My 20's were an important time in my life and it seemed like everyone already knew it but me. Problem was they wanted to tell me how to run things too. Well... let's just say I wasn't exactly the best listener back then.
My initial response to self destiny was to jump on the first YOLO bandwagon I could find. From one booze-soaked extravaganza to another smoke-filled pool party, I was a free spirit and the ride was intense. I drifted along thinking this pleasure cruise was what I wanted from life. It was all good until I realized that while I was "enjoying" myself I had left a lot of damaged relationships and property in my wake.
Then I decided I was going to be spiritual. I went from one spiritual experience to another trying to "live in the moment" as they say. I even thought I had to be doing something right when I was elected to help create spiritual retreats for other young adults. It would take a few years before I realized that glow in the dark body painting to loud music and leveraging the vulnerability of others to get some "action" was hardly a genuine spiritual experience. In actuality I had been living a spiritual version of the same YOLO lifestyle I was trying to escape. Again, I looked back and saw a wake full of broken dreams and relationships.
Eventually it would be a deep loss that made me realize what I had been missing. One of the most amazing young women I had ever known, Leslie Sinclair, had finally succumbed to an illness she had been battling for some time.
Leslie was the kindest and most loving human being I've ever known. She was genuine in her interest in others and would do anything to support and encourage their success. She was openly willing to challenge her own beliefs and reactions to others in order to honor and respect them. Leslie had shown me this grace and I had never realized to what extent until I had the chance to miss her. I contemplated the lasting conversations we had and the way she lived her life and for once everything made sense.
Leslie was grateful for everything no matter what and that included me. When I was having a challenge in my life she was there to champion the good that was being revealed or was yet to come. When I let my boisterous personality drown her out of conversations where her perspective was clearly more valuable than mine she came to me afterwards to thank me for everything I said and made sure I knew she valued me. When others were resisting her ideas she would welcome their perspective and the opportunity to make sure they felt like they were being heard and valued. When I was at my worst, she was at her best.
Looking back what I see now is someone I should have known even better. Someone that deserved my time and was a worthwhile human being. I even lament the time I spent with the "hip" crowd that I now see had no lasting value in my life without it's stark contrast to Leslie, the person I should have been hanging out with all along. She was so amazing that I'm even comforted by knowing that if I spoke those words to her she would forgive me immediately, ask me to forgive myself and then tell me how grateful she was for what we DID share.
What Leslie showed me was that mastering your own life didn't require any intellectual prowess and it didn't need any proclamation of enlightenment. Even in the most painful days towards the end of her life she remained grateful for all that she had and all that she lived. Using this simple idea she lived a rich and amazing life full of amazing things. Heck, she not only met Matt Damon but they became pen pals.
As a result of the practice of this simple idea her legacy will live on forever in countless others, myself included. She lived with such gratitude that everyone she met and every situation she was in was transformed into a vortex of love and kindness and because of that, more people wanted to be in her atmosphere, breathing her air, in the hopes of enjoying this sweet spiritual alchemy. So today, I just want to say thank you Leslie... for all that you were and all that you still are.
This blog post is part of a series for HuffPost Gratitude, entitled 'The One Thing I'm Most Thankful For.' To see all the other posts in the series, click here To contribute, submit your 500 - 800 word blogpost to firstname.lastname@example.org.