A Manifesto to Life

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

Happy 2020! 

Whether it’s a new decade yet or not is something we’ll never agree upon, so let’s just call it a new start to a new pack of ten.   And I, for one, am grateful for the opportunity to be looking at this ten-pack with a peaceful, joyful, and hopeful heart.

I spent the first half of 2019 dying, and the second half being re-born.

There is just no other way that I can look at it.

The stark, harsh truth is that my substance abuse-- my addiction to alcohol—was steadily and doggedly taking me out. I was drowning. At the rate I was going, I wasn’t going to make it to see 2020.

I wasn’t going to make it.

Maybe you had a similar experience in 2019. Or maybe you experienced losses that couldn’t be undone. Maybe your heart was shattered. Maybe you shattered the heart of another. Maybe you are still in the darkest depths of despair. Maybe you are holding on by a thread. Maybe you are watching a loved one suffer. Maybe you are struggling to look in the mirror. Maybe you are unable to ask for help. Maybe you are turning your back on someone. Maybe you’ve given up. Maybe you are in the thickest of thick, the deepest of deep, and you have no earthly clue how to find the other side.

All I can say to you is this:  please hold on. The light is coming for you. It’s looking for you, and it will never stop searching. Remember that’s the way with darkness—what comes next is light.

I can’t speak to your struggle, nor would I try to—it’s yours, not mine. But, oh how I want you to see me seeing you. How I want you to know that my heart carries the pain of yours gently, and would gladly hold the truest words of your heart with the care and honor they deserve.

Now, maybe this isn’t your truth at all.  Maybe you’re like “I’m sorry about all your darkness and what not, Erika, but I am personally coming off the best year of my life!” And if that’s you, if life is giving you all you deserve and more right now, I say YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!!!!!!! to you. I mean, genuine and endless “hell, yeah!”s coming your way from me.

Because that’s the way life goes, isn’t it? Sometimes it takes our breath away because of how lucky and abundant it feels. And sometimes it takes our breath away because of how cruel and unfair it is.

As we enter 2020, as we begin this new pack of ten…  well, I’m simply rapt with awe. Rapt with awe at how close I came to letting the darkness be the only thing. Rapt with awe at the light that finally crept its way into the deepest depths and lured me out. And rapt with awe at the wild and wonderful and f#$*ed up and magical and fierce and brutal and stunning life we’re given. And THAT is what takes my breath away.


I wasn’t going to make it.  But then I did.

On January 1st, 2020, I celebrated six months of sobriety.

And I keep thinking about this passage from J.R.R Tolkien:

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

“…From the ashes, a fire shall be woken.”

I’m awake, 2020. And I’m going to burn so brightly that you won’t be able to turn away.

Who’s with me?



Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.