Stevie, Steve, Stephen
I was writing an article about confidence, and as I elaborated on a certain paragraph, this entire article emerged. Within myself, it is clear as night and day how I transitioned into a new being through my experiences with loss. This article shines a light on how I came to be who I am now through this process. Note: you can still call me by whatever name you like
I see my life as separated into three parts separated by two events, the loss of my mother in January 2014 and my fiance Karina in February 2022. These experiences changed me into an entirely different person, for the better, through massive hardship, and are what drive me to continue to expand and share my journey.
Stevie: Aged 0-26. Stevie was very much a child, even through his mid-twenties. He was generally a good person, wanting to treat people well and do good in the world, but he acted mostly from his ego and had very little self-awareness. He was good at most things, blessed with athletic and intellectual abilities, had a fairly easy life, and had all the reasons in the world to be happy, but he never really was. He was self-conscious, unaware, disconnected, and largely felt like he was missing something, but never knew what.
Steve: Aged 26-34. Stevie transformed into Steve following 8-months of internal chaos after his mom suddenly passed away. This transition was horribly painful and confusing, having fallen into the darkest place of his life. The turmoil of the sudden death was way too much for him to handle, so he ran from the pain. He lost all of his money and didn’t have the energy or ability to get it back. He would chug milk to make his stomach feel full and smoke cigarettes to make himself sick because he couldn’t get himself food. He would steal marijuana from his roommates to disassociate as much as he could on a budget. He was bitter, angry, and lost his desire to be a good person.
He hid this from everyone, slathered with shame, showing up to work each day with a fake smile on, afraid of who would know what he was going through. He thought a good girl could save him, pull him out from the depths, so he would engage with anyone who gave him attention. But what good girl would want someone in such turmoil? None, apparently, layering further self-doubt onto his already troubled psyche.
After eight months of this, he decided he was at rock bottom, and enough was enough. He came across an inspiring post on Facebook from a local yoga teacher, so he reached out to meet with her to share what he was going through. She taught him about Ahimsa, the practice of non-harming, and showed him that he couldn’t control what is outside of himself, only what is within. He saw what he was doing to himself with his unhealthy habits, negative mindset, and pessimistic view of the world. He made the decision then and there to change, one thing at a time, to live in a way that would make his mother proud. He quit all substances, changed his diet, and began to focus on his own well-being. He threw out everything, and day-by-day, did what he felt was best for himself. Stevie slipped away, and Steve began to emerge.
In a matter of weeks, he met Karina, and it didn’t take long for them to fall in love. There was some friction in the early part of the relationship as she was sensitive, an intuit, and an empath, while he was an intellectual, stubborn, and relatively insensitive. But they aligned on one thing: growth. He knew that he had to grow, and she saw that in him. She was on the same path. And after learning and appreciating their differences, they grew in love together.
They always used to joke that if Karina had met him a month prior, she would never have dated him. A cigarette-smoking pessimist wasn’t exactly the ideal partner for a sweet and spiritually driven yogi. Yet, when Steve made the shifts he did, she came into his life at the exact right time for them both.
Over the course of the next seven years, Steve grew into a man. He developed ambition, passion, and dedication to his work. He learned to take care of his woman. He laid plans for the future. He gave his time, his energy, and often his happiness to build something that could provide for them both. And when the time was right, he proposed to spend the rest of his life with Karina, build a family together, and live happily ever after.
Steve thought he had life figured out. He had multiple growing businesses, a fiance that he loved, and a clear path laid in front of him. He always talked about the future, always setting new goals and grinding to accomplish them. Karina thought he worked too much, stressed too much, and wanted to travel with him more and do more things together. But he thought he needed to keep working, keep pushing, keep stressing, and it would all pay off, and their future together would be easier. He thought he understood how to live. He thought he had all the time in the world to spend with Karina, to travel and explore, create a family, and live how they always dreamed. But he didn’t.
Stephen: Aged 34-present. My 34th year was a doozy. Over the course of five months, Karina went from having a minor cough to being diagnosed with cancer to transitioning out of her body. I was in the driver's seat the entire way, navigating the medical process, taking care of her needs, advocating for her care, discussing with doctors, and providing emotional support, all on very little sleep while staring my greatest fear dead in the eyes. Day in and day out, for months.
There is no better way to describe this process than sitting in a fire, holding the most precious thing in the world to you while everything within and around you is burning. But despite the pain, you let it burn. You can’t let go; you can’t give up.
I’ve had some major accomplishments in my life, but I am not proud of anything more than showing Karina, without a doubt, how much I loved her. I took on doctors, I massaged her feet at 2 AM, I talked her to sleep when she couldn’t settle, I carried her to the bathroom, I gave her medicine, I coordinated her care, and I slept by her side. I celebrated every little victory and held her in every setback. But most importantly, I loved her unconditionally; as her body deteriorated and she suffered, I showed her that there was nothing more important in the world than her. I was desperate to get her well enough to get out of the hospital, so we could get on a plane and see some of the places she always wanted to see, that Steve was too busy for in the past.
She saw this in me, saw Stephen starting to emerge, and she was so proud. It was the last gift that I could give her, the start of the path she always wanted for me. Though I could not keep her in her body, I faced my biggest fear with the courage I didn’t know I had and made her challenging journey a bit more comfortable. She proved to me how much of a man I have become.
And then she died. Steve burned to the ground. And Stephen arose from the ashes.
I decided that night, when it was all over, as I sat on the cliffs alone watching the moonlight sparkle over the ocean, that I would make her proud.
So, instead of running away from the pain like before, I leaned in. Instead of cursing the world, I sought gratitude for the love that we had shared. I found understanding that the grief was only a reflection of that love, and in doing so, came to appreciate the pain for showing me what a blessing I had with Karina.
As the healing process progressed over the last 14 months, I began to find my new feet as Stephen. There were many wobbles along the way, but I had a tool kit this time. Self-awareness, compassion, perspective, and a connection to Spirit. Time and again, when I tripped and fell, I got back on my feet.
My focus is no longer on working hard and making money as fast as I can. Rather, it is inspired work from a place of connection and well-being, where my efforts are most effective with the least amount of stress, always aligned with my purpose. It is on community, friendships, family, and relationships. It is about experiencing life, traveling, taking care of myself, and seeking joy in the world. It is on trusting that everything will unfold as it will and allowing myself to enjoy the ride.
This is what Karina always wanted for me. While it does bring me sadness that she can’t humanly see me blossom into Stephen, I also know that Stephen would never have arrived without her leaving. It had to be this way. And I can feel her pride, just in a different way than I would have preferred.
My only goal now is to keep expanding, keep seeking joy and connection, keep appreciating what I have and accepting the impermanence of it all, keep living life to the fullest. I just need to remember. I’ve felt the force of Steve pulling me backward from time to time, old ways of thinking creeping back in. But I am strong now as Stephen, capable of recognizing what is happening and coming back to my new self.
I know there will be more losses in my life; that is how life works. We live, and we die. We will lose everyone we love unless we go first. It’s just a matter of when. So the question is, what do we do in the meantime? How will I spend my time, my energy? How will I, as Stephen, continue to evolve and face future challenges?
It’s all part of the journey, as we continue, ever Onwards and Upwards.
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