It is the final sunset of 2019, the dawn of a new decade approaches and I go into the city by the bay, San Francisco, to say my peace with everything I’ve let go of this year. In the picture captured above is a random parent I saw on the way up to this small little trek up to this vista point. I met his son who appeared to be on a spectrum. Having worked with students in special populations gave me a heartfelt appreciation and a sense of awe to see this parent stick to his son through the thick and thin. I can only imagine what type of journey this father had gone through to reach here with his son, what potential hardships they might have faced, and the trials and tribulations they overcame to enjoy this peaceful and beautiful view of the city. A father’s unconditional love gave me a lot of hope that my new path forward would lead to something fruitful for me. I don’t know if I will ever be a parent but if I were to be one, I would hope to have a fraction of what the father pictured above has for his kid.
But as I looked here for one last time as the person who had lost everything meaningful in his life, I began to ponder where life would take me next. I had gotten some good emails with UC Davis students about starting a Lion Dance team, I had registered again for school to finally finish my degree, and I had started the process of moving back home to help my father with his Parkinson’s. The world seemed to be moving along, and I would no longer allow myself to be left behind without cause. As I stood there staring stoically into the city, I looked back at my life and the journey that I embarked on to get here.
I look back at everything I’ve lost, I look back at all the people I’ve had to let go and say goodbye to. All the important things that I’ll never get to finish because I chose to walk away. All the things they will never know because I chose to turn around and let it go. All the people that I can never say “see you when I see you” to because all that’s left for us was goodbyes. I remember my brother who was murdered in a drug deal gone bad, and the role my other brother and I played in it. I have many regrets in his passing and although I still feel a sense of responsibility for being unable to play a more positive role in his life, I accept everything that happened as it is and move forward with it. I accept the responsibilities of the part and person I played and instead of moping around in self-pity, I own up to those mistakes and live my life to make up for it and be better for others.
To my uncle who was the only positive father figure that I’ve ever known, I come to terms with the things that I’ll never get to have in my life. I remember your passing, it came only weeks after my brother, your nephew, and it felt like a lie to hear it so soon. I think I was too lost and it was just another rock bottom to hit before I could muster up the tenacity to push myself back up. I just remember sitting in the back of the church with this song playing in my headphones on repeat. I remember the isolation I felt back there, I remember all the people walking by me as I hid the piercing sorrow in my heart and the gaping wound that had been gashed deeply all within the span of 3 weeks. I remember wishing deeply to have someone meaningful to help me through all of this pain and anguish. I wished deeply that I had a normal enough family that I could speak to with even an ounce of vulnerability. I wished that I could show just the tiniest bit of weakness to my friends without the crippling fear that they will somehow abandon me with pity. I remember going through all of this alone and coming to terms that nobody is going to come knocking in my lonely hour.
But I refuse to leave the memory of my uncle, who taught me so much in the little amount of time we spent together, to be wasted with the sorrowful woes of a man who still has so much to see and experience in this life. I refuse to let those lessons be tainted by my inability to move forward through the pain and hardship that everyone has to face. I remember summoning up the courage for the first time in over a year since his passing to visit his gravestone all by myself. I wanted someone to come with me, to care about me enough to help me move forward with this tough moment in life. But I knew in my heart, nobody will be brave enough to knock on that door, so I charged through boldly alone.
I remember showing up at the site and not even knowing where he was buried because I missed the burial for work. I was ready to walk across every gravestone until I saw his familiar name. I was lucky to run into the caretaker of the facility who remembered the incident around his accident, and exactly where he was buried. We talked about how we each saw the fragility of life and how it often takes us on unexpected journeys like this one. As I finally got there to his gravesite, I said my peace to him, all the things that he never knew. I left him with some flowers and a few cranes and a piece of my knife to symbolize how he etched beautiful memories deep into my heart and soul.
I always enjoyed taking pictures of benches. They are structures that listen to stories, how many hearts were broken on this bench? How many lives were ended on this bench? How many memories were forgotten on this bench? Who sat here and pondered the worthiness of the life they lived? A bench can tell many tales of tragedy but it can also tell tales of hope. How many people successfully confessed their love on this bench? How many families got their start on this bench? How many people sat here and came to the conclusion of starting a brand new life? Who has sat here and pondered the endless opportunity that life will give them? How many happy memories were created on this bench?
I never took a seat myself. I wasn’t ready yet. I didn’t come here to make memories but to instead come to terms with them and let go of the power they used to hold over me. I came here to let go of all the painful emotions of my past and the power they had to strip away joy and meaning from my life. 2019 was an excruciating year of growth for me. I still think back to the start of it and the heart that I left here. I didn’t come here to this bench to find the person I used to be, the love I used to have, or the heart that I buried here. I came here to tell the world, to tell 2020, to tell the new year, to tell myself, that I am not back, I am better.
I came to tell myself, all the versions of myself, that I am better, that we are better, and that nothing can stop us now. Nothing can stop us because we’ve finally done it, we chose our right answer. We chose to move forward and nothing and nobody can take that away from us. That no matter what hardships befall us, we’re never going to be afraid of the ifs and hows, because we know that we can always put in that hard work and not only survive our adversity but defeat it in a landslide victory. The only real losers are the ones who quit, and quitting is a choice. So we can be defeated as many times as we have to, but as long as we always choose to get back up, as long as we always choose to keep pushing forward, we’ll always be winners.
Here’s to us Bill,
To our future,
To our past,
To a present for us,
Life is Studying