Celebrating Sydney

Every single detail of that day is crystal clear. And for someone with a brain game app that I can’t remember to play often enough to see results, that’s huge.

Visiting Lake Mills with family and friends on September 18th, 2015
Visiting Lake Mills with family and friends on September 18th, 2015

The story of losing Sydney Tabakin on September 18th, 2010 will continue to be told, and will continue to reach more hearts with every reverberation of sorrow and laughter. It’s muscle memory- ingrained in our minds, tattooed in our hearts (and sometimes elsewhere), and rolling off our tongues with the same authenticity and emotion it created 5 years ago.

We have also proven the stories of Sydney’s life will live on, each one unique to the storyteller and their relationship with Sydney.

For the last five years, we have focused on the love and the loss; but the story we need even more than that, is this-

“We are so lucky,” I told myself just after a usual bout of clumsiness interrupted my zen thoughts about the 11825824_10153343871535668_1028002565700626142_nweekend to come and left me clutching a stubbed toe. It’s a phrase I repeat often. “Thank your body for each and every moment of this practice, we are so so lucky,” I tell my yoga students as they awake from savasana. In every situation it seems to apply. And on the eve of the 18th, my excitement for seeing the luckiest people I know- those who knew Sydney- overpowered any distractions or setbacks.

Just as I expected, my weekend was filled with the best friends I could imagine, laughing until I couldn’t speak, all purple ereything, and more long island ice teas than I knew possible {aka 11 gallons}. I had referred to this weekend as a reunion, and that’s exactly what it was. A celebration of life and the friends that make every encounter unforgettable.

Just as we all had different experiences and relationships with Sydney, each person who could and could not be there this weekend is a part of a whole. While the empty space created by a loss like Sydney can never be filled, this weekend brought back a sense of vitality so many of us had been missing. We didn’t all choose to be a part of the tragedy that occurred 5 years ago, but we chose to celebrate life this weekend, and we continue to choose each other. 

We choose who we catch up with, what grudges we hold, and what this special weekend will look like in 30 years. We decide how many times a day we can be inspired to say, “I am so lucky.”

Sydney's parking spot, September 2010
Sydney’s parking spot, September 2010

The people we surround ourselves with and what we make time for reflects what we value, and this weekend was no different.

At the time of the car accident, our friend group was beginning senior year. Decisions about our future demanded our attention and pressure continued to set in. At the same time, we chose to be present; to engage with each person around us and make the most of our last year in the same place. We knew how to balance and prioritize what mattered most.

Now with many of us as nearing or starting out in a new chapter, it can be easy to lose sight of what we’ve accomplished, who we have inspired, and what we know.

The stories of Sydney are nowhere near done, the only difference is the next story of how she impacted your life isn’t is the past tense, it starts today.


I’m a writer. I say this frequently, sometimes in a professional sense but more often in an attempt to describe how I see the world, how I learn and how I interact with others. It explains how I enjoy spending my time (i.e. this blog) and what brings me joy.

Writing Must Haves: tea and all things purple

Some people hate texting long conversations or frequently. Some people don’t see the value in thank you notes or thoughtful birthday cards. As you may have guessed, I’m not a part of this some. While I see the value in waiting to speak to someone in person, I have friends scattered around the country and abroad, who I wouldn’t want to delay connecting with just to do in person. To me, there’s value, there’s longevity in ink.

Four years ago today, with the passing of my friend Sydney Tabakin, I learned the value of the present. With no guarantee that a coffee date will take place, I believe we have to make the most of opportunities we have.

The last four years have also taught me to find the best in others and every situation, because you don’t know how much time you’ll have to correct a misjudged opinion or a pessimistic mood. We simply don’t have time; but I don’t think the world would be better off if we did.

Sydney has allowed me to experience the beauty of each day, and even when each day isn’t so gorgeous, to remind myself how lucky I am to have a test to get a bad great on, or to have relationships that can get rocky. It sounds over optimistic, but it’s true.

She has taught me to see the possibility in every person, every day and every aspiration. Sydney had incredible gifts, one being writing, that painted a beautiful picture of what her future would be. She deserved to be the one to create that masterpiece, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be created through each and every person she inspires.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 7.40.19 PMI’m also a talker. Writing is a pretty individual activity, I could write something and keep it to myself, but the extroverted, outspoken voice of mine would be stifled (i.e. this blog). I think we were meant to create- how that looks to each person is different- but I think for everyone there is brilliance and beauty in creating, and value for the masses when it’s shared, whatever it is.

Stories represent the overlap of writing and speaking. So I guess really, I should say I’m a story person, or a communicator to the core.

Three years ago today, I took the significance pen to paper has to me in another direction. I had an Om symbol tattooed between my shoulders to represent Sydney’s life living on through me and all who knew her. I haven’t gotten a tattoo every year, nor will I. Not all of her friends have gotten tattoos to remember her, nor should they. For me, it makes sense. Writing it down is what makes it permanent for me. Ink (of any kind), words, and hindu symbols do not resonate the same way for others as they do for me.

I can’t tell Sydney the stories of how she has changed my life, although I hope she knows, so I tell others. Whenever asked about my tattoo, the memory of Sydney lives on through one more person, she touches one more life.

Today, I am commemorating the fourth year of the day that rewrote the lives of so many students starting their senior year of high school, and so many others. For me, four years is the biggest milestone. From seniors in high school to seniors in college, so much has changed, and every moment of our experiences has been molded by Sydney. Adding agape, the greek word for love, to my tattoo, I am honoring the unconditional love she has taught me to find in this next chapter of my life.

Now, all the people who are thinking of her today, and each day; all the people who miss her presence and have bettered themselves due to her absence; that impact, that I know she knows.