It’s important to know who you are. Being vulnerable is the key to finding yourself. Brene Brown once said, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never a weakness,” and this is something I have personally had to work on in order to find myself.
My name is Dani Brown, I am 21 years old, and I have what I would call a normal life. I am a senior at NAU, studying fitness and wellness, I played club volleyball, and I was a peer mentor on my school campus. But, “Who am I? Most importantly, what is my purpose?”
How many of you have been affected by cancer in some way? Whether it was a family member, friend, or even yourself. My first life lesson: cancer sucks. The reality of this awful disease hit me when I was just six years old. My mom passed away after battling for two long years with stage 4 colon cancer. Shortly after that I watched as my dad’s mom lost her own battle.
I grew up with everything I needed and more. But I always felt like a part of me was missing. I had friends and family who loved me. But I was never the same after losing them and I didn’t realize until just a few years ago that fighting all the frustration and confusion I had with the death of my mom and grandma, it caused a lot more bumps in my road. Today, I am happy to share with you all that my father remarried and my original family of four that sadly shrunk into just my dad, brother, and myself, grew to a full house of seven with a new mom and three older brothers.
How many of you have older siblings? Growing up with 4 older brothers is a life story all on its own. But I will say that they taught me to be tough. Now this doesn’t mean that I never cried or got into fights or anything like that, but I mean mentally tough. As the youngest I looked up to all four of them. I wanted to do everything they did, but better.
However, I also learned that if something was bothering me, no one else needed to know. All those feelings I had about my mom were for me, myself, and I. Over time I became depressed but I knew that if I told someone it would make it real, as opposed to just the idea of it in my head. With that being said, I hid this side of myself for years. I would like to think I was pretty sneaky about it. I would also like to believe that no one knew what was really going on. You see, I wasn’t always sad, the feelings came in waves and usually there were certain things that triggered those feelings. Once I started to realize this I began to get better at coping with it.
I was managing this well throughout high school until my Junior year… I was having unexplained health issues and multiple doctors ran numerous tests on me. What they discovered was nothing close to anything I could have ever imagined.
I learned that I was born without my uterus. Honestly, I had no idea that this was even possible. Let alone how it could have happened to me. Imagine being 17 years old, and being told that you will never have children. A few months later I was a senior in high school. I was on the varsity volleyball team, in student government, had my best friends, a boyfriend, the whole 9-yards. One day after school my dad tells me and my brothers that the doctors found cancer in his tonsils he just had removed… and the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes, and possibly his lungs.
I felt as if I was being punished for something, I thought the world was out to get me. This only made my depression harder to hide. At this point I felt alone because my logic was “there is no one who could possibly understand what I have gone through, and going through”.
They say, “time heals all wounds” right? Or maybe it is the knowledge that we gain over the time we are given. Four years have gone by since the beginning of all this chaos and here I am. Telling a bunch of strangers my life story. I have come to terms that nothing will truly ever stop me from being a mom one day.
I can relate to people who have experienced death in their families, or serious illnesses, or unexplained health issues. I know the feeling of being alone and in the dark when everyone thinks you are the light. However, I’m a more understanding person and a better friend because of the tragedies in my life.
Once you know who you are and what strengths you have gained by living the life you were given, you can use that to connect with those around you.