Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Break Through

It took a long while before I finally began to feel ok about feeling ok. Even while I was enjoying myself, my heart still hurt. All during that first week, I would have these small moments where things were great but then I went right back to feeling crappy again. Every time I had a free moment, I was on the phone with Bradley on the verge of tears or bitching to Tyler. My brother had died only 6 weeks earlier and every smile or happy thought that overcame me felt like a betrayal to his memory. It was just so hard to let myself be happy when I know my little brother died miserable and alone.

So during the day whenever there were eyes on me I smiled from ear to ear, I cracked jokes, and I was more charismatic than I have ever been in my entire life. Then night would come and I would cry myself to sleep. I decided to follow through with camp because I have always believed in the age-old remedy of “fake it ‘til you make it”. But 3 days in and I was already completely burnt out from overcompensating way too much! On that third night I just went into my room and sat in my bed unable to sleep or cry or really do anything! I was actually starting to worry myself because there’s no way that this could be normal.

Around 1am there was a knock on my door. It’s really disconcerting answering the door to a 19yr old kid on the verge of tears when normally said kid is walking around with a cocky smirk on his face acting like the king of the world. I guess that’s when it first started to sink in that maybe I am not the only person in the world who is currently suffering. I could tell immediately that he didn’t want to talk about what was bothering him, but at the same time he didn’t want to be alone. I could relate to that, so I suggested that we go for a walk where awkward silences would be a lot more tolerable. At first he tried to apologize for bothering me and suggested we go back to the dorms. But I explained to him that I was just as sad as he was and he pretty much just saved me from a night of staring at the wall trying to stop the tears from coming.

Everybody knows that misery loves company, so that night we started a tradition. Every night after everybody else had gone to bed, we went around exploring the campus and had some deep conversations. During that first week we never really got into why we were both sad, but we did silently acknowledge that we were, and there was a lot of comfort in it. UCLA is MASSIVE and I know it well, so it was a whole lot of fun showing him all the cool things there are to see, and reminiscing about all the different ways I used to get into trouble!

One night on our way back to the dorms he told me why he was upset. When he was done it took everything I had to not start crying right along with him! But I didn’t, I was strong, and I just gave him a firm hug and let him cry until he couldn’t anymore. After he’d sufficiently recovered we’d both decided that there was no way we were getting any sleep after this break through. So being the couple of amnesiacs that we were, we grabbed a couple of surfboards, jumped in my car, and went down to my favorite beach. Somewhere between catching our last wave and some early morning chocolate shakes at my favorite diner, I told him all about my little brother. I don’t know how I managed it, but I didn’t even shed one tear. The thought of breaking down in front of one of my students just didn’t seem right to me, even though at this point I had started to think of him more as my friend.

As the sun began to rise I felt myself smile without guilt for the first time in a very long time. We got back to campus just in time to make it look like we’d been there all along. That whole morning I felt amazing! It wasn’t like I was magically better. My heart still ached and I still missed my brother, but I also finally started to feel like it was okay to be happy again.


Anonymous said...

That was pleasant to read.

Trevor said...

This is you in your element. You are a mentor and when you are helping and nurturing others, you are happy. When you are away during the summer you are always at your happiest! One day you will have your own summer camp and you are going to be the most successful guy ever.

John said...

We all cope differently. Its great you found somebody you could grieve with. It seems like you two shared some special times. I am a little jealous. You are the coolest guy I never met.

darren said...

You draw your strength by helping others find their own. You are constantly amazing me with your thoughtfulness and insight into others. I hope you are able to find the peace and closure you deserve with your brother. I know it's an ongoing process and I am sure he would want you to be happy.

Mind Of Mine said...

This is the true definition of a mentor, your student was blessed to have you.

Mike said...

I'm so glad you posted this. Your absent from your brother's death post to your last post was such a non sequitur. You're brother's death post...well lets say I had the most empathy I felt for you, much more than your father or boyfriend issues. Fathers are always assholes, boyfriends always come and go, but it's the deaths (my immediate family - car accident, alcohol poising, building accident) that are haunting. While you'll learn to live w/ your father being an asshole and lovers coming and going - it so difficult to learn to live w/ death. Throughout your life you'll always think about brother and his death.

And I don't want to be trite, but your brother's death even affected me. I thought about it, constantly over the last two months.

Nivek said...

you're really an amazing person and such an amazing writer. thanks for sharing yourself with us. it really made my day :)