For Caroline (DC)

Typically, when someone is given the Positivity Award, we ask them to answer a few get-to-know-you type questions in order to help the Tribe (and us) understand what makes that person tick. I sent a list of those get-to-know-you type questions to Casey Forgey this morning, and she sent me the following blog back in reply. I learned more about Casey through her writing than I could have hoped to through my questions. I’m proud she’s a member of NPDC and I hope you’ll take the time to get to know her. Thanks Casey, for writing this, we’re glad you’re here.

How being a part of the NP community helped me cope with the loss of my best friend

Anyone who has ever traveled, studied or lived abroad knows that the friends you make during those experiences are for life. Yeah, you’re sometimes at your worst when you’ve been traveling on a train for 15 hours straight across India or burning hot riding a camel through the Moroccan desert wondering to yourself “why the h*ll did I think this was a good idea?!”. But more often than not you’re at you’re best. You learn to appreciate the small things, like clean running water and toilets that flush. You learn to be the best, most loving and outgoing version of yourself. You make some of your truest friends.

Casey & Caroline

It was the spring of 2013 Semester at Sea (SAS) voyage that I met my closest and kindest friend, Caroline. She was the type of person who was always putting others in front of her. She knew literally EVERYONE on the ship; crew, families, facility, staff, students and everyone knew her (roughly 1,000 people). We experienced it all together, volunteering at a school in Ghana, drinking water from bags, riding camels across the blazing hot desert for what seemed like eternity, the good, the bad, the ugly, the food poisoning, and the wonderfully life changing experiences.

As the voyage ended and we went back to our respective schools (Colorado for me and Oklahoma for Caroline) our friendship only grew stronger. If I couldn’t sleep at 2AM, guess who’d answer my call? Caroline. If I was freaking out about a test, guess who stayed awake with me through the night to study? Caroline. When I got my heart broken, she hopped on a plane to Colorado the following weekend to keep me busy. If I was having one of those “What the F*CK am I doing with my life ?!?!” college senior moments, she was always there to reassure and comfort me.

When I decided to pack up my entire life and the 22 years I’d spent living on the west coast to move to DC without knowing anyone, she was the first person to be supportive. She helped me pack up my little Jetta and drove from LA to DC with me in four days so I could make it to my first adult job in time. Our only rule: I was the driver and she was the DJ. That road trip was the last time I saw Caroline.

Caroline didn’t talk about it much, but she was born with a Chiari Malformation (a structural defect at the base of her skull and cerebellum) which affected her balance and motor skills. Over time, it got worse and the decision to operate was made. Her operation was scheduled for early October. Now let’s be real, no brain surgery is simple, but as far as brain surgeries go, removing the Chiari Malformation was a pretty standard procedure. The surgery went well and Caroline was released from the hospital after only a couple days.

One early Sunday morning I was walking out my front door to run errands when I looked down at my phone to see another friend from SAS calling. I instantly knew something wasn’t right. To my dismay, she confirmed my suspicions and informed me that due to complications, Caroline didn’t make it through the night. I spent the rest of the day calling her hundreds of friends, letting them know the news, not really believing it for myself.

That year was the loneliest year of my life. Yes, I eventually made some friends in DC, and had my SAS, college, and friends from home, but something was always missing. Those 2AM phone calls or that late night study sesh or those long car rides blasting music, those were gone.

I spent about a year after Caroline’s passing feeling sorry for myself, six months debating if I made the right choice moving across the country away from my family and friends, and who knows how long trying to figure out how I could get out of my slump. My boyfriend suggested a workout group, which led me to googling free work outs in DC, which led me to The North Face Mountain Athletics, which led me to November Project. I spent another few months after that mustering up the courage to #justshowup.

I remember my first work out pretty clearly. I remember being anxious because my friend was late and I had to show up to the work out alone. I remember thinking “I’m a horrible athlete, I’m probably going to make a fool of myself”. I remember noticing a girl with an NP shirt and a dog and asking her if she was going to NP, to which she quickly replied “Yes! Would you like to join me?” (Shout out to Jess and Nolan for welcoming me with open arms).

ELECTRIC.

This month marks 4 years since Caroline’s passing. And while no one can ever really replace Caroline, #NP_DC has helped fill a huge void once filled by her contagious positivity, infectious laugh and kind heart. I’d like to think November Project is similar to traveling abroad. Yeah, you’re sometimes at your worst cursing to yourself as you struggle up Wachusett Mountain, but more often than not you’re at your best, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and further then you ever thought physically or mentally possible, making some of your best friends along the way.

Thanks to NP, I now have hundreds of positive and welcoming people like Caroline in 49 cities around the world.

Thanks, NP 
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