I read somewhere one time that nothing changes us and forces us to grow more than tragedy and travel.
While on one hand, these seem like odd bedfellows, when you examine them, the theory makes sense. During tragic moments in our lives, we learn just how strong we are, just how capable we are of doing things we could never have imagined.
When we travel, whether it's to some exotic location or just outside our home base, we are forced outside of our bubble into unfamiliar territory where we are forced have to adapt to a new environment, new people, new ways.
Everyone's story is defined by both of these.
I can easily name my tragedies - parents' divorce (age 16), critically ill baby (age 35, she survived), mother's death from brain cancer (age 46).
Walking through hot coals is what I compare these moments to. While my feet still bear the scars, I am stronger for them.
I've been fortunate enough to also do a lot of traveling. The traveling I've done for work, however, has probably been the most life-changing – especially covering the aftermaths of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. These moments also changed me in different ways. While I was not personally affected by these events, I was personally affected by the people I met who were.
My daughter returns from a community service trip today in Puerto Rico. I know it will change her in some profound ways. She will probably not even be aware of the changes immediately. But I hope when she reflects on the experience, she will remember what it felt like to help others and realize how fortunate she is to live the comfortable life we have here in North Carolina and in the United States.
I think one of the hardest parts about all these lessons is that the further we get away from them, the easier it is for them to fade in our minds. So the challenge is to hold on to what we've learned, to make it part of our permanent story of evolution in an effort to become the best versions of ourselves.
I believe this is a lifelong journey, one that my daughters are just embarking on. It is exciting to watch them grow, change and develop into young women. Unfortunately, having lived as long as I have, I know that tragedy will also be part of their stories. I can't prevent that. But I can give them the tools to embrace struggles as opportunities to grow and learn.
I'm sure my daughter is going to want to take a shower, do her laundry, eat a good meal and take a well-deserved nap, not necessarily in that order. But I hope she will take some time for reflection about the experience she has just gone through.
If she does, I'm pretty sure she will realize she brought home a lot more than just dirty laundry and souvenirs ...
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.