It’s not like my Friday started off on the right foot. After waking up with intense tooth pain, I headed out mid-morning for what would quickly become an emergency root canal. Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to be the worst part of my day.
Later that afternoon, I woke up from a post-root canal nap to a text message from a friend with news that we had lost a mutual friend to suicide. My interaction with my now-passed friend had always been sporadic, but whenever we’d reconnect every couple months, we’d always brain dump and catch each other up on what was going on in our lives currently. The lack of recent communication hadn’t been cause for concern, so with this realization, I was floored, sent spinning, and ridiculously angered all at the same time.
The stories we share here at Anthologies of Hope are not past tense. They are now, they are on-going, they are affecting the story teller day in and day out, they will be tomorrow, and they will be next year. That is why the fight for mental health normalization, for suicide prevention, and breaking down stigmas is one that will always make my blood boil and be the reason I get up in the morning. It’s because of all those things, or more appropriately the lack of global effort in all those things already, that I will never be able to have a meal at a California Pizza Kitchen the same fucking way again.
This “woulda, coulda, shoulda” note has been kicking around in my brain since I saw the word suicide pop up in my messages after morphing from that damn ellipsis.
I still remember our first meeting. Your first sentence after introducing yourself still rings in my ears. “I’m a perfectionist. You’ll learn that quickly working with me”. I guess in hindsight that was both a good and a bad thing. We didn’t work on many projects after the initial few, but we always kept tabs on one another. Me with my head down in the weeds and you connecting and empowering people without hesitation; each completely bewildered and horrified of what would happen to us if our roles were somehow magically reversed in some weird Freaky Friday magic.
But it was because of this vastness in difference of our skill-sets that made us fast friends. We both attacked all our problems with the same tenacity, with the same perfectionist zeal, but also worked inside a system that was broken more often than it was functioning. I enjoyed listening to what you were working on, thinking I could never do anything like that, and then you saying there was someone I had to meet based off of your recent work.
Even when our professional networks waned and no longer overlapped much, you still pushed me more than almost any mentor, manager, or team lead ever did. There was never a new endeavor that I was starting that you weren’t supportive of. Thinking or living outside of the box wasn’t good enough. You always pushed me to go completely outside the box factory, preferably to the next town over and keep going. You saw things in me that I never thought I could nurture but kept turning that crank in our ever-so-often conversations to keep me knowledgeable that the growth was still possible, while those seeds had already been planted.
In the end, I’m sorry I couldn’t return the favor or at least let you know how much you were doing for me and everyone else you kept close... just by being you. Your positive, yet pragmatic, attitude is one that echoes in my brain throughout many conversations that could easily go sideways. There won’t be a situation or new opportunity that I go into, one which scares the shit out of me more and more with each step forward, that I won’t see you sitting on my shoulder, with your ear to ear grin and your trademark dimples, whispering “you should go for it”.
I can’t thank you enough for the friendship that we shared on this planet for far too short a time. No matter where I go, no matter what I do next, when I think I can’t do something... I’ll do it anyway because I know you would have believed in me and had a laundry lists of reasons why I couldn’t not do it!
Until our next lunch, JD...