Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference.– Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”
Today I received devastating news that a peer of mine was killed in a fatal train accident.
He was 16.
Granted, I don’t have many memories with him. The few times I encountered him, he was pulling a prank or making some joke about Victoria’s Secret fitting rooms. He made everyone laugh. I can’t think of one time I saw him where he wasn’t smiling, and I often found myself laughing too.
He, along with his other friends and his girlfriend, was walking along the train tracks near their neighborhood. I think they were going to take pictures together, maybe to post on Instagram. He loved taking pictures. I know that for sure. And then, somehow, he was hit. The entire community has been raising awareness and praying for his family. It is time like these were I marvel at the resilience of the human spirit and the compassion we have for one another.
Now, I find myself blankly staring at the wall and even this computer screen as I write this post. My eyes will blur and I’ll lose focus of what I’ve been writing. Because, even though I wasn’t close friends with him, I feel like someone has shot a cannonball into my chest and there is this gaping hole that’s making it hard to breathe.
It’s not fair that he was only 16. He hadn’t gone to prom yet. He hadn’t experienced the dreaded junior year of high school. He hadn’t graduated yet, or been a senior. He hadn’t gone to college, or even possibly gotten a sports scholarship because we all knew he was talented. He hadn’t gotten married, or had children. He was just a kid. He didn’t have the time to do anything that he probably dreamed about.
I wonder how his family feels. I say that I wonder, because I know that I will never be able to possibly imagine what they feel like. I wonder how his girlfriend feels and how she will continue to be with the experience of seeing her boyfriend die. I wonder how his friends feel. I wonder how his teachers feel.
I wonder why something like this had to happen to him.
I always see stories like this in the news. They’re tragic, and of course I feel sad. But there’s always a detached feeling that we have whenever we read about deaths of people we’ve never met in towns we’ve never heard of. It doesn’t seem so real until it happens to someone close to you. We need to treat every day like it’s our last day with someone, and make sure that every single second isn’t wasted. We never realize how precious life is with our loved ones until it is taken away.
Wherever you are, I hope you know that we all miss you. Rest in peace. We won’t forget.
We are color, action, and insanity,
Composed of strength, vigor, and joy.
Our nights are long and we like it that way,
We sleep when we are tired but we are never tired.
Hurt us, hurt us again –
Pain is only a state of mind,
Which we will not waste time trying to comprehend,
It’s tattooed onto our skins.
We will not grow old,
We will not lose hope.
We look at those who have with disgruntled expressions,
We make sure they see our scowls,
So they know how different we are.
We are the generation that will never die,
Isn’t that what they all thought?
There are over 30 unpublished blogs posts sitting in my draft bin right now. Some are a few sentences long. Others are nothing but titles. Logically, I would go back and refine my drafts before creating new ones. But I don’t know… something about typing the first few words in this empty text box is just so enticing; something about giving birth to a new post fueled by a new idea is just so addicting.
I think I just hate pressing the bright blue “Publish” button when my writing is subpar, or when my writing is too short. I hate it when my writing doesn’t have have a feature image that perfectly matches its contents. I just want this blog to be perfect. But my draft bin is overflowing, and I figure confrontation is the first step. This is an intervention. Please excuse my mechanical errors.
Every now and then, I find myself looking for you. I wonder how you’ve been doing, how you’ve adjusted to your new life without me.
Even though I know why you’ve gone (we had a long, strewn-out fight and I finally kicked you out), I don’t know where you’ve went. To be honest, I can’t say that I miss you very much. Your awkward fashion sense, your out-of-place bangs, and your Hello Kitty underwear were good riddances. But, I do, of course, wish you the best of luck because I still care about you at least a bit, although, either way, you’re not going to survive out there.
I’m not trying to be mean or anything – I just figured you deserved to know about your impending demise.
You will not be able to survive out there with your cynical attitude, your refusal to listen to other people, and your lack of appreciation for your friends. You are not going to make it out alive by talking back to your mom every time she tries to care about you.
You think you’re so cool just because a cute boy threw you your surprise 12th birthday party, but in less than a month you’re going to find out that he didn’t invite you to his birthday party, because, by then, he would have already ditched you for some other girls. You think you are so much better than the boys your parents force you to carpool with and that’s why you never talk to them, but in a few years they would have gotten higher SAT scores than you and you’re going to congratulate them and really mean it, because you would have realized that it was incredibly stupid to think you’re better than them when you’re not. However, they will continue to be really annoying. You will just have learned to appreciate them regardless.
You are just fooling yourself when you say you don’t like dresses and you hate the color pink, because you have always known deep down that you are absolutely a girly girl. You are not a tomboy even though you try so hard to be one just to impress some people who have never been nice to you before and never will be nice to you.
You will start wearing make-up. It will be messy at first. You will face backlash from your dad, but you’ll eventually figure out how to wear make-up as a way to enhance your features, not mask them. You will learn how to feel pretty and in turn be pretty. You will become confident. You will forget how to be jealous of people, instead, you will only admire.
You will say “I love you” to some guy who doesn’t deserve it and you will let him touch you in ways you don’t deserve it. Then, you will date a few more boys that weren’t the best choices, but you will learn from those mistakes and you will become a stronger person. You will then grasp the importance of independence. You will realign your priories. You will stop craving attention from boys and instead crave to be a better student, crave to be a better person.
You will spend a few summers taking on the most amazing internships and you will learn how to talk to adults for the first time while maintaining eye contact. You will make money. You will spend some of it, stupidly. Then, you will learn how to manage your money.
You will start looking up to your mom, and I mean really, really looking up to her, because she is a truly inspiring woman. You will start taking her advice. You will start hugging her every single day.
You will also start appreciating your dad. It will take you a long time to notice all that he does for you, but once you do notice, you will never forget to love him.
Pretty soon, you will realize that you are no longer you.
You will be older.
You will be stronger.
You will be happier.
You will love yourself and even though you will never ever want to back to the way you once were, you will realize the beauty of your growth and take the time to write this letter.
When you pulled up next to my friend and I as we walked out of Target a few weeks ago and rolled down your window to shout “Could you fold it over for me?” did you know I almost threw up? It was in the middle of the day and we were surrounded by families and children, yet you thought that that was an appropriate situation to harass us.
Did you know that we had no idea what ‘fold it over’ meant but that we knew it was perverted by the way you were eyeing our bodies? Did you know that we urban-dictionaried the definition after and felt ashamed of our bodies?
Did you know that the reason we tried so hard not to make eye contact with you was because we were so absolutely terrified of you that we physically could not do it? Did you know that those few seconds of our lives were nothing but absolute horror?
Did you know that I spent the next few hours of that day wondering if I dressed too “slutty” to be in public and contemplated never wearing shorts again for the rest of my life? Did you know that you are the reason I am scared of going to even the library by myself?
When you whistled at my friend and yelled, “Damn, what a fine ass!” when she was walking with her mom the other day, did you think about how your own mom would react to your behavior if only she knew? Did you think about how your mom goes through the same kind of discrimination and abuse that you are putting onto other women? Did you think about your sister? Your aunt? Your daughter, perhaps? Any female at all in your life?
Of course, you didn’t.
Did you think that I liked what you said? Did you think you made me feel good about myself?
Because I didn’t like it. I didn’t feel good.
I felt disgusting. I felt dirty. I felt nauseous.
I felt like I wanted to die.
People like you petrify me. People like you make me scared for my beautiful baby cousin. People like you make me scared when my best friend texts me that she’s about to go to the mall by herself.
People like you are the nightmares of women all around the world.
It’s not funny. It’s not a game.
It’s our lives and you are making us scared to live them.
I’m running because that’s what they’re all doing,
all around me,
all the time.
I’m running as hard as I can,
but it’s not fast enough.
It’s not nearly fast enough.
There are no breaths left for me to take,
so I stop trying to breathe.
Can you run without breathing, though?
I have more questions, but I’m afraid to ask,
So I won’t.
I’m falling behind, everyone can see that.
All I can make out in the distance are the shining logos of shoes
that I cannot afford.
I pretend not to notice how slow I am compared to
everybody else, but here I am,
I’m running and I’m running
and I’m running.
If you ask me “where to?” I don’t know,
so just don’t.
I am afraid to stop running
but I am more afraid that I’ll never stop.
Just let the words spill out from your brain into your hands
onto your pens and pencils and keyboard, into finger paint
messes and raw letters that spell out angry or happy
or excited or sad or whatever you want to call that feeling that
pulsates with you heartbeat and thaws your brain. Just write
whatever comes to your mind – don’t mind that it could be
written by a first grader, or that it makes zero sense to anyone
other than yourself – and just give your thoughts a fighting chance
to live and to breathe and to inspire and to impact.
Just write, read over, and (re)write some more.
*in honor of allllll the college essays and scholarship essays and homework essays that are waiting to be done
is the sound of my voice, the pulsation of my heart, my biggest shortcoming (says my father), something I could never grow out of, my reluctance to adhere to the rules, the recalcitrance of my footsteps, and everything I never wanted to be, but found too difficult not to be, and I learned to kind of love it.