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  • Abbie Cole Hillis

Life Update - This Ain't No Highlight Reel

Hey guys - here doing an honest check-in to remind me and everyone seeing this that my highlight reel on social media is only a highlight reel and just that. It is not showcasing reality. It’s hard to put into words what these last three weeks have been like. It’s a mix of so many emotions and feelings, all while processing perspectives and all that this world is and has been. I sorta feel like where do I even start? I’m going to start it here and I kind of have a lot to say so I finished it on my Loving This Life blog.

Before the wreck happened, I was already in a weird place. It’s weird even being vulnerable with all of this because it seems like I am so in my head, and have no idea what I’m doing. But here we go…

My career path and purpose have been in question for quite some time now. Things shutting down and trying to get through having no events, aka no income, to being overworked, had me looking at a new direction for a career. I didn’t know how much longer events would be my calling. I struggle with giving up weekends especially as I have a little one growing up that I don’t want to miss. I love events. I’m good at them. But I questioned what my greater purpose was. I didn’t know what to do about changing careers or shifting the business.

During the middle of the snowstorm back in February, I was actually studying to take the LSAT. Last November I got ambitious and decided I wanted to apply to law school. My advocacy work just kept coming back and I really thought that I could be an attorney that could really bring change to the sexual assault and abuse advocacy work I do. So, I spent the first months of this year studying like crazy to try to make a decent score and try and get into law school by this fall. Well, then the ice storm happened, and my LSAT was scheduled the Saturday after the storm when no one had consistent electricity. As luck would have it, I lost electricity during the test and had to retest weeks later. It was brutal and a total mind f***. Regardless, I made it through and got an average score on it. Through these series of events and being placed on waitlists, I am not entering law school this fall. This doesn’t mean it isn’t a thing that can’t happen in the future, just means it’s not where I am supposed to be this fall. The whole process was completely out of my control and made me feel like such a failure. I knew I wasn’t but I had a goal, and I didn’t achieve it. So, to me, that correlates with the word “failure.”

While waiting to see if law school was in my future, the world of events started opening up again. I was working nearly every weekend trying to keep up with our regularly scheduled events while adding all of the 2020 events that had been postponed. I would work every weekend and spend the following next week prepping for the next wedding. No breaks. If you’re in the industry, I know you feel me on this one.

And while all of that was happening, my grandpa was given weeks to live. He was moved into my parent's home and we flew all of the family in to say our goodbyes. And then the incredibly resilient old man lived another 4 months. It blew our minds. It was hard. He wasn’t the easiest patient and dementia made it much harder. It was a family affair, to say the least.

As I am processing all of this, our country is the most divided I have ever seen it, and social media has become a space that spreads false or miscommunicated news, opinions, and pure hatred. There is less and less room for compassion and grace for each other. A pandemic has caused us to pick sides and make something that we should be so focused on fixing and helping save our humanity, but instead, we are arguing about who is more right about masks and a damn vaccine.

And I almost forgot to mention that I am a part of a group of gymnasts that are standing up for how we were treated as athletes that span over 40 years. Safe Sport is the entity in which we are supposed to trust to process these reports, and here we are over a year later with no decisions having been made. They are incredibly understaffed and completely missing the role that they were meant to fulfill. Athletes, regardless of sport, aren’t being protected enough and something has to change. (Side note: Remember when Simone stood up for herself? Yeah, that hit real hard. By the way, I personally think Simone is an incredible human and woman and I cannot wait to see the role she plays in leading women and society to be better and stronger.)

Oh, and did I mention my husband’s job is a very politically involved job that directly supports the leadership of Texas? Yeah, that’s also been hard especially when you struggle to align with the choices of the leaders of Texas. You have to learn how to really separate your relationship, your advocacy, and your work. That’s been hard to do.

I was at a rough place before this wreck. I was processing the death of a loved one, what my future looked like for my career, trying to filter all the bullshit of the world, manage a business, be a mom, a wife, a daughter, and everything in between. (Why do we feel this pressure so much?? Can we all agree to stop it?)

With all of this going on, on Friday the 13th (could it be any weirder?), I walked away from something that everyone said I should have died in. It’s a weird place to be. It was as if God reached out and had to catch my attention so intensely to remind me of my purpose. My life was not done here. My purpose in life was not over. He made that very clear that night as every paramedic and police officer told me that I shouldn’t be alive.

In the midst of pure shock, fear, frustration, and pain, I watched these first responders pick up every piece of decor and personal item out of the rental car that was covered in glass. (Yes, my car was miraculously in the shop getting a new bumper from a love tap I got from a big truck at a red light a couple of weeks prior.) Anyway, I watched my husband hand my son who was all in one piece off to a friend to watch him for the night while we went to the ER. We were all alive and okay. It was surreal.

In the last three weeks following the wreck, I have had a lot of time to process all that I have experienced this year. I shared all that has been going on, to share where I am at now. I finally see a light. It’s taken three weeks of recovery for me to get here but I made it. I decided to list them out because it seemed to organize my thoughts better.

  1. Life is too damn short. Let’s remind ourselves that this life can be taken from us at any given moment. We are so concerned about our rights to a test, mask, or vaccine, that we have lost sight of the purpose of being here on earth. It can always be your last chance to miss such amazing moments. Work and the dogma of this world can very quickly make us forget that. Let’s re-align our priorities so we can live a life worth living, filling our days with all of the good and joy that we should be experiencing.

  2. Lead with love. I am not here to put others down. I am not here to make someone’s life more miserable. I don’t want to be that person anymore. I have had my fair share of mistakes where I have mistreated friends, strangers, customer service representatives, and more. But our real purpose is we were made to care for and love one another: not tell each other we are doing life wrong or making the wrong choice politically. Why can’t the question be, are you caring for others? Does this help others? Does this lead with love? If it doesn’t, we shouldn’t type it, we shouldn’t say it, and we shouldn’t act on it. Lead with love.

  3. Nothing is forever. Each time I step into the “next step” in life, I make it black and white. I have to have a well-articulated plan and a series of to-dos to accomplish to implement said plan. The plan has to work. It has to happen. (Just me?) Well, this is the biggest news flash I am coming to accept. Life will never be black and white so stop trying to fight it. Ride the wave. Whether it’s a high wave or a low wave, ride it. There is beauty. When I have felt I am at my lowest, I come out of it and begin to see the light and purpose. How beautiful would it be if we all just rode the wave with patience, grace, and faith? Can you imagine the peace and beauty we would see for ourselves, for others, and all around us? I want that.

  4. Joy matters. And it should be incredibly high on your lists of priorities in life. I don’t know that I can honestly say I have ever lead with decisions in my life based on joy. That sounds weird and probably a little extreme, but I just haven’t made decisions in my life with the question “does this bring me joy?”. You should do things in life because they make you happy, fill your cup, and make you the best version of yourself. Not because it checks off the list or because it’s what other people want for you. Yes, the dishes have to get done and dog poop has to be scooped, but in terms of day-to-day decisions and career decisions, we should lead with joy as the deciding factor. (Also side note - hello new season of Loving This Life Podcast. This project is something that truly does bring me joy and I think it’s something I can really lean into. Keep an eye out for new episodes coming soon.)

  5. Find your tribe and love them and make sure they are a tribe that loves you back. Your community matters. Your community keeps you afloat when you feel like you're drowning. And you turn around and do that for your community when you know they need it. That’s how friendship and true love works. I will forever prioritize my people. I give so much credit for who I am to the people I am so blessed to be surrounded by.

  6. Moving slow is okay. I legit thought at the beginning of this recovery it would be a couple of days of sleeping in bed and I would just bounce right back. I had no idea how long it would take. I don’t move slow. Like ever. Butttttt when you physically can’t move, you learn to slow down. And slowing down is soooo important and soooo needed. It’s almost as if we need to start requiring it as a society to make us better humans.

  7. Sometimes you have to say 'no' more than you want to. I’m a yes gal. I love love love to help people. But it has gotten me to a place where there is nothing left of me to give. The last three weeks I have had to say no so much and it has been a struggle. But I’m finding beauty in what saying no brings. It’s all about keeping a balance. And sometimes the scale has to tip more one way than the other and that’s actually healthy. Sometimes you give more and say yes, and sometimes you say no more. And it is okay.

  8. Sensor your consumption. Every day we have a choice on what we consume. Whether it’s social media, the news, conversations with friends, or anything in between. When you constantly consume negative information or triggering information, it can manifest into a downward spiral. Limit the consumption and make sure you’re intentional about what you’re consuming.

  9. Have grace - with others but most importantly with yourself. I keep feeling like I’m going to wake up and feel like my old self again. I am struggling to find energy, I am struggling to sleep, and I am struggling at feeling like my “old self”. I keep finding myself setting expectations in a process that, quite frankly, shouldn’t have expectations. We have to have grace with ourselves as we process through whatever emotions, trauma, sadness, hardship, and loneliness that we are experiencing. There is no one size fits all and we all have to heal in different ways at different speeds. Give yourself grace and allow yourself to trust your body and the process of healing.

I share all of this to say social media is my highlight reel, sometimes my place to share the things I advocate for, and now I plan to make it a place where I provide honest life experience and talk about real things with real people that lead with love and kindness. The reality is we all have our walks of life that we are in, and we all handle what life throws at us differently. Some people can handle and process an incredible amount of pain and trauma quickly and move on, and some of us feel everything deep into our core and move at a much slower recovery rate. Whatever timeline you’re on, work on accepting that it’s okay. I am doing this alongside you.

I have taken three weeks off work because I know that I am on my own timeline to healing. We all are. And if coming back from this means I have to take a month off, then it is what I have to do. Why do I always feel like it’s a competition? Anyway, if I haven’t responded to you, I’m working back into things slowly both personally and professionally. (Mikayla - you deserve so much more than a thank you for keeping the businesses going. I am working on how to properly thank you.) I’m still working through a ton of pain in my chest, shoulders, and neck all while processing emotional distress.

And if you needed the reminder, you matter. Your purpose is needed and God placed you here on this earth for a reason. Someone, somewhere needs your expertise, your strength, your honesty, your voice, your love, your energy, or merely your presence for one reason or another. There is always a purpose and it leads with joy. Just keep looking for joy and you will find it. Make yourself do the things that brings your heart joy and eventually those things will reignite whatever purpose you have lost.

Sending love to all of you! Thank you for all of the positive words and energy, for checking in, and for taking care of me and my family these last couple of weeks (and heck this year). I couldn’t have made it through without you.


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