This essay is in response to our “Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot?” writing prompt.

Recently, our entire family was struck with COVID. Me, my wife, kids, grandkids (including my granddaughter who’s a preemie), and maybe even the dog. It was bad. It hit us all like a truck out of nowhere. It went from initial symptoms to the flu x 10. Body aches, congestion, fever, loss of taste and smell, all of it. We’d managed to avoid the Coronavirus for nearly 3 years.

When it finally got us, it got us good.

I recently wrote about our family’s COVID experience. And while we all hated the whole affair, I found somewhat of a new appreciation for life. Like surviving a stroke at the age of 40 in 2014, my outlook changed. Maybe it’s not as drastic as the change that occurred 8 years ago, but it was most certainly a reminder of what’s important.

Prior to COVID, I was working myself to death much like I was prior to the stroke. It wasn’t healthy then just as it isn’t healthy now. I just wasn’t aware of it. I have a history of gradually working harder and harder only to inevitably either injure myself or exhaust myself. As a former government contractor who worked on infrastructure projects, making myself ill wasn’t hard. It’s not simply a physically demanding job, it’s also an extremely high-pressure environment.

While I told myself I wouldn’t work myself to the bone anymore, I once again found myself overdoing it. When COVID struck is when I finally realized it. As I lay there nearly bedridden, I found myself trying to get up to work. I work from home, so it wasn’t a case of exposing anyone. Our whole house was sick. It was about feeling like I needed to be on the job all the time.

Again, not healthy. Yet, there I was.

In the nearly two weeks of trying to shake the symptoms, I began to reassess my life and prioritize the most important thing: family. Family is who holds you up. I have complicated relationships with a good portion of my family. But when it comes to my kids, you couldn’t ask for a better relationship. The result of efforts to break generational cycles of broken families.

My kids hold me up. They are who I get up for in the morning; who I do what I do for; the reason I’ve always shown up to do what needs to be done. If I’m not healthy, then all that is nearly meaningless. We have to care for ourselves first so that we may be able to care for others. My family is much stronger when I’m not killing myself and respecting those who hold me up.

Professionally, that’s my Writers and Editors of Color family. When it comes to work, whether it’s a mental health crisis, some editorial help, or just feeling appreciated, no one comes through for me in my work life more than the great people in our community. When it came time to come back home and find myself again, that’s where I went. I turned to my people. My extended family. My colleagues. My tribe.

No question that COVID was the sickest I think I’ve ever been. But it put things in perspective and I apparently needed that. I’m looking forward to 2023 and my renewed outlook on life; my newfound appreciation for just waking up every day. Each day is a gift. Relishing the simple fact that we’re here allows us to look at the rest of the world with a greater fondness for the beauty that is the life we get to live.

Our humanity allows us to dislike something that happened in our lives while appreciating the lessons we learned. This next year, I will be carrying those and my newfound fondness for life as I continue to progress in my career while centering my family and myself moving forward. In the end, there’s a level of gratitude that comes with living through trials and tribulations and coming out better for it. We just have to look for it to see it.

In the end, I’m thrilled to be alive to see it all unfold.

Happy New Year and much love.

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