Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Evil and Wonderful Things California Has Given Me Thus Far...

I was dragged kicking and screaming to this great state of California more than a decade ago.  And you better believe that I fought it tooth and nail all the way.  But after countless shouting matches and crying fits, I ultimately lost my battle to stay eastward.  Soon finding myself walking off a plane into the harsh sunshine, knowing I would never be the same.  And I never was.  Maybe that was a good thing, maybe it wasn't, but all I know is that living here has taken many things away from me while in turn, filling those voids with amazing things I could never have acquired elsewhere.

The first thing this placed robbed from me were my friends.  Sure they said they'd write and call but little by little their hellos began to soften, finally coming to a much expected halt. Only a few good friends still linger in the distance today, hanging solely by the threads of the past. But sadly, as that past gets further and further back in time, those friends start to fade as well.

Along with losing friends, my native tongue was also quickly stolen from me when I moved here.   The word "wicked" had soiled my vocabulary for as long as I could remember.  If you had tried to engage in a conversation with me pre-California, I'm not sure I could have said more than a sentence without uttering that dreadful word.  It was just a part of me, a part of me I soon realized had to go if I were to make any new friends. I remember one of my first conversations with a native Californian and how when that word slipped past my lips, like it had hundreds of times before, they looked at me like I had just insulated their mother or something.  So after much effort, and several embarrassing moments later, I was officially "wicked" free.

And lastly, I'd have to say that the worst things California has taken from me are the life experiences that happened afar that I couldn't be a part of.   They are the things I'll never get back, like not being by my terminally ill grandfather's side at the end of his life, instead being forced to settle for a quick plane ride home and a last hug goodbye months before he died, knowing we would never see each other again, in this life anyway.  Or the wonderful things such as camping trips to Vermont, birthdays, and weddings.  I've missed so many things during the years I've been away, things I could only experience afterwards through pictures or retold stories.

But now that I've shed a tear for the bad, I must give the good a chance to reveal themselves. For example, along with losing several friends after moving here, I've in turn managed to make quite a few new ones.   They are people from all walks of life.  People who have made me smile, laugh, cry, and scream.  There were some good and some bad but they were all equal in that they impacted my life in such a way that it's allowed me to in turn build some character within myself.

And I could sit here for several hours more listing off the other amazing things California has given me like my first job, driver's license, first boyfriend, high school graduation, engagement, first television credit, and much much more.   But, the one thing I will always hold dear, the thing that could never be topped, is the birth of my brother more than thirteen years ago in Los Angeles.  He was an unforeseen surprise to the sixteen year old version of myself. And, as you can imagine, it was an experience none like any I'd ever known.  I still remember my father's radiant face as he came around the corner to the hospital waiting room, informing my brother Evan and I that we had a new baby brother. And I'll never forget those few precious seconds as I walked around the corner towards my mother's delivery room, knowing I was just moments away from meeting this unexpected person who would forever change my life.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Suicide Note That Changed Me...

I am lucky enough to have only known one person who has committed suicide.   Although we had spent several months working together, once I had left my job for good and the years started to roll by, the very idea of him began to fade, as do most people and things we encounter in life.

But nonetheless, I remember where I was when I heard the news.   I remember how shocked and cold I felt, even though I hadn't seen or thought about him in quite some time.  His death immediately making me feel a heart-wrenching sympathy for those closest to him.  A sympathy purely driven by the horrible notion that if a person I hardly cared about had the ability to pull so much emotion from me, I didn't even want to think about what it had done to them.  

So out of respect for my ex-coworker, I decided to attend his memorial.  There were people from all walks of life there.  People in his family and those who barely knew him. It was pretty much what one might expect a memorial to be, except for one bizarre thing. Unbelievably, his family had decided to print out several piles of his suicide note for everybody to take and read.  And as much as I wanted to ignore it, it was just one of those things in life that you can't disregard no matter how hard you try. So with some hesitation I quickly took a copy of my friend's last earthly thoughts and read the message he had so neatly typed and prepared for just this moment.  And what I read....the only way to explain it is to simply say his words made complete sense, while at the same time, making no sense at all.

So after all this time, after all the years that have passed since he's passed,  you'd think his memory would have dug a nice hole in the back of my brain, only to come out on special occasions.  But to my surprise, I still think about him all the time.  From the awe of seeing the first black man elected president to the simple excitement of getting my first iPhone.  He has missed, and forever will be missing, every significant moment life had had in store for him.  And for that, I feel such a profound sadness, a lingering question that will forever haunt me.  How could he give it all up?

My friend of course had his own deep dark reasons for doing what he did.  And nobody, especially me, will ever fully understand them, but in his death, he has in turn made an enormous impact on my life. Because of him, I will never take this life for granted.  Because of him, I will always make time to smell the roses.