As a 19-year-old, Kaley Young was thrown into the world of Adulthood.
While most of Us were still learning how to do our laundry, Kaley became her sibling’s homework-checker, the owner of a successful Pilates studio, and a full-time college student. She managed to wear all those hats while coping with the loss of her best friend.
Her mom, Beth, had passed away from cancer that summer.
But, Kaley isn’t the type of person to let loss hold her back: After her mom’s passing, she expanded the offerings at her & her mom’s studio, Hot Pilates Secret. She became a LuLulemon Ambassador. But, most importantly (I think), Kaley created a program called She Taught, which encapsulate her mom’s values and helps others focus on what they’re grateful for.
As I walked away from our conversation, I couldn’t help but smile — I was in awe of Kaley’s beautiful ability to channel loss into a powerful connection.
So, how do you celebrate life, even when you’re faced with hardships? How can you find that ability to motivate yourself and others?
“Looking back on the decisions that changed my life — they seemed so small at the time. But, it felt like that’s what my heart was telling me to do. So, I listened.”
Figure out your non-negotiables
Kaley thrives off of making lists.
While her daily To-Do list keeps her sane, Kaley also creates a list of over-arching goals related to her personal life, fitness and career at the start of each year. “A while ago, I wrote out 10 year vision for myself and broke out 5 and 1 year goals. I check-in with them every so often.”
And, these lists not only keep her sane — they motivate her.
But, Kaley wouldn’t have been able to come up with this list if she didn’t first figure out the things that she can’t live without.
“For me, workouts are non-negotiable. So, one of my goals is to sweat once per day.” Even though this may seem like a small (or very, very unattainable) commitment for most of us— it gives Kaley time to get in touch with her creative side.
But, these lists aren’t an end-all-be-all for Kaley’s life: “At the end of the day, if I don’t cross everything off my To-Do list — that’s okay. I know I’ll get to it tomorrow.”
Because, Kaley knows for her, Family Time is the most important goal of all. For example, “if other things are getting in the way of helping my sister with homework, or cooking dinner with my dad, then I’ll readjust.”
Hey, we should all remember that deep commitment to our values when our Blackberry is beeping red during dinner, huh?
But, don’t let any of this fool you — Kaley has a penchant for being busy. She told me that the night before we spoke was the first time she sat down to watch T.V. in “a while.” So yeah, she’s pretty motivated.
But for her, Balance is the key.
Go with your gut
The first thing that Kaley corrected me about during our conversation was that she’s not a college graduate.
“I’m a college dropout,” she said without a trace of embarrassment in her voice. “I was a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. Even though it was difficult, I continued pursing my degree, because it was the ‘right’ thing to do.”
“But,” Kaley said, “after my mom passed away, I couldn’t handle learning about graphic design. I needed to be with my family.”
Kaley never thought she would be nearing age of 23 without a college degree. “I love school,” she explained quite passionately, as we talked about her decision to leave college. “It was one of the hardest decisions of my life.”
But, you know? It was one of the best choices she could have made, too. Because in those moments after her mom’s passing, where she needed to be was Home. So, if you know something deep down needs to happen — do it.
Sometimes, it takes a while for our mind to catch up with our heart.
Treat everyday like a celebration
When I asked Kaley if she had any last thoughts or advice that she wanted to share, her immediate response was this: “For anyone who is going through bereavement, live on for that person. Find ways to celebrate them everyday.”
It was inspiring for me to hear Kaley speak so eloquently about her mom, and her experiences of loss, because she always gave off a really beautiful vibe. It was bright and almost cheerful, in a way that she knew she was living for something greater than herself.
And, I think Kaley’s advice can apply to all us, whether we are coping with the loss of a loved one or not.
People come in and out of our lives all the time: they are no longer on this Earth, or they’ve moved to a different city.
We have to acknowledge that life changes.
And, that Change is okay. We can still celebrate and cherish the moments that we had with people we loved at that time. The past doesn’t need to define the present, but it can shape it.
We can’t give up, because things are different.
Love the moment you’re in.
If you enjoyed this — check out my blog, On Adulting, for more observations about this weird time as a 20-something. And feel free to tell your friends 🙂
How do you celebrate life? Share and share!