Full disclosure: I’ve known Nikki for more than half my life. We met in the fall of 1998 at Carthage College and were instantly close friends. Even at only 18, Nikki was that genuine, bright light sort of person. There’s this thing about close friends, about kindred. Even when life and physical distance let you drift a bit, the moments where your hearts shine—even when it’s a mere ember amidst the darkness you’re in—you reconnect as if never apart. Nikki and I are like that.
I have learned so much from her and been inspired even more. She is a tough woman. She’s a mother who loves so deeply and passionately that she has no second thoughts about doing what is best for her boys. If they need something to be the best version of themselves, she makes it happen.
She has taught me what it means to be my most authentic self. It doesn’t mean being perfect. It means being the best me of this moment. Being present. Being here. Being a listener, and that hearing and listening can be two very different things. Nikki also has taught me that being that best version of myself means owning my shit. It means saying “Hey, I did what I thought was best, but it wasn’t, and I get that. How can we do better this time?” It means reveling in your imperfections and making them part of your soul song.
Nikki, above all, has taught me what it means to love selflessly and fiercely. If you need a Mama Lion in your corner, she’ll teach you how to be it for yourself. She’ll hold your hand and give you the best f’ing pep talk there is, but she won’t baby you during. Oh, no. You have to face your shit, put on your big girl panties, and find your path. You don’t have to do it alone, though. She’ll be there with the coffee, a hand to hold, and the world’s best beef stew to celebrate your victories and soothe your setbacks. She has the resources through her own experiences and struggles to help you find your path. She is my sunshine, and she’ll be yours.