After a challenging few years, I’m back from what felt like a dark time warp of infinite space. I did not anticipate the number of challenges I’ve faced, but life finds ways to surprise you when you least expect it. Many lessons had unfolded before me since I left the gym floor in 2020, and my heart was the only thing that led me here.

I needed ( and am still working on it) time to know who the man in the mirror was when I looked at my reflection. After nearly two decades of feeling trapped by the societal pressures of unfulfilling existence, I am relearning what it means to be a man in today’s world.

My dad passed in August. It’s been sitting heavy with me. I am no stranger to death, but my father’s death offers a lesson that carries the opportunity to open my heart to a more profound love for life.

His death, while anticipated, reminded me to pick up the shards of grief scattered around the floor of broken promises and pain from the past and begin humbly—sweeping the shards of glass, sweeping the dust, and tending to the fires within.

I suspect this is where writing has a place in my life. Anything that gives you space to reflect and welcome the presence of grief can be a powerful tool for personal growth. Somewhere in our upbringing, we neglected the ability to tend to the fires of searing emotions that come with grief-stained memories of our lives.

Grief is more than just an emotion; it also makes us human. If we are to grow as humans in this demanding world, grief is what will ripen us to what is possible.

Seneca, Stoic philosopher, said “Consider that, whenever illnesses become so life-threatening that their virulence grows despite treatment, a cure is often effected by opposite methods. Accordingly, I will display to the afflicted mind all its sorrows, all its garments of mourning: this will be no gentle path to working a remedy, but that of cautery and the knife.”

Seneca meant grieving enables us to be here, in the present moment, and feel everything we need to attune to the universe’s rhythms.

After years of walking side by side with death, working with its cold breath and difficult teachings, grief has become a mentorship that has reshaped me as a man. My deepest wounds cultivated more space to be open to what life brings me rather than give in to the societal pressures that want me to play small.

While painful, the wisdom to see death as something more than what appears as a body that is no longer with us is humbling and reminds us that our time will eventually come. And everything in life has a last breath.

Saying goodbye to someone you love is never easy. How do we let go of past trauma and forgive? How do we accept the death of someone who has given us life and bestowed love upon us, even if it doesn’t seem that way?

Somehow, we must. Whatever happens in our lives, much will be asked of us if we want the next generations to make the most of it all. I may not know what comes next, but I know this: time waits for no one.

Death reminds me to put everything in perspective and humbly let go of what makes me feel heavy because this could be my last breath at any given moment.

This year, I am claiming acceptance, peace, and possibility for my life. I am open to everything the universe is showing me. I am done holding on to what does not serve me.

I challenge you to take some time to gain a deeper understanding of your story and the importance of living an authentic life. Use any past grievances as a reminder of what’s truly important in life. And remember, you never know how much time you have. Give this year a name and use it to set some clarity and intention on things that might feel heavy.

When you choose your name, share it with me in the comments, I’d love to know what it is.