Friday Feature: Jackie Barlow

Who Am I When Everything is Unexpected?

It’s funny because I’ve always wondered if I was ever given the opportunity to share my truth, would I do it? Ironically enough, I always anticipated it but never thought it would be a reality. The request was asked of me to answer the question “Who am I when everything is ______”? And I took a step back and looked over my life. In the last 6 months, my life has taken an unexpected turn. However, if I look deeper things started about 3 years ago. I’ve experienced a loss so deep, that some days I feel like I will never be able to get back to the person I use to be. October 5, 2015, I stood by the bedside of my mother as her 2 year long battle with cancer had come to an end. If you would have asked me before that day, my answer to you would have been I expected my mother to live a long life. I never thought I would utter the words “she’s gone”. But I did, and that’s a reality I was faced with. Everyday living without her has been unexpected. I never know what’s going to happen during my day; what I had to say; what I had to deal with. And honestly speaking, I’ve lived everyday expecting the unexpected because thats what I have come conditioned to. During this time, I changed jobs/careers. I was working with the Marshall's clothing store company for 5 years. When I started there, my aspiration was to take my ability to the next level and become an assistant manager. Why not manager you ask? Well I seen the store managers, whom I worked for or have come in contact with in some way. And I didn’t want to end up like them. Most of them were divorced, had kids and were single parents, some were dating the same sex, others had grey hair out of this world and were only 30. Yea I didn’t want that road. So being an assistant was good enough for me. However, when I changed stores in the last year I was with the company, I literally went through hell. And this experience was certainly unexpected because I was promised this and that from the current store manager; I was told I would operate this and work that. Everything seemed in the end to be a lie and I was tired of it. One day my brother told me about a friend of his that was always around, that she lived in another state for training. Long story short, he told me she was a flight attendant, and my interest peaked. I asked her how she become apart, I did the leg work. Not knowing that I would be accepted into the training program to become one. So one of my distance dreams, became my reality and unexpectedly my life took a turn career wise. I’m loving my new career choice. I’m experiencing things only I could have dreamed of. And I’m loving it so far. But this happiness to me comes with a tug at my heart. I started this journey to this new job when my mom was alive. And she pushed me to make it to the finish line when I wanted to throw in the towel. And with everything that goes on with this job, she’s the first person I want to tell. But my conscious reminds me that she can only hear me but will never be able to respond.

So how do you be so excited and happy and in the same breath be so sad and down? This has been my existence since October 5th. The questioned is posed again. Who am I when everything is ___? and my inserted word is UNEXPECTED. When everything is unexpected I take on different forms. I don’t recognize the woman I thought I was. This new girl I see before me has stories for days, experienced more in her 29 years than most people see in a life time, she most certainly isn’t boring. But she is grieving and that has taken a toll on her mentally and physically. Though she wears a smile on her face, she still is in pain on the inside. And truly, this will take time. Won’t say she will ever get use to the feeling of not having her best friend around, but she will learn to deal with it better.

I’m still trying to get to know the new woman that stands before me. I’m a work in progress, striving to be a better person with the new obstacles placed in my life. I’m not perfect but I’m trying to handle all the unexpected curve balls life throws at me.

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