Until It’s Too Late

On Thanksgiving Day my brother found out that his best friend died, and in a way it was fitting because nothing reminds you of what to be thankful for more than loss.

We don’t know how he died – it could have been suicide, but maybe not. I’m not here to talk about that. What I am here to talk about is paying attention to your life, and to the lives of the people around you.

My brother’s friend died a week before the police broke down the door of his bedroom and found his body. He lives with roommates, who I guess didn’t think to check on him. I can only imagine how they must feel now, knowing that he was there, dead, this entire time as they went about their daily lives mere feet away.

As someone who has contemplated suicide many times, a thought I always had was that if I made that choice, no one would notice for a very long time. I didn’t have a lot of friends and the ones that I did have were pretty absent (and still are for the most part if we’re honest), and I don’t talk to my parents regularly enough for them to worry about me. I attributed all of this to the fact that my life was just awful so that was probably even more reason to do it. That was the depression talking, of course, but I still think about that every now and again, and I still felt like there was no way that that would ever happen to most other people, who are swimming in friends and family and so on.

But it does, doesn’t it? More than we like to admit. Our culture is so hands-off. We feel like we’re bothering people and being pushy or nosy if we ask questions. We think that they’ll come to us if they need something. We don’t say things that we should say because we assume that they already know. I do it too. Sometimes for those reasons but more because I assume that they don’t care about me, and since they don’t get involved in my life they certainly won’t want me getting involved in theirs.

Sometimes it’s big, serious things like mental illness, but sometimes it’s little things like relationship drama or a tough job search or even a particularly trying school assignment. Asking all of your friends, “Hey, are you okay? No seriously, ARE YOU OKAY?!” every other day is probably not going to be helpful, but showing interest in the smaller aspects of their lives can be. If you don’t show that you care on a ‘normal’ day, how will they know that they can turn to you when the shit hits the fan (which it inevitably always does for everyone at some point)? I can’t tell you how much it would mean to me for people to just check on me every couple of weeks, like, “Hey, how are you? What’s new?” instead of having to seek them out when I want to tell them something.

Don’t just wait for people to come to you. We are all full of various insecurities that stop us from seeking out love and attention. Go to them. Even if you don’t feel like they’ll reciprocate – maybe one day they will. Be hands-on. BE touchy-feely. Say how you really feel and often, even if all you’re met with is silence.

I’m hardly the poster child for this kind of thing – I am the undisputed queen amongst my friends of the emotional card or letter or social media post or what have you, but lately I’ve kind of stopped doing that stuff. I’ve given into the whole “too-cool-to-care” thing. All caring ever did was hurt me and I got nothing out of it. I said that once last year and my friend said, “No you didn’t – you got me.” Of course, he was wrong, because ever since then all he’s done is pull farther away from me until we were nothing at all, but he was right, too.

Every now and then I’ll see or hear something that reminds me, more than usual, and I just get overwhelmed with feelings and start crying for an hour. Sometimes it’s not even logical. Once, it was the Gossip Girl DVD menu music. I guess it reminded me of high school. I never know what to do with these moments. I don’t talk about them. I don’t even know what they’re for. It’s not like my thoughts are coherent. But they go like this, played in a constant loop and punctuated with song lyrics:

I miss you…
I miss my best friend.
(Remember that one time…)

I love you.
I always will.
Thank you for everything.
I want you to be happy.
Do you even know?

Do you even know?

That one shouldn’t be in there.

They’re not for nothing – those moments are a call to action. They’re representations of a bond so powerful and so beautiful that it literally moves you to tears. True love is more than just one thing and it takes many forms. It can be romantic, yes, and we certainly had our fair share of that back in the day, but it can also be between family members, or friends, or it can be undefinable and in a way we are all of those things. Those moments mean don’t give up. Don’t stop caring. Say something.

Funny enough, one of those moments happened just before my brother came home. And I remembered how I used to live in fear of that happening to us, and every time that one of us didn’t say something that could have helped. And the times that we did. Recently – “If you ever really need me, I’m going to be there for you.” Sometimes it’s as simple as that. Sometimes I wonder how different things would be if we said things like that all the time.

Those moments mean, you are missing something, but you will find it again some day, if you listen hard enough. And in those moments of pure feeling, what do I hear? Nothing about all of the various ways that we’ve hurt each other over the years. Just love. Everything seems so small and meaningless compared to a feeling that is so big. Nothing is more important. The only way we’ll find our way out of the tangled mess that our story has become is by following that feeling.

So I thought, yeah. It’s better to look like a fool for caring too much, which I definitely do, than to live with regret and wait until it’s too late. And yes, all I was met with was silence, which I half-expected because it’s been the norm for a while now, but at least it’s out there.

That’s my story, or one of them, at least, but we all have one. I hope, that if there is someone in your life who you haven’t seen in a while, that you reach out. I hope that you tell the people who you see all the time that you love them, even if they already know. I hope that we all become the kind of friend that we want to have.

(And if someone drops off the grid for longer than a day, find them. Seriously. And if they turn out to be fine and ask you why you’re all up in their grill, you can tell them this story.)

When you started crying, baby, I did too
But when the sun came up I was looking at you
Remember when we couldn’t take the heat
I walked out, I said, “I’m setting you free”
But the monsters turned out to be just trees
When the sun came up, you were looking at me.
You were looking at me
Oh, you were looking at me…
(Are we out of the woods yet
Are we out of the woods yet
Are we out of the woods yet
Are we out of the woods)

I remember,
(Are we in the clear yet

Are we in the clear yet
Are we in the clear yet
In the clear yet, good)
Oh I remember.

-Taylor Swift


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