As a writer (yes, I can confidently say that, even without any formal training, because it is Alex that reaffirmed that I am this and much more), I find myself not at a loss for words over the recent news of his passing but more so flooded with too many. I can recall so many memories, it's as if they're all surfacing at once and I'm just trying to stay afloat, coming up for air as the salty waves of the Caribbean crash over me.
And that's the tough part. My brain is overwhelmed with so many finite memories that collectively, these moments feel infinite. It's been a little over a week and I'm still not ready to say goodbye to him. I don't think I'll ever be and I'm choosing to move on with my life but take him everywhere I go. I hate having to say Alex was instead of Alex is. To me, he still is. He will always be - my daily reminder to live life fully. To not hold back on saying "I love you" to the important people in my life. To say YES more than no. To chase sunsets. To travel more. Yes, more. And to smile through it all.
When I first met Alex it was a bit of a blur. Isn't that what your early twenties are? He was a constant fixture, popping up just about everywhere from a friend's overcrowded apartment party, to a JBFCS Friends volunteer event, to Passion Pit on Governor's Island. The music-loving, happy-go-lucky guy did not miss a beat. But it wasn't until January of 2013, that I really fell for Alex Niles. The guy rivals George Clooney in the charm category. Heck, while Alex was asked to speak to fellow cancer patients, survivors and the incredible staff at the NYU Langone Medical Center, the doctor introduced him as "the hunk." The nickname stuck but I made sure to give him a hard time laughing about the Alex Niles Effect, granting him #hunk and #superhunk with every photo posted.
But it wasn't his boyish good looks, it was the way he made me (well, all of us) feel when I (we) were with him. We were all cramped on a catamaran sailing the British Virgin Islands on the infamous Yacht Week. Long after the trip had ended, after we jumped ship into 2013, our friendship really took flight. Cue Whitney Houston, because bud, I will always love you - for lunches at Parm, sweaty dance parties, green juices and afternoons of futbol, walks on the Long Beach boardwalk chasing sunsets, the career, relationship, you name it, advice, these memories all add up to something unquantifiable.
Alex became the kind of friend to me that I'll forever hold on to. His ability to continuously re-instill confidence in myself and remind me of my value is an invaluable gift from him that I cherish. But beyond that, whenever we hung out, I always came home feeling like a better version of myself. Was it that he was able to bring out the best in me by making me realize all I had to offer or was it just the laughter that ensued within minutes of hanging out? Either way it was no coincidence that his name rhymed with smiles.
There's a framed print that hangs opposite my shower. Every morning, as I rub my groggy eyes, I am given this reminder. This your life. Do what you you love, and do it often. If you don't like something, change it. If you don't like your job, quit. Life is short, live your dream, share your passion. While this may be the words to the Holstee Manifesto, I'm very much convinced this is the "Alex Niles Manifesto" and one I've adopted and adhered by.
His reach was wide, his smile even more so. Thank you for inspiring me, among many others, always. For valuing friendship, family and health above all. For creating Curewear to help not only yourself, but others in need. For redefining the modern day hero for us all.
Alex, we'll see you on Necker Island. Or somewhere beyond the sea.
Stay bitten ;)