As I sit here a week after the 4th anniversary of Sam’s death, now feeling the loss of a celebrity I’ve never met, my body is tense all over – like the grief I’ve sorted through for years formed a fist that’s been clenched since Sunday. I was on a skiing trip with my boyfriend over the weekend, riding a chair lift when the notification lit up my phone: Kobe Bryant killed in a helicopter crash. I kept thinking about the way he must have held his daughter when the flames broke out. I couldn’t stop saying “I can’t believe this happened” to Caleb, waiting for him to give me an explanation that doesn’t exist. I replayed the moment four years ago when I sunk to the floor, sobs coming out in the form of dry heaves, the news about Sam hitting me like a punch to the gut. I forced myself to remember the instant I felt my grandma’s pulse go as I held her and the way cynicism crept its way further within me. Then I thought about Vanessa Bryant, experiencing a loss deeper than imaginable, and the way her soul will never be the same.
That day, I would get on social media for two seconds and I wanted to scream “Nobody cares right now about your shampoo flash sale or another reminder that YOUR life is still going great!” As I ate my heightened emotions in the form of high fructose corn syrup, I watched an endless thread of squat rack Boomerangs and gym mirror selfies and I found new, innovative ways to loathe myself. I wondered “how is everyone still doing this shit when the reality that none of it actually matters has just been laid out so clearly?”
…then I proceeded to share photos from the ski trip I’ve just been on. That’s the basic hypocrisy that accompanies being sad. There’s a battle between my dedication to being unproblematic and the pedestal I’d like to shout from regarding today’s buzz-word motivation culture. I go back and forth between removing myself from social media to get away from the massive amounts of artificial okay-ness and staying connected because well… how am I supposed to keep up with all my friends? Social media has become a pissing contest for who looks the best, who gets paychecks most often, who feels most affected about the latest sad thing, and I want to remind everyone that silent successes and private feelings are all equally as valid. This world isn’t fair but it is filled with opportunities to be good to others and yourself. At the end of the day, when we go home to however many figures we make or loved ones we have, what matters when you get there? If we woke up to a world where your image on social media, your money, your trips, the way you look or your stuff all melted away – what do you want to have left?
I found this Kobe quote: “The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great at whatever they want to do” and with that a lot of my little annoyances went away. This week, between the worldwide tragedy and the annual reminder of my own personal tragedies, the energy that I’ve been contributing to the world shifted. It brought to the surface an anger about things that simply do not matter. The reality is that someday, after an unknown amount of years, our time will be up. The world aches for Kobe because he inspired us – we looked up to him as an athlete, a father, and a human being. He navigated his life with grace and humility and that’s why losing him rocked the world off of its axis on Sunday. We hurt because he (and everyone else on that flight) had so much left to offer. While we cannot all be record-breaking athletes, we can take the time to consider the legacy that we are leaving on this planet and if it’s something worth aching for.