In 2015, I had the privilege of training Marines HQ Command Staff over the course of a couple days.
I was nervous. I felt like an imposter all the way to the training.
During the trip, I spent time reconnecting with lost friends who had suffered the tragic death of my father. It was an emotional rollercoaster. I went from anxiety, to overwhelming grief, to peace, to fear. The entire time I kept thinking, who am I to be doing this? Who would want to hear me speak?
My entire presentation was built around revealing a photo of a man in uniform and getting the audience to share open thoughts about him to only later reveal he was my father.
The conversations have stayed with me. Some sank deep into my soul to know of the pains others have felt from losses like mine.
To be honest, I was exhausted those first two sessions. I had been emotionally wrung out before I even got to my opening line. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I planned the trip the way I had. Then something clicked on the 3rd session as the Major General sat third row in the room.
I felt it, the power of when you are in your purpose. I knew instantly that I had the room. I walked them through openly admitting their stigmas, only to see that the person they were talking about was someone who held a meaningful connection to me. I remember their faces as they realized he was a person, a father who was still loved.
Then I knew, this was what brought meaning to my life. Dispelling stigma. Humanizing hurt. And being willing to be evaluated and judged openly so others might not have to bear the same burden.
This feedback was from that day. It is still one of the best comments I could ever ask for because I know in that moment that a connection was made.
This work isn’t easy, but it’s needed. I’m grateful for all the days I’ve had to be doing it.