Chelle Summer

Finding My Way

Michelle Rusk

On Saturday, I keynoted Arizona’s 19th Annual Suicide Loss Conference. Last fall I had been one of the keynotes of their state suicide prevention conference and when I was putting together my talk this time, I noticed how much my message had changed from just six months ago.

I am constantly looking for ways to drive myself forward, to make things happen, to keep myself inspired, and as I shared some of my lessons and what inspires me, I also realized something: I really have now idea how I learned these things. I just did them. While I was clear I wasn’t there necessarily for them to follow my creative journey, I wanted them to know that somewhere deep inside them, there is a dream that always existed. But if I was going to share my dream, I thought, I should also explain where I learned what I have to drive myself forward.

And there’s where I sit– filled with inspiration, with ways of coping, steps to keeping myself motivated. Yet I don’t know how they tumbled into my life. I often say that running competitively taught me many of the lessons for coping with grief (especially realizing you have more strength than you thought you did and how to set smaller goals to keep running when you really want to stop and walk).

In that same time though, I also made myself many collages of words and pictures that I cut from magazines. I used my favorite songs to inspire me, listening to them not just before races but when I was feeling down.

While I don’t know how I learned these lessons, I do know that I have drawn on them in the years since then. Those same songs still inspire me, probably because they remind me of the dreams I created in those years, the same dreams that are still part of me. I can look at the collages and be reminded of the hope I had back then, the same hope that might have felt hidden in the shadows during losses and challenges.

As I find my way forward, I’m also finding myself reflecting on how I got here, realizing that maybe I have been given these gifts of inspiration and motivation, not just for myself, but so I can share them with others who might be inspired themselves.