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A Tribute to Luigi

The cat who changed my life

By Jen SullivanPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 5 min read
My spoiled princess

Ever have someone ask, “what drives you?” Whether in a job interview, in some sort of mental health consultation, or anywhere else that question might be appropriate. I find that it often pops up in job interviews, and I wonder each time what exact answer they are seeking. Are they hoping you will say the desire to work for the company drives you? Or the desire to make money? There does not seem to be an appropriate answer to the question. Either you are driven by greed, the desire to please a corporate machine, or by a desire unrelated to the job in question. The likely answer for most individuals is family or love.

Throughout most of my life I have struggled with depression. In my teenage years, I considered suicide many times, wanting to get away from bullies and school subjects I had absolutely no interest in. I had been teased since childhood because I have extremely thick, curly hair that frizzes on humid days. In the state of Pennsylvania, that is most days, aside from the cold winter months.

We didn’t have a lot of money when I was a kid, my father wasting much of it on alcohol. My parents divorced just as I was entering my teen years. My mom worked two jobs just to pay the bills and supporting three kids did not help her financial situation. We were low-income, but not low enough to get help, aside from free school lunches.

Perhaps it sounds silly to those who do not understand the struggles of a brain suffering from depression, but I exist today because of a cat. My companion cat, Luigi. She—yes, she, for we were told she was a male when I named her—was a Christmas gift from my mom on December 1, 1993. I was living with my dad at the time and I wanted a kitten. My mom agreed to get me one, a sort of payback for my dad getting me a snake when I lived with my mom—she had said no, but dad did it anyway.

Photo taken by Jen Sullivan

The following spring, my father reconnected with an old girlfriend of his from before my parents had married. She loved cats, so I thought we would get along. I was wrong. She moved into our house, along with her six cats, her dog, and her adult daughter. It seemed fine at first, but once she started throwing away my possessions while I was at school and started cutting off my hair because it was “too frizzy,” I took Luigi and moved back in with my mom. I was fourteen at the time. My father’s girlfriend ruined my relationship with my dad, crushing all that we had built over the few months when I lived with him.

I started to mentally suffer during my junior year of high school. That was when I started to think about just ending my life. As I thought about how easy it would be to just check out, I thought of Luigi, my young cat who was almost always by my side. I could not do that to her, so I suffered through the bullying and my own mental torment.

In my senior year, I lost interest in almost everything. I didn’t care about my friends, I stopped using hairspray, which was still popular at the time, letting my natural curls take over, and dressed in jeans and flannel shirts, not caring about looking nice. I no longer cared what anyone thought of me. I cared about Luigi and my mom, and that was it.

Photo taken by Jen Sullivan

I had no desire to go to college or even finish high school. I knew I was not going to graduate because of gym class—I could not do aerobics for lengthy periods due to my “exercise-induced asthma,” which was hereditary on my dad’s side of the family. I mostly stopped going to school altogether, seeing no point in it since I was not going to graduate.

That was when my mom managed to get me into a different type of school. One that only required what the state deemed necessary. There I was treated with praise, finally having teachers who acknowledged that I was really intelligent; I just resisted the structure of regular schools. I finished my senior year in three months and received a high school diploma.

For years, any time I struggled with life, I turned to Luigi. She was all that mattered to me. She was always affectionate, wanting a hug or giving me headbutts. She liked me to carry her like a toddler, resting her head on my shoulder while I supported her body under my arm. She loved to curl up in my lap and would lay on the newspaper in front of me when I lay on the floor with it, looking for a job. She slept next to my pillow so we could cuddle before I fell asleep and again when I woke up. She was always there when I had a bad day, helping to ease my anger and depression.

Me with Luigi, taken mid-2000s with a flip phone

When she died in 2010, I felt that I had died too. But I lived on, eventually found my dog, and kept Luigi alive by rescuing cats when I could. Luigi’s last housemate, Loki, is still with me and celebrated his seventeenth birthday this past April. He terrorized Luigi when he was a kitten, but became more loving after her death, almost as of he knew he had to take care of me for her.

So what drives me? The answer varies, depending on my mood and the asker. For the past two years I have been driven by my own business, Addicted Geeks: a dream I envisioned as I watched my beloved Toys R Us go down. My writing drives me, knowing that I can share with the world through various online platforms and that my books and articles will still exist when I no longer do. My family drives me, knowing that I am finally appreciated for my expertise and personality, with some level of admiration from my father, just from a distance. My husband keeps me going, letting me vent my anger or frustrations, encouraging me to not give up on my dreams, and being a shoulder to cry on when I need it. More than anything, it is my pets that drive me, for they need me just as much as I need them.

Luigi helped to make me the person that I am today. Her death still saddens me, even twelve years later. That’s how much she meant to me. She was there during the roughest years of my life and I still exist because of her. I was able to cope with my mental struggles, which I later learned were partially caused by hormones and have been more manageable since my total hysterectomy in 2019.

I was able to become a leader, guiding others on their own journeys, even if only serving as a minor influence in their life. I have had so many people come to me for advice or just wanting someone to listen because they know that I will not judge them and will do what I can to help. None of that would be possible if Luigi had not saved me back then.

I do not believe in any sort of heaven, but I do not disbelieve in reincarnation. All I can hope is that someday, my Luigi comes back to me when I most need her. Until then, I hope she is with someone else who needs her guiding light.

Luigi and Loki


About the Creator

Jen Sullivan

I am a gamer, a geek, a writer, an entrepreneur, and a gardener, among many things. I have a lot of knowledge and opinions to share with the world, along with creations from my chaotic mind.

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  • Cathy holmes2 years ago

    This is sad but powerful, and incredibly well written story.

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