Losing Family, Finding Family.

I moved to San Francisco in the midst of a flurry of life changes. I was not happy. I was not happy with school, I was not happy with my weekly commute, I was not happy with my lack of free time. Something needed to change, and quick. When people say 19 is a difficult age, I don’t think they’re really referring to what I went through, but I guess there’s the possibility that mine was an extreme case.

I had just lost my sister to cancer. I lived on a friend’s couch for a little over 4 months. I BART-trained back and forth between San Francisco and my hometown once weekly. When I wasn’t at work, I was partying, getting into trouble, grieving, numbing. I was stuck in purgatory, and I didn’t really have a definite end in sight.

Let me tell you something about losing a family member, since I’ve been fortunate enough to lose two in this short lifetime, I’m pretty much an expert on the matter. The first time will send you spiraling into an existential crisis, but the second time will solve the riddles. You realize that life is fleeting and death is random. Our existence is but a fragile one, and can be blotted out at any time.

I probably would have been content to spend several-months-to-years inside of this self destructive world. If it had not been for my friends and family, I would certainly still be there. I’m sure you hear this cliché adage three times a day. Whether it’s script font superimposed over a cheesy family pic, or a greeting card on a shelf in a grocery store. We’re surrounded by it, that trite sentimentalism that infects our airwaves and makes us sick to our stomach.

That’s not what I mean. I’m saying that with tragedy, it’s important to understand what kind of support system you have. It’s difficult to describe, so I’ll do my best. When someone close to you dies, you start to feel like you’ve discovered a deep-dark secret that most people don’t understand. Your cynicism grows, and it’s very easy to start feeling you can’t relate to anybody. The problems of others start to feel small to you. If only they knew that things could be way worse. 

Eventually, if you’re like me, you do a really good job of developing an impenetrable shell. A hard exterior that nobody can get through. It’s easy to be brainwashed by this facade we construct, because no feelings means good feelings, right? If this had been some time ago, I might agree with you; because I spent a ton of time feeling the exact same way.

It wasn’t until my 20th birthday that I began to realize my foolishness. The people whose couch I had been sleeping on asked me if it was okay that they throw me a birthday party. I told them that I didn’t care, that they could do whatever they wanted; and so they did. What I came home to that night was a gathering of some of my closest friends, from all the different stages of my life. There were high school friends, my college roommates  whom I had recently abandoned, various co-workers. I never told anybody this, but I cried to myself in the bathroom that night; but the tears were tears of joy.

What I realized was that no matter how much I closed myself off, there were still people who felt a connection to me. I’d never felt so incredibly selfish in my life. These people had obviously given so much of themselves to me, purely because they wanted to. I knew at that moment that no amount of perspective or experience should amount to closing one’s self off to what humanity has to offer.

At that same party, I reconnected with a college friend who had moved out to the City not too long before. He told me he was looking for a place, and that he would let me know if he found anything. We continued to hang out with each other regularly, and moved in with one other person a few months later. 

The three of us now connect on the same level as family members, but our family has grown even more. Nowadays, I live in a beautiful household with four of my closest friends. Together, we split the hardships of life– and let me tell you, it makes it much more enjoyable. Everything is fleeting, and we are doomed to live with constant change – but nobody ever said we had to take it on alone.

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