A lot can change in 10 years. When the sun rose on January 1, 2010 I was newly divorced and celebrating. I was also about to embark on the most devastating, eye opening journey of my life. My divorce as my Dad often referred to it was just a “blip on the calendar.” I would remarry in 2017 to the love of my life and realize my Dad was right, when you marry your soulmate and experience unconditional love it’s a beautiful thing. What broke me was watching my incredible father, the man who was the life of the party battle stage IV base of the tongue cancer and slowly deteriorate in front of my eyes for 7 years. For much of this past decade I believed I was the only person on the planet feeling so incredibly empty and angry. With each visit cancer stole more and more of the man who was my entire world. It was hell to watch my strapping, larger than life father wither away into a frail cancer patient. My Dad was dying and I was totally helpless to stop the inevitable. It seemed so unfair, I felt robbed of the life I envisioned.

For the rest of the world, Facebook was still up and coming. Uber wasn’t a thing yet. And SnapChat, Tinder, TikTok and so many other things simply just did not exist. I would like to think I have evolved into a better version of myself this past decade, below are 6 lessons learned:

1. You are not a victim. You are the hero of your life regardless of what is happening to you. It took me years to accept that what was happening to my father was God’s will and to cherish the time I had with him. Being angry at God only made that road more difficult and confusing.

2. Community over competition. When women support women, incredible things take place and walls are torn down.

3. Happiness is not the result of any man. Your happiness is the result of you and what you invest in yourself.

4. Be thankful for your loved ones. Make it a priority to love and appreciate the people in your life. Don’t get caught up in the small insignificant things that you lose sight of the big picture and what really matters. Don’t get so busy making a living you forget to make a life.

5. Appreciate your life. I watched my father fight to live. He was thankful for every moment he was given with his family. Regardless of how much pain and suffering he endured, he was always kind and grateful. When my father became gravely ill I deliberately chose to stop anything that would quiet my mind. I didn’t want to think about what was happening to my world. I wanted noise in my life, I kept myself busy. Now that my father is gone my favorite thing to do is to stop and enjoy the silence. Each morning I breathe in the love. I have consciously let go of anything that is toxic and causes anxiety. I take time each morning to breathe in the love of my Dad and remember the kind, loving soul that he was.

6. Be thankful for your ability to eat. My father died unable to eat a morsel of food or drink an ounce of fluid because his cancer prevented him from enjoying something so basic that many of us take it for granted. My father died choking to death on what little saliva was left in his mouth. I had to suction giant clumps of phlegm from his mouth during his final days because he was too weak to do it himself. I choose to live my life and embrace it. If I choose to indulge today and have a cheeseburger washed down by a big glass of wine I will not go complain to my social media friends how I cheated, I will not starve myself the next day because I was “bad.” I will thank God that I am able to enjoy my meals. On the days when life becomes overwhelming I will take a deep breath and be thankful because I know it could be so much worse.

The end of a decade is a big deal, it’s important to stop, be still and take all it in. Life is a precious gift.