Today I’m going to share something very personal, my life before and after losing a loved one. It’s a story of change through loss, and it’s grim. I’ve seen dozens (if not over a hundred) breakout stories on what compelled this travel blogger, or that nomadic couple, to pack it up and see the world.
This isn’t that story.
My path to becoming a full time professional blogger was a very unique one. I like my home. I like my bath mat. I like my life. For many, the monotonous “grind” and an undying passion to see the world is a recipe for wanderlust. For me, it was much more sudden.
I’ve never been a conformist of the cookie-cutter, made for TV life
While everyone was holding relationships and courting for marriage, I was balancing college and rock-n-roll. I admit my adolescence lingered into my mid twenties, but it was because I was hanging out with rock stars! Having spent a good part of my that time working as a production assistant at big music venues, I met some really interesting people. In fact, and I’m very proud to say this, THE Lars Frederickson once made me a burger backstage at a Warped Tour.
I somehow managed to get accepted in the Florida Consortium to attend Cambridge University in England for a summer abroad. You could say there was never a dull moment in the life of Christa Thompson. I knew, just from seeing that little corner of the earth, I would have to see more of this world. By the time I reached twenty-four, I knew the “way things are supposed to be” would never be that way for me. That would have bored me to death.
I Did Crazy Stuff
Like that one time I left everything in Florida, packed a rental van and drove 24 hours to New York City…to be with the love of my life. We broke up a week later and I drove back, with my cat. Falling in love was so much easier then. Inversely, falling out is way easier now.
I worked for one of the world’s most prestigious travel companies in Charleston, SC
At twenty-four I started working for the Orient Express Company at Charleston Place Hotel. Charleston was an amazing place to spend my mid twenties (although I had lived there since the age of nineteen, but that’s another story). I lived in the heart of downtown on King Street in a dope ass flat. I was literally steps, max blocks, from my favorite bars and eats. I was that edgy, punk rock girl / artist. I had cool art on my walls and vintage furniture. It was the life. There was no room for a grind.
I traveled all over the southeast, the eastern seaboard…and beyond
Being centrally located in the jewel of the south, or as we like to call it, “Chucktown”, there’s plenty of opportunity for road trips. In 3-10 hours you could be in a dozen different places. I went on a road trip like every month! By the time I was twenty-seven I had been to more places than I could count. And as far as I could see, that wasn’t ending anytime soon.
Then I got pregnant at twenty-seven
I moved back to Florida in 2007 for what was supposed to be a year, until I got knocked up. I had been seeing this guy for a few months and surprise, I’m not impervious to sperm. My sister swears I was in the fetal position in a hysterical fit of tears when I found out. I don’t remember it this way. Perhaps it’s those first few months of motherhood that banish memories like that to a black hole forever. I was in denial. Even at six months I hadn’t picked out a name. Then I watched Pet Cemetery for like the millionth time and went hellbent on the name “Gauge”. He was the crazy adorable toddler who was made into road pizza by a semi-truck. Later he turned into a zombie and ate his mom. Yeah so, I named my kid after him.
I got married and it suuuuucked
I was a rambler until I had my son. I won’t get into the details but the domestic life (well stay at home mom life anyway) wasn’t for me. I just wanted to strap Gauge in a car seat and hit the open road! For one full year I didn’t travel. I thought I was going to die. Long story short, my ex husband was not right for me, and before long I was a single mom. Still, I loved my life. I had already lived so much and there was still so much more to explore.
Like I said this is not “that” story
I my now ex boyfriend of five years during my divorce. We were gym rat friends and often he was an open ear to my trying to figure out how to be a single mom to a toddler. After a year of being friends we started dating (I had a divorce to finalize). I grew very close to his family, my son did as well. I looked at the past four years with my ex husband as a hiccup in my normal life that came with an awesome bonus, my son.
I was back to myself, back to my creative talents and back to traveling. For the first time in four years I felt like me. I loved my life…but still I always wanted to see more places and have more adventures.
I became a Certified Surgical Tech (cause that’s what you do when you leave rock n roll and hospitality behind you)
Or so I thought… It was the “responsible thing to do”. I was a single mom. I needed to provide for my kid. Then I realized, “Oh my God, this is the grind”. I had racked up 30k in student loans only to find out my new career went against every fiber of my being. So, I opted for working in a Greek Taverna instead where I was forced to Zorba dance every hour. That sucked so much. I know what you’re thinking… and yes, I traded my medical career in the operating room for a crappy waitress job with a jerk for a boss who disrespected women in his sleep. Let me remind you though, I loved my life. I loved my freedom. I loved that I made the same paycheck in half the time it would take in the hospital. I loved that I didn’t have to put my kid in day care, and that I could take 4-5 day weekends to do whatever I wanted. Still, it wasn’t enough. I wanted more. I wanted to go beyond Disney weekends, beyond Florida and beyond my own imagination.
I wanted to explore everywhere.
Then it happened
It was Thursday May 10th, 2012. I’ll never forget the look on my ex boyfriend Brian’s face when I looked up from my computer screen at work. Out of nowhere, in the middle of my shift, he was just standing there. With a white face and wide worrisome eyes he said,
George has been shot, Solomon shot him in the face I’m leaving now.
Those are words you never forget your boyfriend saying about their baby brother. It’s like time just stops. You don’t even think you just move. Just like that I grabbed my stuff and walked out. I never looked back.
That drive from Tampa to Bradenton was the longest drive of my life. Even though we were easily clearing 90 mph, it’s as if time stood still. My denial unraveled in slow motion while Brian hashed out all the ways he would unravel his revenge if he lost his brother. Still, I kept telling myself he would be okay and immediately started to solve the care taking challenges we would face during George’s recovery. We drove faster but time just got slower and slower, our hearts both frozen. This wasn’t really happening.
I remember getting to the hospital as if it were yesterday. I stood outside the room while the family made the choice to take him off life support. He had already coded and there wasn’t much time. Even still, standing alone in the hallway, I was in denial.
When they finally let us in the room to see him, everyone was scared. They just didn’t want to see him like this. They didn’t want their last memory of him to be the grim picture of a lifeless unrecognizable man in a hospital bed. They wanted to remember the George that smiled, who always had a sharp and witty joke, and who loved his family more than anything. Still, I kept thinking, “he’s all alone in there, and he’s dying…he’s dying alone. He needs someone.” Since I was the least closest to him (which in no way means I wasn’t close with him, it just means I wasn’t family) I made up my mind and walked in. Had he been my lifelong brother, I may not have been able to make that same choice. It’s a difficult choice to make, and time was a factor.
I don’t know what it was, but as soon as I walked in the room I was overwhelmed with peace. In the most chaotic and horrific experience of my life, I suddenly was completely calm. I reached out to him and held his hand. I said,
It’s okay George, we are all going to be okay. I love you so much. You are the coolest dude and I am so happy to have had you in my life for this short time. You can go knowing that we will all be okay.”
And through the taste of my own tears I just kept telling him this. I wanted him to know he didn’t have to worry. That’s when his brothers came into the room. I was happy they did. I knew it wouldn’t be much longer, and that George could move on in peace. Then, just like that after we all said our goodbyes, he exhaled. It was over. George was gone.
George was my ex boyfriend’s baby brother. Separated by just a few years, they grew up doing everything together. He was an uncle to my son and like a brother to me. At just thirty-two years old, he had a life to live, until someone decided to steal that from him and from us. On that fateful Thursday evening, George’s stepbrother of many years, Solomon, approached George in the driveway of their parent’s home and shot him in the face twice. Just six months after being diagnosed with schizophrenia, Solomon had murdered him in cold blood. Undeniably, this was a tragedy that would change our lives forever. From that point on living after losing a loved one would be something we would all become masters of. Something I don’t wish upon anyone.
I bought clothes and didn’t return home for two weeks
It was a devastating time for the whole family. Looking back, I am so amazed at the strength this family had, especially my partner’s father. He was the rock for everyone, especially his wife who just lost two sons. When we finally returned home we knew we had to move south to Sarasota, and we did. Just two months later we set up shop and for the rest of the year I struggled financially to make up for all the time I missed from work. Life after losing a loved one is not something that matters only to the heart.
I decided that life really is too short
And in the blink of an eye, or worse the sound of a gun, it can end just like that. That year was hard. Between the random bouts of anger and frustration over a situation I could not control and the financial struggle of a sudden transition, I was a mess in intervals. Not once did I ever borrow money from anyone (including my partner). Not once did I default on my share of the bills (even though we live together, I still hold myself accountable and responsible for mine and my son’s share). I struggled. I cried. I got angry. There were days when nothing mattered, there were days when everything mattered. There was only one thing I could control and change, my future.
Time is a funny thing. It has no concern for your losses or gains. It pays no attention to your seasons of change. It knows only one thing, how to pass. It doesn’t care if you just lost a loved one. You can’t save it, you can’t earn it, you can only spend it. Choose wisely what you do with it. To me, its value is greater than anything tangible in this world.
I paid my car off and had caught up in bills just enough to spend some time reflecting on what was really important to me. I wanted to show my son the world. I didn’t want to be tied down to bills or huge responsibilities. I wanted to pursue freedom and self-preservation while enriching my son’s life. The loss of George moved me to break the mold. I made the choice to work for myself in a career that would let me travel the world in a way no one has ever done before. Most importantly, I wanted to make sure that if anything ever happened to me, my son would know I was making strides to give him the greatest life he would ever wish for.
And I still love my life but it’s scary
It’s scary running your own business, knowing you (and only you) are in control of your own opportunity. On the same note, I’ve had more opportunity present itself to me in the last two years than my entire adult life. Each day presents a new challenge. I took a lot of coaching from my ex. His entrepreneurial spirit was always a source of inspiration for me.
Living After Losing a Loved One
I love my life more now than I ever thought I could. It’s 2016 and I’m celebrating my brand’s third year. I now work with Disney films, attend red carpets, moderate celebrity panels at Comic Cons all over the country. I’ve managed to partner with destinations world-wide making my brand incredibly successful and allowing my son and I to travel the world. It’s is so surreal to me, I’m still kind of in a fog about it.
I work for myself and I’m leading by example. I always miss George but the only thing you can do with a hand like that is pick up the pieces and make each day count.
So, here’s to an amazing year, an amazing life, and teaching my son not to be a robot like so many other people in this world.