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Carpe vitae, “Seize the life”

Posted by Mark Lisavich on


A lot has happened between 2009 and today. I went through a divorce and I fell in love. I lost my homes(s) and I bought a new one.  I left a job of 10 years and have since started my own business. I ruined some life long friendships but I’ve also created some new ones.  I struggled with sobriety but ultimately figured out sobriety. I’ve felt completely hopeless at times and at others, I’ve felt completely alive.  Today, I feel alive.

The circumstances by which I left my software job in 2009 were less than ideal and something I wish I had handled better.  But, I had spent the better part of my adult life in a job that brought me zero joy- and it was time to move on.  No matter what the future held, I knew one thing to be true; I was not cut out to sit in a cubicle or in an office or behind a computer for 10 hours a day for the next 30 years of my life.

I hoped that whatever I did next, it would allow me to be creative and allow me the opportunity to continue to learn. It was early in 2011 when I decided that I was going to go back to school.  I arrived at Bay State College as one of only three men in a fashion design program dominated by women.  Of those three men, I was the only one who was not gay.  Needless to say, after 4 years of engineering in college and 10 years of writing software, I felt a little out of my element.

This past Spring I had the privilege of delivering the commencement address at that college as the Class of 2014 Valedictorian. It was an honor to represent a school that played such a pivotal role during what was a very transformative period of my life.

Below is an excerpt from my valedictory address:

It wasn’t long before I began as a freshman at Bay State that my life looked quite different than it does today.  At 28 years old I thought I was living the American dream, and by 29 years old I had lost everything.  I had lost my career, my business, my home, my friends, my money, everything…  I mention this because it would have been easy to let these mistakes or failures be the defining moments of my life.  But that stuff can happen, and for some, it does happen.  And it is not so much that we fall or make mistakes, but how we respond to them.  We will all go through our struggles and it is important to realize that failing at something doesn't make you a failure any more than being good at something makes you a success.

I’ve still got a lot to figure out, but during the past 5 years, I did get a couple of things right… I’ve learned how to be there for the people who are there for me.  I’ve learned how to be a better brother, a better son, a better professional, and a better friend. Most notably, I’ve learned how to live. It’s unfortunate that it took losing so much to inspire such change, but that’s my path - for better or worse.  I’ve finally learned how to “seize my life”.

For me, living is sitting behind a sewing machine and creating something from scratch. Living is running a half marathon with my business partner and watching him fly past me on mile 12 while I can barely keep my legs moving. Living is dancing like a maniac at a music festival with someone I love. Living is eating so many cannolis from the North End that I make myself sick. Living is listening to a new album for the first time after waiting years for it to come out. Living is watching the Patriots win a playoff game with my dad sitting next to me on the couch. And living is launching an apparel company and the incredible roller coaster of a ride that it has been so far.

How do you "Carpe vitae"?

-Mark Lisavich

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