I’m really at odds with how I feel about this year, overall, up until this point. I apologize if this is more emotional than I deserve to be or have been up until this point, but that’s where I am right now.
As far as I can remember, and you can’t hold me to this because I tend to remember things as I want to rather than how they actually occurred, I started off this year pretty awesome. I had just turned 21 and I was ready to go. In February, I met who we’re going to call my first real boyfriend, because as I’ve established previously, I’m not sure that John actually counted and I was actually head over heels in love – for real this time. My job was taken over by it’s new owners, which seemed to be an improvement. The Rangers were doing well, the Mets were promising, school was going well and I had recently decided I would be spending a chunk of my summer in Ireland. I had little to complain about other than the fact that my grandparents had both been sick, but as I understood it, that was common of grandparents. And, my grandparents always got better. It wasn’t abnormal for our family to spend a solid portion of the cold months back and forth from hospitals. It had been something I’d grown to expect from my grandfather.
And then, first slowly and then quickly, everything changed.
My grandparents never got better. They seemed to be getting sicker and I realized all too quickly that I would soon need to face reality that people get old and die, even if they really, really love me. Late April, or early May – honestly, I can’t really remember – my good friend lost her 24 year old sister to cancer, the same God awful disease that, coincidentally, was sucking the life out of my grandmother before my eyes. I was also starting to come to terms with the fact that my academic career would soon be over. Which for me was and is still absolutely terrifying. My whole life, all I’ve ever been truly talented at is being a student. I was and am unsure if I will be able to make it as a real person. All of this horribleness was tempered by the fact that, for the first time in my life, someone was unconditionally there for me and entirely mine to have. Aside from the indescribable love I have for my family and the immense appreciation and affection I have for my best friends, I had never known this love. I had never been committed to another person the way I was now. I saw all of these awful things swirling around me, but I didn’t have to pay attention because he was there and he would make it okay. Leaving the country for a month, being unsure of what or who I would come home to, it was all going to be fine because he would still be there. He promised he would be there.
And then, he wasn’t.
Early June would be the first time of three, so far, that my entire world collapsed this year. Suddenly and with little to no understandable explanation, he was gone. I no longer had someone to make sure the universe didn’t fall apart. I understood logically he had no abilities to make sure everything would be okay, but being near him made everything feel okay. But, I wasn’t near him anymore. He didn’t want to be near me even though only weeks, days, minutes before, I had been his whole world – his only concern being if I was happy. Maybe that was the root of our problem. My mind couldn’t process how someone could just walk away from love that way because the only love I’d had is the kind you don’t walk away from – the love you’re born into, born a part of and the other kind, the mutual kind that the universe just seems to know you need. I knew I had my family and friends, but I still felt deeply alone while I prepared to board a plane and cross an ocean. I was watching both of my grandparents shrink by the minute. The strong forces of nature I once knew were now reduced to shadows of themselves. It was crippling. And I was alone. And I couldn’t take it.
And then, I left.
I did the bravest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. I accepted things for what they were and the idea that time would continue whether I was there to observe it or not and that he didn’t love me anymore and that my grandparents were going to be gone someday very, very soon. I got on a plane, partly alone but partly with my best friend, and I spent a month hundreds of miles away, unable to control a single aspect of my little bubble of a world. I tried to love it as much as I could. I tried to appreciate it for what it was – probably the single most freeing and wonderful experience of my young life – but every day I missed him and I worried about home. It was hard but I love myself so much more for doing it. Things started to feel more normal every day. I heard from him regularly and we were getting ready for hockey season and my family was going to be around me so soon and my friends were home, where they belonged and we’d spend the end of our summer together and maybe he’d be mine again when I got home.
And then, my world collapsed again.
I landed at JFK and I had my parents and a welcome home text from the former center of my world. I walked through the door to my house and a surprise puppy had joined our family while I’d been gone. And then, some words and my grandfather was gone. He’d passed only days before I was scheduled to return, they told me. They tried to get me home in time, but couldn’t. They didn’t wan to upset me. I respected and understood their decision and was thankful they didn’t break my heart while I was enjoying my final days in Ireland. I accepted that my grandpa was at peace and no longer in pain and I said goodbye. But, days passed and my love still wasn’t mine again and I still didn’t feel whole. I was angry at him for leaving me so alone when I’d done nothing wrong and truly needed him most. He promised he’d be there. I didn’t break promises and so, he shouldn’t either. I decided this was unacceptable and I tried to become myself again, by myself. I focused all my energy on school and my upcoming career and adventure to the real world. In less than two months, I landed two internships and my first paid job in a TV/Film related field. I could leave the job I hated and I finally started to feel happy again. I saw how determined I was and I loved myself for it. I was starting to see myself and not just a giant sobbing puddle. All the while, I was watching my grandmother battle the Cancer, watching her cling on to life with all her strength. It was unbearable to see, so I distracted myself.
And now, as of yesterday, she’s gone too.
You think that when you know it’s coming that you’ll be able to cope better, but you’re not. It’s still like taking a bullet and you’re still selfish and want them back while simultaneously being so thankful they’re no longer in pain. And here I am with this new wonderful job, on the brink of a new, wonderful life and horribly miserable in this moment. Every time I stand back up, I get knocked down again and I’m just not sure how people do this. I know I’m strong because I’ve had to prove it enough this year, but I’m just not sure how much more I can take. I’m tired of feeling bruised. There’s something terribly unfair about doing all of this to a person all at once. I still feel alone sometimes, even though I know I’m not. But I’m confident in myself and my abilities. And I’m excited. And I’m way too emotional. It’s all really at odds with itself and I’m not sure how to feel or act or be, at all. Thank God for my family and me being born a part of so much love and knowing how to love my friends unconditionally and forever. I pray every day that that’s enough.