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A friend told me whenever I mentioned this essay and how I had no clue of what to write about he just said “Write about what you know. You’ve experienced a lot in your life.” And well, in retrospect, I have. My life, just as I'm sure like everyone else’s, has been rough at times. I’ve lived, I’ve loved, and sadly I’ve lost; It’s a fact of life that no one wants to face even though that’s typically where it hits us.
About a year ago I found myself sitting in the middle of my psychology/sociology class. I originally took this class because I needed an elective to fill in a hole of my schedule. The one piece that has resonated with me from that class was the day where we were asked to think of our first memory. Many of those around me had something very simple from around the age of three or four. But mine however, was from the older age of five.
My first vivid memory is of a poster. Now it may seem simple and irrelevant but this wasn't just any ordinary poster. It was in a plastic casing similar to a mall directory. It was a poster of the plan to rebuild the World Trade Center in New York City. This poster was just outside of a construction zone in the summer of 2006 where the largest attack on American soil had ever occurred.
My five year old self was as innocent as it could be but in this moment it occurred to me that the world wasn’t perfect nor would it ever be. This world has evil beyond what our minds can comprehend let alone that of a five year old. It’s this memory that has shaped my tolerance for pain and sadness that would later on allow me to hold everything around me together.
Fast forward ten years: It was late July in the summer of 2017. I had plans to hang out with three of my best friends. We’re a complicated group, all very smart and arrogance typically comes along with that. You would think we’d argue all the time we don’t; we love each other deeply and would do anything for one another.
We were going to get together and go see a movie. It wasn't anything special or out of the ordinary. Just me, Travis, Katy, and Wyatt. I always felt like my best self around them. There's something about a group of friends who make you laugh harder day after day that keeps you content beyond what words are capable of describing even in the darkest of hours.
The plans later fell through because something came up with Travis and Katy did something to get grounded. But it was a Saturday night and Wyatt and I still wanted to go out even if they couldn’t.
A few hours had passed and my mom called me out of my room and into the living room of our house. I sat down on the couch and she told me that my great grandma was sick. This was nothing new nor surprising. The woman was 95 and we all figured she would live forever at this point. She said that the next day they, being her, my dad, and brother, would be taking the 8-hour drive to see her the next day. I immediately responded that I would stay home and watch the dogs. At that moment my mom looked at me with dismay. It wasn’t that I was lacking a level of sensibility for the seriousness of this matter but possessing a level of ignorance for the reality being laid out in front of me. The anger flooded into my mind when my mom spoke the words “do you not care?”.
. . .
When I was in eighth grade my uncle became sick. We were close. I used to go with my mom on these road trips every other weekend to San Antonio to see him. I had never cared for someone so much. Never had I hurt so much as I did in the moment that my dad told me he had passed away the night before. It was like my life was a lake frozen over. So much life underneath but too cold for anyone to actually see it, let alone myself. His death froze me, mentally killed me. I cared so much and it broke me.
. . .
The thought of caring again: frightening. That was the problem I had. For years I had suppressed everything I was feeling to be there for my mom. All of my pain was unknown to the world and therefore ignored.
By this time Wyatt’s car was in the front of the house. I wiped the tears off of my face and walked outside and sat in the passenger’s seat. He saw that something had happened and quickly realized that I didn't want to talk about. He drove away.
We drove to Fort Worth because he knew that I had never been to the Water Gardens and thought that it would cheer me up. I learned that I love driving with the windows down. I had become one of those people who listened to their music obnoxiously too loud but I didn't care. I had had the worst day and singing at the top of my lung’s capacity out the window seemed to make it better.
We went and got gelato and climbed to the top of the rocks and looked out on the rest of the city. We were in the middle of it yet we weren’t. It was so quiet and I could look up and see the stars but then look down and out and see people and lights in the distance. We sat there for what felt like forever, but not in a bad way, and talked about what had happened. I knew what it was that the next day was going to bring. I longed so much for this night to be put in pause. To be in a bubble of happiness and laughter with my best friend watching waterfalls and eating gelato. It was in this moment that my lake wasn't frozen over. I wasn't consumed by sadness, not restricted with grief but truly content. The sad part was that it would all be gone tomorrow. My ignorance was gone. I accepted the reality in front of me and cherished the moment of warmth for as long as it lasted. This bubble would get me through the months to follow.
I lost my grandmother that weekend. If there's anything that I've learned for certain in this world is this: as much as the death of a loved one may hurt you, watching those you love grieve is harder than grieving yourself.
Life, as I have learned, is composed of many bubbles. Some eventually pop and you feels as though your world is crumbling. As simple as it sounds, it sometimes only takes one simple memory for you to close your eyes and reminisce to get you through the day. At least I know that’s what I did nearly everyday for the longest time. He was the friend to tell me to write about what I know. My best friend inspired me when I felt like I was drowning, suffocating in plain sight. He was the friend who was the light in a sea of darkness. Everyone deserves one of those at least once in their lifetime, don’t they?