Sometimes I feel the way I think you feel right now.
I used to feel it pretty often.It felt like all the time.
But now, I look back at all the really bad days
and I just can’t help but smile at all the great days in between
And I know it doesn’t make a difference
or make anything better right…
The Good Luck Joes
Five years ago you sat across from me. I bought us Wendy’s with my freshman meal card because you had spent all of yours. I wasn’t surprised.
I asked what you were doing, and you laughed and told me all of the reasons that moving home was what you wanted. I asked what you were really doing, what you were doing to yourself, and you said you didn’t know.
You didn’t know.
I told you for the millionth time how smart you were, how sickeningly smart you could be if you just stopped being stupid. And even though you shook your head I knew that you agreed because I could see it in your eyes. I didn’t know that would be the last time I would ever read what you weren’t saying in them.
“And I don’t mind, and I don’t mind to look inside your thoughts.
And I don’t mind, and I don’t mind, but I can’t find my way in.”
We were supposed to hang out during my free week between semesters, but I forgot to call you, and you didn’t call me. I think we would have gone to Steak and Shake. I think we would have talked about all of the times we’d eaten there while we were student directing. I would have shown you that I still had that key we had copied, and you would have asked for it again and I would have said no because it would be way too big of a temptation for you, and when I promised your mom that I would make sure you passed AP English, that also seemed to include a silent agreement that I wouldn’t give you the master key to the high school to help you to get in trouble.
I don’t know if I would have seen it in your face this time. I don’t know if I would have asked the right questions. This is the part that feels so hollowed by cliché. These are the questions that have been asked millions of times. Would I have known? How could I have seen it if no one else did? Why didn’t you tell someone? Why didn’t you tell me? But we didn’t go to Steak and Shake, and you didn’t tell anyone, and I went back to school, and you slipped away.
“Far away, what was deemed to never change, found a rift, made a void at its own pace.
In a blindside ambush fight, it all fell at the hands of a mind game.”
I wonder all the time what your last thoughts were. I wonder the last words you spoke. I wonder if you wished you could take it back. I try so hard to remember what the last thing I said to you was, but it’s moments like that one where you don’t realize how much you should hold on to it until you’ve already let it go.
“And I will, and I will, and I will set you free.
And I will, and I will, and I will set you free.”
I know that it’s been five years now, but I still see you almost every day. You don’t look the way you used to; your story isn’t the same. But then again, when you boil it down, isn’t every hurting person’s story about a human in pain? There are so many things I wish I could have said to you back then, but I didn’t know I needed to say them. I can say them to you now, though.
It is never too late for you. Never. There is no escape in a bottle, only another handful of chains. There is always hope. You might not see it, but it is there in your ska music and your frisbee golf and every time you play your trombone. There is hope in the battle. I am with you. Don’t stop fighting because I can’t win it on my own, and neither can you.
And I care. I care that you are hurting and I care that you make it through this. Please don’t give up. Please.
Fear: to give up on myself
dream: to be proud of my accomplishments
“Tell me everything that happened.
Tell me everything you saw.”
I have never been able to forget the feeling I had the first time I wanted to be somebody else and began to dream of all the possibilities. The reality settled quickly and overwhelmed me. I was young and had just grasped the concept of change, that I would not always be who I was in that moment. It was exciting because I knew it meant dreaming wasn’t pointless. Everything seemed endless in the best kind of way.
“Did you see the closing window?
Did you hear the slamming door?”
Much later I realized the same goes for other people—they would not always be who I thought they were, who I wanted them to be. Unfortunately, I learned this lesson the hard way, and that feeling of infinity was replaced with constriction.
Dead hearts can be something that changes parts inside of you for the worst way or something that reshapes your views and preconceived notions for the better. I know both roads.
“They moved forward, my heart died.
They moved forward, my heart died.”
You’re in fifth grade, and your friends say they no longer want to be friends with you because you don’t wear the same jean size. The definition of friendship and what it looked like changes forever.
You’re sixteen, and your hero packs his suitcases after telling your Mom he’s leaving because he met a woman three weeks ago and no longer wants to stay. And everything you thought you knew is broken.
You’re in a three-year relationship, and you learn the boy you love has been unfaithful to you with his ex-girlfriend. You accept the lie that you aren’t enough and believe staying is the only way to prove your worth.
We always have choices, but along with self-realization I didn’t acknowledge how other people’s decisions could create dead hearts in me.
“It’s hard to know they’re out there.
It’s hard to know that you still care.”
Little by little the world changes. There are the surprises—the people who bring you back to life and help lay current dead hearts to rest.
The guy following you out of the bookstore late at night rather quickly is bringing you your credit card, not getting ready to attack you.
Your hero, the man who said he couldn’t stay, realizes home with your family is the only place he wants to be.
The high school teacher who keeps questioning and pushing you actually thinks you’re smart, so he’s trying to challenge, not antagonize, you.
“Dead hearts are everywhere.
Dead hearts are everywhere.”
I have had my fair share of heartbreaks and disappointments. I know sometimes it can be much easier to focus on everything that’s missing because I do that in my own head. The thing I’ve come to understand is when I do that, it’s my own choice. In those moments, I choose to let the doubt, anxiety, and dead hearts come back to life.
“They make me feel I’m falling down.
They make me feel I’m falling down.”
Contending with the past and the people in it can be a battlefield. It’s haunting to know all the different past versions of myself and others still exist in some space. I look back at photos from only a few years ago, and while I still have the memories from those moments, it looks nothing like my life anymore. The old selves, the dead hearts, the ones who made bad decisions, hurt people, were reckless and harmful to myself are no longer present in my life, but sometimes I see their shadows. I laid the former versions of myself and their dead hearts to rest, but their shadows remind me that I still carry them.
“Was there one you saw too clearly?
Did they seem too real to you?”
There are things we cannot help, but at the core, we have the ability to change—or not change—who we are. Sometimes it feels like the shadows of people I’ve been are staring back at me, and those former selves I knew might still have some life left in them after all. I cannot change the fact that at times I have been a person I am not proud of.
Instead of dwelling on my inability to change the past, I reconcile who I was with who I am and in doing so give myself the power to believe that who I am is a choice. That belief is by no means easy, but the potential for possibility is enough for me.