What Makes You, You | The BridgeMaker

What Makes You, You

By on Aug 10, 2015

life''s defining moments

The closer you come to your authentic self, the simpler everything becomes. Listen to your intuition. It will tell you who you are. – Vironika Tugaleva

What makes you happy?
What fulfills you in a relationship?
What do you believe in?
What is your passion?
What make you, you

Adding the moments together

When I trace my life back to the beginning I see moments, when added together, make me, me.

These moments are life-giving, life-changing and life-ending. Each one has either created me or changed me into the person I am today. And each moment helps me discover the answers to the questions above.

Here are some my defining moments. I hope they inspire you to trace your life back to the beginning so you can see your moments and then add them together to help you discover what makes you, you.

July 5, 1962 – Life begins
Weighing six pounds, I missed being born on Independence Day by less than an hour.

When I was brought home I’ve been told it was difficult for me to gain weight because of Virginia’s high humidity in the absence of air conditioning.

Even now, a hot, humid summer day can make me feel anxious and weak, which makes summer my least favorite season. By August, I’m impatiently waiting for fall and the promise of more comfortable days ahead.

August 1968 – Loss
The man on the tractor never saw Eric, or so he said in court years later. But it didn’t matter if his testimony was truthful because the result was the same – my brother would never get his leg back.

Witnessing the tractor run over Eric, I remember only two things: (1) I tried to scream but no sound came out. If I had just tried harder, then maybe my brother could have heard me and moved away in time. (2) The image of his unconscious, limp body as he was gathered up and rushed to a car has been saved on my mind like a valuable piece of data encrypted on a computer’s hard drive. Unable to delete it, I live with that image every day.


July 5, 1962 – April 8, 2009 – Living with the bottle
My mother was an alcoholic.

I remember being on constant alert to see what type of condition she was in. And I remember trying to control everything so I could eliminate her need to drink.

But nothing I did mattered. At 3 p.m. the curtains were closed and the lamps weren’t touched as my mother sat in the dark room sipping one long pour after another.

In my house, the lights are turned on at the first sign of dusk. It’s something I can control and it’s something I can do to remind myself that I don’t have to sit in that darkness anymore.

On April 8, 2009, my mom died and I was finally able to claim independence from the grip she and her bottle had on me.

Keep the lesson, but throw away the experience. – Author Unknown

Spring 1979 – Writing the wrongs
When I was a junior in high school, I fell in love with American Literature and the great authors. Salinger, Steinbeck, Hemingway and Faulkner inspired to me write. Their words soothed me and they inspired me.

I was energized by the thought that I could also help other people see a part of themselves in the written word. I started writing as much as I could. I wrote short stories, poems, songs and essays. I wrote to express what was living inside of me and I wrote to right the wrongs for people like me.

Before my junior year ended, my English teacher told me I had the talent to pursue writing.

Like most great teachers, Mrs. Yates changed my life in ways she would never know.

Fall 1982 – A dream deferred
During the fall semester of my junior year in college, my American Lit professor asked me to a schedule an appointment. After taking a seat in his office, he delivered the blow. He advised me to change my major because he felt like I didn’t have any natural strengths as a writer.

I didn’t write another word for 24 years.

May 1984 – Love
Underage and lost, Mary Beth looked so beautiful. Nonchalantly walking past her, I sat my empty beer mug on the bar and turnaround to get a second look.

She was still beautiful.

After a few minutes of nervous chit-chat, I learned she and her cousin had made a wrong turn and ended up at the college bar. She told me her real age when I called a few days later.

With Take Your Time – Do it Right playing from the DJ’s console, I had met my wife of more than 30 years and the mother of the four wonderful children we share.



Real love?


Eventually you will come to realize that love heals everything, and love is all there is. – Gary Zukav

April 2007 – Writing the wrongs, again
When Mary Beth started graduate school, I found extra time on my hands. Wanting to do more than watch television while she was busy, I decided to start writing again – eager to prove my college professor wrong and eager to start righting the wrongs, again.

Blogging seemed like a good place to start. Writing in small amounts and then publishing it immediately worked. The positive comments helped me to keep going.

Writing is like medicine for my soul. It changes how I see others and myself. It gives me confidence and fills me with purpose. And without knowing it, writing was also preparing my soul for more difficult days to come.

March 2008 – A second chance
During a business trip to New York City, my daughter Caitlin joined me. She was 19 and eager to take in all the city had offered.

After spending most of her life more focused on building my career and less concerned on her needs, I was looking forward to establishing a new relationship with my daughter.

The last night we were in New York, Caitlin and I shared a wonderful dinner together before seeing the Broadway musical A Spring Awakening. After the plates were cleared, I confessed to Caitlin that I needed to take responsibility for the conflict that existed in our relationship when she was younger.

I made the commitment to continue reaching out and to make her a priority. I confessed to her I was looking forward to our father-daughter relationship as adults.

She smiled and said she would like that very much.

My daughter granted me a second chance.

In that moment, I finally learned what it meant to good parent: Being a good dad isn’t about how much I provide – it’s about how much I pay attention – care – and never let go..

Having a second chance makes you want to work even harder. – Tia Mowry

October 9, 2011 – Loss, again
Eric died.

Mary Beth saw a Facebook post from my niece that said, “Rest in peace Uncle Eric.” Moments later my sister called to confirm that our brother had died. He was taken from us without warning.

I think we prepare ourselves to lose a parent, but losing a sibling is a different kind of grief. It hurts so much.

Eric saw the world as a beautiful place. No matter his personal challenges, my brother was always inspiring others. I miss our phone calls when he would fill me with his special brand of hopefulness.

My brother’s death has changed me like no other life event. I’ve lost part of the fire that once inspired me to live with passion, kindness and love. Anxiety and anger now take up some of that space.

But as one final gift, Eric’s death reminded me that life is a precious gift – meant to savored, not squandered.

shake off the cold

August 10, 2015 – Life begins, again
Each day life begins, again. Each day gives me the chance to create more moments that make me, me. Each day I’m given also offers the opportunity to share my answers to these questions:

What makes you happy?
My family and the comfort they provide.

What fulfills you in a relationship?
Sharing real love.

What do you believe in?
Every day is a precious gift meant to be savored, honored and worshiped.

What is your passion?
Writing the wrongs the best I can.

What makes you, you?
Love, loss and making the most of second chances.

The BridgeMaker Founder Alex Blackwell is the author of Letting Go: 25 True Stories of Peace, Hope and Surrender. Join the community to connect, share and inspire: Twitter | Facebook | More Posts