I stopped crying awhile back, but still continued to think about it day after day, and sometimes at night when I wasn't so exhausted from trying to keep my emotions from spilling over. I would look out my window and wonder where he was at that moment, what he was doing and if he was safe. But the one thought that seemed to repeat itself over and over was that it was partially my fault: If only I had been a better friend, maybe this wouldn't have happened. If only...the list went on endlessly.
Everybody has those little things that they take the blame for, even though they know darn well it wasn't their fault. As crazy and idiotic as it sounds, this was mine.
One of my closest, if not the closest friend I had up to that point, was gone. Not dead and gone exactly, but more like up and left and didn't tell anyone gone.
I'm not sure if it would be appropriate to call it a grieving process, but it was something along the lines of that; at first I was initially angry and hurt, as were very many people. That would occur on and off for quite some time, but it slowly turned into me trying to understand what he might have been thinking or feeling to do what he did at the time. I believe in seeing the very best in people, even when they're at their very worst; because at one point, that's exactly what he did for me.
The whole situation in itself was very hard to talk about; I felt like I couldn't tell very many people what was even going on because a lot of the time all I would get in reply was "Oh, he's a flake and a bad person." Or that I didn't know him as well as I thought I did, which was becoming more obvious with the things that I would hear in the passing weeks.
In reality, I knew that I wasn't the only one that was affected; there were so many people that were probably grappling with it just as much as I was, perhaps on a more deeper level. But it left me feeling alienated from friends, various family members...even God. Silly as it may be, I often found myself praying "God, where are You in all of this?"
Eventually, life had to and did go on; I started my junior year of high school, but would still think of him often. There were a lot of events and milestones that I desperately wished that he had been there for; but I knew that it would because we were in different places in our lives. We talked on and off throughout my junior and senior years, and even when I went into college.
When I was filling out my college applications, one of the essay topics posed the question, "Who has been a big influence in your life and why?" This may raise a few eyebrows, but he was the first person that popped into my head; you never know what a person can teach you just by completely being who they are.
It sucked having to endure having that particular storm, but I won't deny that it taught me a few life lessons:
1. One cannot blame themselves for the choices another person makes; you can teach them, nurture them and be a constant presence in the lives, but there will come a time when they will either apply those teachings or leave them behind. You can't always protect them from the bad stuff, as much as you might want to; they have to stumble and fall and figure it out themselves.
Personally, that's tough to absorb; by nature, I am extremely protective (and as well as loyal) to those that I care about; I've had other friends that have gone through this type of thing, and I still felt the same worries. I look at my siblings and I wonder to myself, am I being a good enough big sister to them: am I doing enough? The same goes for my cousins.
It took me a year or two to figure it out, but that whole thing had very little or nothing to do with me; I just happened to get caught in it because we were so close. At the time, I wanted so badly to help him; but it was something that was beyond my ability. As much as I wanted to, it wasn't my burden to bear.
2. There are certain experiences in life that may feel like hell, but you do survive. While you're going through it, you may think that you're not going to get through it; but eventually, you do. You may have to grit your teeth and bare it or do things you'd rather not. You have to trust that things do happen for a reason, even though something may not make sense right at the time.
3. No matter what you do or how you try to explain it, there are things or situations that some people just won't fully understand. I realize that sounds incredibly bitchy, but I believe it to be true. From a distance, my friendship with this person may have appeared to be that of a rock star and a loyal fan. Or at the very least, a niave little girl with stars in her eyes that refused to see what was right in front of her. I really don't know.
But from my perspective, it wasn't like that at all. I've stopped trying to explain it, because it would involve me having to talk about things that I would prefer not to talk about. Whenever we talked, the two of us, it was always extremely honest and real; I never hesitated to hold anything back, because I knew that he wouldn't look down on me for it. That's why I'm always selective when it comes to confiding in friends or family members about specific topics; just because a person may react to it one way doesn't mean that the reaction will be the same for everyone else.
I do miss having him in my life; I miss telling him about school and my family and the things that I've experienced while at college. I want him to see that I've changed for the better and that I really am genuinely happy. One of my hopes for 2011 is that we just might be able to sit down face to face and actually catch up. We've tried to do so many times over the years, but something always got in the way (mostly technology...damn cell phones not working right). I don't expect anything huge to really come from it, just the chance to reconnect for a day or so.
If there's one thing that basically sums up what I have learned the most, it's this quote:
You cannot save people; but you can love them.