A couple of years ago, I found myself sitting besides my high school director, Mr. Quirk, just two days before he passed away. I called him "my other dad" and he called me his "troublemaker". It was at this time that I realized I was actually saying "good-bye" to one of the most important people in my life. Quirk and I were known for solving what always felt like the "end of the world" situations (which for someone with severe anxiety was pretty much a daily occurrence). In the moment, I felt overwhelmed with grief because I wanted one last conversation with him—just one more "here's how you handle tough shit" or a "you got this" talk, but he wasn't able to...damn cancer. I didn't know how to handle grief or anticipate the death of a father-figure. So when I returned home post-Quirk time, I did something I hate doing: running. I ran in the freezing-cold December rain in Connecticut, trying to outrun the impending doom of losing my Mr. Quirk. I didn't know how I was going to figure out the whole life thing without him. During my rain-run, I had this idea to write a letter to Mr. Quirk. I knew he wouldn't be able to read it, but it would act as our last "you got this" conversation—a summary of our learnings from over several years.
Now when I go through tough stuff, I read this letter. It's how I keep Quirk with me through whatever I run into. I thought it was about time I put something on this blog, and it felt like the Quirk letter was long overdue for it's feature because maybe it might just help someone else riding the waves of life.
December 18, 2015 (Two Days Before Quirk's Passing)
I've emailed you a lot over the years...probably too many, sorry about that. Today I went for a run which I really hate doing, but I wanted to take some time to think and process about what you've taught me and will continue to teach me.
These are the lessons our journey has taught me so far:
1. Dream big and when you've done that, dream bigger. See, Quirk, the thing is you've grown me into being a dream bigger. It's been YOU that's guided me to step into my greatness simply because you always stepped into your own. I remember when you were starting a blog about the high school and I thought that was wacky because well, who blogs about a weird high school? I got a little competitive and decided I would have a better blog than you. We decided I should call it TeenSanity and it was a HIT... I think it's because you and I, together, we knew it was a catalyst for being dream biggers together. That is one of my favorite moments.
2. Failure is only failure if you choose to see it that way. It was that damn Spanish final of my senior year and I really despised Spanish at that point. I had enough of school, gotten into Watson, and thought I couldn't possibly learn anything more from school. But there you were again with another big lesson, you told me to fail my Spanish test (who does that?)! Anyways I refused, always being the troublemaker. I had to get the God damn A on that last final. What I didn't realize till later is that you were trying to get me to see that failure is only failure if I choose to see it that way. You were preparing me for life as you wanted me to know that I would fail, but it wouldn't stop me, as long as I didn't let it. It would only be a moment to reevaluate how I choose to go forward.
3. There is always another way. Time and time, again, you've helped me find clarity. Watching and learning from you over the years, I've learned that this finding clarity thing has come from agility. Whenever, I'd have an epic panic attack or thought my entrepreneurial journey was falling apart, you made it clear that I had a choice: I could choose to wallow in anxiety or choose to find another way. We always found another way and it was usually a better way.
4. Trust the bigger game plan. You are a SPIRITUAL GANGSTER (I cannot take credit for that term as it is a brand). You know that everything has meaning, even cancer, it has meaning. We don't always know what the meaning is or what lessons will come out it, but if we trust, everything unfolds exactly how it's suppose to. The key is to trust and find comfort in the seemingly uncomfortable bigger game plan. I remember the first time I felt like the world was out to get me and you were there for it. I didn't get the fellowship I wanted and I thought that was my ticket after high school to succeed. So we did some brainstorming and we just kinda rolled with this "failure" and then I found my dream college was offering applications for their inaugural class. In my bones, I knew this was where I belonged and because we rolled with it, I now know how to feel trust. What a Spiritual Gangster you are...
5. Education can be the best damn thing ever and it's because truly great educators exist. I don't think anyone loved going to high school more than I did. I loved it when a student would do something strange and you'd meet them at their strangeness, if that makes sense? You built the most incredible high school experience because you let all of us explore what was uncomfortable, scary and strange to us. You want to be a writer, then write a book! You want to be a marine biologist, let's got to Hawaii to experience that field of work! People are often too scared to try out their dreams, but the education you gave us allowed for us to explore our dreams. That's what education is about and we had the opportunity because you are a beyond brilliant educator.
Thank you, Quirkie, I know there are many more lessons to teach me and they will unfold overtime. We have this saying at Watson and it is "Protect Your Courage". See, you've been protecting mine and everyone who's ever been in your grace's courage. You, Quirk, have taught me that "Protect Your Courage" means to give people the freedom they need to fly. So now Quirk, I will "Protect Your Courage" forever and always.
I love you.
Tessa (your troublemaker)
P.S. I know you may never read this, but I wanted to put it out into the energy space so you KNOW and FEEL it.