t always happy. Musclar men aren’t always tough and insensitive. Traveling twenty somethings aren’t always lost. Our bodies are a mere shell of what is on the inside. Whether we like it or not, we are agonizingly temporary guests on this earth and we can spend our time waiting for better days or we can go out there and make days better.
I don’t judge anyone and I don’t waste my time worrying if others are judging me. I’m confident in my moral compass and know that my intentions are honorable. Corey you taught me how to be sensitive but strong, empathetic but encouraging and completely incapable of silencing my need to make a difference. It is human nature to be inspired by things and then forget what they mean to you. You start a workout program and go all in but life gets in the way and you make excuses. The truth is we are all human, we all go through ups and downs on this journey of life but if you always put your whole heart into things, cut the excuses and live for not only yourself but the betterment of others, everything will work itself out. Don’t take a backseat to your own life and never hesitate to help someone else move themselves to the front seat.
Every day I learn about myself and the world around me and am pushed by my beautiful guardian angel to make the most of right now. Her life will continue to push me towards my own dreams and I can’t think of a better quality in a friendship. Although the memories of losing Corey will always bring great sadness, the experiences and strength I continue to gain from carrying her heart are what I will honor today. Do me a favor, take a moment to be grateful for who you have in your life, past and present, consider what they have given to you and use that gratitude to propel you forward into a future you are proud of. Cherish every day. The best time to make a difference is now. Cheers to you Corinne Marie Craig. Your heart and story lives on in the hearts of so many. We’ll make sure that never stops.