Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us – and those around us – more effectively. (Eric Allenbaugh)
Today is a big day for me. Three years ago today, I had my first surgery. I gave up the ability to walk, the one thing I’d worked my whole life for, and though I didn’t know it at the time, traded it for the career I wasn’t aware I ever wanted. It’s a day that I’m always going to look back on as the one where part of my life ended and another one began. As you’d expect, I still have mixed feelings about the whole thing.
As I write this, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m not going to completely heal. No one’s told me that, but nobody has to, given that what was supposed to take six months has now taken thirty-six and counting. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to walk normally again, and that hurts, because that was all I ever wanted. To say nothing of all the other little annoyances that this process gave me: the pain, the fatigue, the nerve damage. My health now is a greater mess than it ever was before, and while I’m not giving up at all, I have to admit that it’s not what I wanted for myself.
Having said that, if I hadn’t gone through with the surgery and everything after, I know that I wouldn’t have the career that I love today. I started writing professionally as a distraction from the pain, and I had the time to make it my focus because I wasn’t able to be anywhere else. There was literally nothing left in my life but a keyboard and a phone. I’ve never been as creatively fulfilled as I am now, and it’d be different if I was still trying to juggle school and making ends meet and the friends who turned their backs on me three years ago.
And speaking of friends, I have people who need to be thanked today. The greatest blessing came out of all this, and it was that through my career I’ve made new friends – some of my closest friends, and others who’ve truly, honestly changed my life. They’ve shared wonderful experiences with me and made me a better person. I know in my heart that I’d rather have them in my life than ever be able to walk again. They’re the reason I’m still here.
So if you’ll permit me, dear readers, I’d like to take some space to thank the following:
Adam Levine. Okay, everyone who knows me knew this was coming, but it’s true. When I met him almost two years ago, it really did change my life. I was ready to throw it all away until he treated me like I mattered. Having someone look at me that way, particularly someone of his importance and fame, meant the world to me. Since then, I’ve been very blessed to have him remember me and still care about me. Every time we run into each other puts a smile on my face. If you want to know why I’m so devoted to Team Adam, it’s because I’ll always support Adam, since he supported me first.
My whole The Voice family. If I listed everyone’s names, this blog post would be gigantic, but all the artists from season one to season four know exactly how much I adore them, and have appreciated their support over the last three years. They’ve really been the closest thing I have to family. I’ll never forget how the folks from season one accepted me as one of their own, and since then, I’ve made some of my best friends from the show, as well as some of the best memories of my life. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to have fallen in with.
Adam Ferrara, Rutledge Wood, and Tanner Foust. I had absolutely zero idea that when I agreed to visit the set of History’s Top Gear, I was going to leave with three best friends, but that’s exactly how it’s turned out. These guys not only let me live vicariously through their shenanigans every season, but they’ve stuck with me through all my stuff, too. I’ve been able to lean on Adam and Rutledge for advice when I need it, and they’ve kept up with me just as much as I’ve kept up with them. Spending time with Adam, Rut and Tanner always brings so much joy and laughter into my life. I’m already looking forward to the next season of Top Gear just so I can see them again.
Michael Trucco. If I had a big brother, it’d be Michael Trucco. It pretty much feels like I’ve known him all my life. We just clicked from the moment we met (in one of the great stories of my life, because it involves me publicly humiliating myself, but somehow, he still liked me). Michael is honestly one of the best people I know. He’s one of the rare people I feel completely at ease with. When we’re together, I’m not trying to be anything or hide anything, because I know he likes me for who I am, and that fact has helped me to make peace with myself. It still amazes me how highly he thinks of me. It’s been a truly wonderful thing to know in my heart that someone I look up to, not just as an actor but a human being, is someone I can also call one of my close friends. I can’t thank him enough, really.
Coby Bell. Thinking back on it, I’m pretty sure Coby was the first friend I really made in this business. And I know he’s one of the most hard-working people I know (dude has two TV shows simultaneously). We’ve fallen out of touch recently, but I have never forgotten how we’d end up interviewing together every couple of months for whichever show was back in season, and those fifteen-minute interviews would turn into hour-long conversations about our lives. Meeting him was the first time that the lightbulb went on and I realized that I had a place amongst all the famous people. I’ll always be proud to say I know him.
Gabriel and Jesse Macht. One of the ideas I’ve built my life on is wanting to become the best person I can be, and these two have definitely made me better. They’re both ridiculously talented, and have both then inspired me to go forward and create. Yet more importantly, I’ve been blessed to get to know them, and just talking to them I always learn something. They’ve broadened my horizons and gotten me to look at things in ways I didn’t before. The work I’ve done with them has been some of the best of my career.
Lisa Siegfried. Shoutout to my very first PA, because she’s still the best. For one, Lisa’s presence enabled me to get to half the things I’ve gotten to do, so without her who knows what I’d have missed out on. But beyond that, she became a real friend and a stabilizing force in my life when it was pretty rocky. Lisa didn’t just show up, but she did all these little things like make sure I was keeping hydrated, try to encourage me to eat healthier (she mostly succeeded!), and act as a sounding board when I wasn’t sure what to do next. She brought things to my attention I’d never thought of, and took care of others so that I didn’t have to. I’m good at what I do, but when I was working with Lisa, I was at my best. I’m glad we’re still friends today.
Holly Bowmaster. It was Holly’s idea for me to revamp my writing career in the first place and since then, she’s been the technical side of just about everything I do. She built my first website, and she still runs my office when I’m not around. And she does it all voluntarily. People think I’m super-famous when I say I have an assistant, but really I just phrase it that way so I sound more professional. What I actually have is a good friend who wanted me to succeed so much that she was willing to help me do it.
Honestly, I’d like to acknowledge probably a couple hundred people, if I could. Every article I’ve written, every assignment I’ve taken, has also created a memory over these last three years. Many of them got me through difficult times by giving me something positive to focus on. My career has been the best tool in my recovery that I could have ever asked for.
So today, as I turn the calendar and realize that it’s been three years, yes, there’s a certain amount of frustration. There’s a sadness that I gave up a lot of things and might not ever be getting them back. That’s a regret I’ll have to bear.
But at the same time, I choose to focus on the positive. I look at this list, and these truly special people who are now a part of my life, and I am just so deeply grateful for each and every one of them. They make all the pain, all the struggle, and all the bad days absolutely worth it.
And if I had it to do all over again? Honestly, I’d do it the exact same way. Because I wouldn’t give up knowing these people for anything.
Year four starts tomorrow. Let’s see what happens next…