Next Step Therapy Blog: ‘Do It Now’

Tracy 1Tracy Cowles, CEO and owner of Next Step Therapy, submitted the following article – “Do It Now.”

When I started graduate school to get my Masters in Speech Therapy, I was tired from four solid years of undergrad classes while working five nights a week. I was broke. I was worried about getting through graduate school, and didn’t have a back-up plan in case I didn’t make it (a bachelor degree in Speech is not terribly marketable.) Overall, just a roller coaster of emotions – excited to have made it that far, but anxious about what was to come.

I met a woman named Sue, twenty years my senior, who was a returning adult student in my department. We hit it off right away. She was struggling too, as a newly divorced woman totally out of her element in a small town far from her friends and family.

She had an apartment, and invited me to room with her. It was the beginning of what is now a twenty-four year friendship. I helped her survive her divorce and meet all of the other graduate students. She helped me keep it together. I walked her dog, and she taught me that virtually anything could be cooked in a microwave.

I am quite sure that I was frequently a pain in her rear end, being younger and less mature, but she never acted like I was. I would bet money that I didn’t do my fair share of housework, but she never complained. She understood I worked a job. I did, however, once sneak her grown son into town as a surprise for her birthday. We were a team, and we got through graduate school together.

I was there when she fell down, just out of the blue, one day. I was there the second time she fell down. I was the one who took her to the doctor, and then the neurologist, and then for a lumbar puncture. I was there the night she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and I remember feeling that I was too young, too inexperienced, to know how to help her. I probably didn’t do or say all of the right things, but apparently it was enough. She, of all people, taught me that you can receive a diagnosis with grace.

I was sitting on the next bar stool when she met the man who would become her second husband. She and Tim were a good fit then, and twenty some years later, they still are. We were in the sea of graduates during commencement services in 1991. We hugged each other, congratulated each other on surviving graduate school, and went our separate ways; her to Johnstown to be an Audiologist, me to West Virginia to be a Speech Therapist. We kept in touch, of course, and got together once or twice a year when we could. Her MS eventually stopped her from being able to work.

She married Tim and moved back to the area, but I flitted from West Virginia to Pittsburgh and back to West Virginia again. Still, whenever I was blue, whenever I had big news, Sue was always at the top of the list to call.

Eight years ago Sue and Tim moved to Arizona for a great job for him. They have been back a few times for family weddings and such, but I realized a while ago that I hadn’t seen her in person in five years. FIVE YEARS! The last time was just for a quick cocktail and snack in between their other fifteen commitments when they back for a few days. Five years is a ridiculously long time to not see one of your best friends, but you know, life….

We got back yesterday from a week in the Phoenix, Arizona area. We stayed in a hotel six minutes away from Tim and Sue’s house. We spent a large part of the week touring with them – from the mountains, to Sedona, to a boat ride on a lake. We ate like pigs, and sat on their patio overlooking the golf course, and listened to the golfers swear when they muffed a shot.

I hadn’t even realized just how much I missed my Sue until I saw her. That woman has been there for me for nearly a quarter of a century, through children and divorce and starting a business. It was a thrill to find that we could still sit and gab for hours on end, just like always.

I mentioned earlier that Sue was twenty years my senior…she is cruising seventy, and I am cruising fifty. Of course, neither of us looks it!! I also told you that she has MS. Her illness has progressed some since I last saw her, but not nearly as much as it does for other people. I have to think that her positive attitude and the fabulous Arizona weather have had something to do with it. Still…she gets around with a wheeled walker, and steps and getting in and out of a car is a real challenge for her.

So, I was left with the thought, what if I hadn’t gone now? What if Tim had called me and told me that Sue was now unable to leave the house, or needed twenty-four hour care? How would I have felt if I had not gotten this one, glorious week of being with my friend and something had happened to her?

I would bet that the majority of you readers have someone, friend or family, that you’ve said repeatedly, “We should go visit.” Well, guess what kids? Time, she is a-passing, and nobody is getting any younger. Spring is here, summer is coming quickly. Pull out your calendar, pick a date, and start planning that trip. Do It Now. Later might be too late.

For some of you, it may not be a trip that’s needed, but you have a nagging sense that there is someone you should have called months ago. Do It Today. Set aside an hour, and make the call. You will be so happy that you did!

My husband and I have traveled a lot in the last few years. There have been cruises, and islands, Las Vegas and Disney World. For some reason, I have returned from this vacation feeling more soothed, more refreshed, and more motivated than I ever have from another trip. I think it’s because I fed my soul by spending time with someone who loves me – my friend Sue. I wish this kind of happiness for all of you!


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