The days that followed the accident were heartbreaking, painful, and emotional. It was like it was occurring over a period of weeks or months, rather than just five or six days. It's still hard to wrap my head around it; I kept saying that it was like an episode of the Twilight Zone, or a bad dream that I'll soon wake up from. In my heart I understood the reality of the situation, yet it still doesn't feel real.
Now I am back on campus, away from the sadness and the grief. But that doesn't mean that I've stopped grieving: since it happened, I haven't slept very well. I either fall asleep really late or wake up at odd hours of the night, a plethora of thoughts unwilling to take a break. I still cry when I miss him, and when I wish that I could desperately put my arms around those whose hearts and lives have been shattered to pieces because of this. I cry because I wasn't able to cry with them, many of whom have become like brothers and sisters.
There's no denying that I'm incredibly happy to be back, but yet I wonder if my being happy is a betrayal of his memory, because there are moments when it seems that way. I will never forget him or what he did for me, but I'd like to believe he would want me to celebrate life, not get depressed over the unfairness of it.
I've reflected. I've absorbed. And most importantly, I have learned the following:
Own who you are
For some time I have tried to suppress the fact that I'm an emotional person. I've tried to deny that I care about certain people, that specific situations don't hurt, and that I can go along with the popular notion of twenty-somethings in being able to hide and ignore your feelings. But I'm beginning to understand and be honest about the fact that doing so is not who I am.
It started after a conversation in which I was told that my blog posts often come across as negative. I ruminated in that for a couple of days, reading and re-reading some of the popular ones as well as the more recent ones, because it really made me wonder if that was true and I didn't realize it. But as I read, the word "negative" did not come up in my thoughts. With that I came to the conclusion that each person has a different way of perceiving things, and what may appear in a certain light to someone may not be the same for others. So while my writing may come across as negative at times, I'd prefer to look at it as deep, honest, and raw. Not all are comfortable or can appreciate that kind of thing, which I accept and (sort of) understand.
A lot of it has to do with the writer in me: in order to write and to write well, you have to be emotional. You can't create characters or a plot without putting some amount of feeling into it. You can't put words and phrases together without really thinking about it. On the other end of the spectrum, writing is the main way that I do express myself; for me personally, writing and emotions go hand in hand.
The other part of it is that I'm dealing with a lot of areas of my life that are tangled up in knots, and it is taking time and effort to get those knots undone. Some of it is playing out right now, while the rest relates to reconciling what has happened in the past with how I envision my future. This blog is only telling part of that story, at least for right now. I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable talking about all of it at this time, since there are other loved ones involved and there are a lot of unknowns. In other words, I don't want to speak too prematurely about a subject when there's no telling what exactly will happen.
The little things DO become the big things
I have a tendency to not only remember the smallest of details, but details from something that happened a decade a go. I'd chalk it up to the fact that I'm very observant; I can recall the day where I met certain people for the first time, from the interaction in itself down to what we were wearing. I have no other explanation as to why this happens, other than having some inkling in the back of my mind that this will become special for me someday.
When you lose someone, I'd like to think that it's common to replay either your last or your favorite memories that you have together. For my friend, it's the country songs that he sang when he and a couple of other guys were up visiting last March (I'll include one of them at the end of this). It's when we finally made it home by the end of that Saturday night, and we were all laughing so hard at the one-liners that the guys kept coming up with. But it was also the mere fact that he looked out for me when the rest of the group would wander off at times. It wasn't a huge thing at the time, but looking back on other experiences, there aren't very many people who have done that or have been willing to do that. I wish I could have thanked him when I was able to, which is why I'm also making a point to let people know I care when I get the chance. And yes, I'll do my best to just keep it simple.
On the other side, when someone comes to you and says "thank you" for whatever reason, please don't tell them that it wasn't a big deal or that it doesn't matter. It does to that person, or they wouldn't be making a point to reach out to you and express that gratitude.Telling them that you're glad you could help and/or be there for them is a good enough response.
In order to make the small moments count, the best thing anyone can do is to be fully present in the situation. I want to make an effort not to be on my phone so much when my friends and I are together, regardless if we're just hanging out at someone's apartment or having a night on the town. There are a lot of instances where someone's mood or entire night gets ruined because of a texting fight or what they saw on a number of social media outlets. I can understand the occasional check in for safety reasons, but when you're with other people,you should make the most of the time you have with them. As depressing as this sounds, it could very well be the last time that you see that person alive.
The other thing has to do with alcohol consumption and taking care of myself in general. Due to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) I frequently do things either when I really don't want to or am just flat out exhausted. It is something that I've dealt with since freshman year, and a lesson that I've learned and re-learned a thousand times over. I can't and don't genuinely enjoy something if I'm either falling asleep the whole time or spacing out because of how much I had to drink. That being said, I want to limit my alcohol in-take as well; not just for the sake of paying attention, but also for my health and to save money.It's nice to come home with a full wallet and not spend thirty to forty bucks on a given night
You're not untouchable
In our culture of anything goes, this is something that a lot of people (particularly people in my age group) forget. Some scream "YOLO" at the top of their lungs, attempting to justify their actions by the fact that you only get one life, one chance, sometimes only one moment to do something. Let me tell you, there's a difference between healthy risk-taking and flat out stupidity. You may think you can get away with stuff because there have never been consequences before, but eventually shit does happen when you're not careful. All you have to do is ask yourself "is this really worth it?" Is it worth putting your family and friends through hell for? Is it worth the pain and regret that may come afterward? Is this worth dying for?
I don't know all of what went on that fateful morning, and most of us will probably never know. But the best thing anyone can do at this point is to honor him and keep his memory alive. It was suggested that instead of flowers or an elaborate memorial site, that we will remember him by performing acts of kindness for others. I will do my best with this, because a lot of people usually don't let me. Regardless of how big or small, I hope that it will do some good.
As this song says, life is crazy, tragic, and awful. But it is just as beautiful all at the same time. I will never listen to this song the same way again, but I mean that in a positive light. That's how I'll remember him.
photo credit: JayVeeAre (JvR) via photopin cc