A little less than three weeks ago, I had a rough day. Memories of J kept pulling me under, even though I knew he never spent a single second thinking about me. After hours of staring at walls and pretending to have my life together, I walked to a dorm in the middle of campus, where for some reason, I started reading my old blog posts. Then, I found this:
After reading those words, I ran to a bathroom stall, played the Teen Titans scene from my blog post on repeat, and sobbed for twenty minutes. I felt every tear like a shock of electricity running down my face; as I crouched down on the cold hard tile, my cheek pressing into the cool granite, every nerve in my body sung, as if all my emotions just then ripped through my body. Because reading my old blog post and watching that scene made me remember an important lesson, one that gave me hope: things change.
I loved the old J, the one who cared about me, the one with an honest calm, the friend who worked hard to improve himself. But that J has died, and even though a new J exists, the one I considered a close friend has turned into stone and shattered into a million pieces. I only have memories now, beautiful and bittersweet shards that cut into my skin the more I try to keep them.
But I will grow stronger, because as 17-year-old Thomas wrote, I only have myself, my strength, my morals, and my resolve. Even though my friends and mentors may support me, I must maintain and develop my passion for mental health, for writing, and for all the people in this world around me. I have to take the jagged edges of my grief over old J’s death and melt them into a whole and beating heart, a gift to give to myself so I can stand on my own two feet again.
Perhaps one day my child will come home with a friend with J’s name, and I will feel a prick of pain at the base of my spine, right above the top of my jeans. Maybe I will teach somewhere someday, and someone will raise his hand and look just like J, and for a second I will blank, blindsided by the past. Perhaps this kaleidoscope of loss will accompany me forever, but I know now, as did my seventeen-year-old self: things change, and I can only control myself.
My mother abused me to the point where I developed an eating disorder. J said he cared about me more than anyone else, then called our entire friendship a lie and broke my heart. People have suffered more than me, and I know I will face worse hardships than this in my life. But no matter how much things change or how many people mistreat me, I choose to empathize, to grow, and to help people save themselves, just like 17-year-old Thomas helped me save myself about three weeks ago.
I found that blog post on the first day of March, with the date acting as a symbol of spring, of fresh beginnings, of a new me. A stronger me, a wiser me, and a kinder me: Thomas 2.0.
Thank you again for all the support and kindness you guys have shown me throughout this process of grief and growth. As time passes, the pain associated with J fades, and I can see myself feeling even happier and fuller than I did before. Though hard times will still come, I will do what we as humans must do: persevere and fight to prosper. Happy spring, and look forward to some non-J related posts soon!