Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Then and Now 17 - The Two Who Saved My Life

Then and Now 17 - The Two Who Saved My Life
Time: Mid-2007, at my bud's aunt's place, and single at the hostel.

I'll start this Then and Now a bit farther down.

First, even though this has little to do with marriage, I can't let what my best friend has done for me go unsaid. Were it not for him, I would never have had my time as an awesome, unmarried man. Back in my high school days, two really serious things went down in my life. In both of those times, I was a very, very short decision away from running away from home and probably ending up dead on the streets. Even the members of my family that weren't the source of my pain weren't enough to keep me from making that decision. I wasn't all that close to anybody in my family until I was in college, and in my depressed, teenaged mind, they would all have been better off without me.

It was my best friend that kept me from throwing it all away. It wasn't just the fun times we had together, or the talks we had about life, or the unspoken support he offered me while I was still in America. He was my inspiration, my hero, even. All those things I mentioned about myself before I got married (in my Freedom post) were things that I was inspired to by my best friend: the charisma, the humor, the cool exterior, the passionate inside, they were all things I learned from him. He was those things, and I wanted to be him. Just knowing that there was hope, however slim, that I could come out of my depressed days and get to where he was in life, kept me from making that decision to run.

My best friend was the first person to save my life. He kept me alive and living a life of hope, even in my darkest moments. I'm eternally in his debt for what he has done for me. And because of him, I met the second person who saved my life, this time in college.

It wasn't a magical process for me to eradicate my depression. I tried so many things to get better: prayer, positive thinking, leaving school, magic, talking with people about my problems, complaining, ignoring my issues, asking girls on dates... but nothing worked. It was at that time that a girl, Leena, came into my life, and turned everything around. I didn't know her that well at first; she was just an acquaintance of my apartmentmate. We talked a bit, and I thought she was cute, but I didn't bother getting to know her at first. But as she started coming around more and more, I felt less scared around her. And after a time, I started to lust after her. I thought she could be the girl who I not only slept with for the first time, but the girl who could fix my life for me. And yet, no matter how many times that fat, hairy, boring loser I was asked her out, she always said no. Go figure.

It was my 21st birthday when it happened. I was on my way to work at a cafeteria on campus, and at the suicidal bottom of one of my depression waves that usually lasted for several hours before returning me to a steady unhappiness and unease. And out of nowhere, there she was. In this entire city-sized campus, she just happened to meet me right there. She saw that I wasn't looking happy, and asked if I was ok. I don't know why, but I just spilled my guts right there: my family, my depression, everything.

Then she asked me a simple question. It was a question that broke through my exterior, sliced right through me and drove itself right into my soul. I would never be the same after she put it to me:

"Do you want to get better?"

The world spun. I was in absolute shock, and thoughts raced through my mind in a fraction of a second. Did I want to stop blaming others for my problems? Did I want to take charge of my own life? Did I want to change the person I was, and become someone completely different? Would I take that responsibility on my shoulders, and stop coasting through life with a comfortable pain over an uncertain future?

And without further hesitation, I answered, "Yes."

No "if you'll go on a date with me." No "but I don't want to spend ten years doing it." No conditions, no negativity, just a simple, straight answer.

That question focused my mind on fixing myself more than anything before. No longer would I be content to blame my family, or self-diagnosed illnesses that I didn't have, for ruining my life. It was all on me from then on. Within the next year, I dug down deep within my heart and found all the reasons I was depressed. I focused all of my thinking away from depression or anger, and instead on confidence and forward-looking. I forgave or forgot everyone in my life that hurt me, and slowly formed my goal to be an honorable, married man (that second goal would later ruin me), and never again stopped fighting for my happiness. It took me a week to stop feeling suicidal, a month for the worst of my depression to leave, three months for the bulk of it to be gone, and a year to destroy every last trace of it. And just five months after I made that pledge to Leena, I started dating my first girlfriend.

After things fell through with my first and we mutually broke it off, I started working minimum wage jobs to support myself while I tried to find my goal in life. I knew who I wanted to be, but not what I wanted to do. I already mentioned before that my good bud got me to travel with him to this country, and that was what helped me to formulate my goal of going abroad and experiencing life. But to tell the truth, it wasn't just him. Leena is originally from this country, and I wasn't just going abroad to become a new man and live my new dream. That was the biggest reason, of course, but the other was that she moved back to this country just as my good bud asked me to travel with him. I wanted to be with her, so I came to see her.

I started getting back into contact with Leena while I was still at my bud's aunt's place. We set up a time to meet through email, and Leena invited me and my bud to see one of the heads of her church, Daniel. I met and talked with him a lot in America, and I had no idea he lived so close to my bud's aunt. So after I got the time all set up for us to meet, only a day or two went by before Leena and Daniel came to pick up my bud and I and take us to a vegetarian restaurant.

And there she was, this amazing, beautiful, friendly, smart and funny girl that I had pined for for several years. I could barely contain my excitement while Daniel took all of us to eat, but I spent a lot of my time in the car and at the restaurant talking and playing with Daniel's little son, who had looked up to me as a big brother for several years in America.

When we got to the restaurant, I ate one little piece of everything in the shop, because there were just so many choices. Leena taught me how to say, "I ate one of everything" in the local language while I was at it. Daniel even came to my aid when I was showing off my up and coming skill at the local language. At one point, I said the word for "hotel" that I learned from the dictionary, then my bud started to bust my balls about how it was the wrong word. Daniel then took on the stern old uncle personality and told my bud that I was entirely correct, because I was talking about a certain kind of hotel. My bud smirked and shrugged his shoulders in surrender, and I beamed with pride.

We talked and ate for about an hour before Daniel took us all home. And it was only a little bit after I moved to the hostel that I was able to set up a time for Leena and I to meet up again. A quick subway ride after I got her email, I saw the inimitable, intelligent beauty that was Leena once again. I think I blushed a bit there, but I kept my feelings in check. She took me past a bunch of shops to her friend's house, where we all ate lunch together. I told jokes, shared stories of my experiences in her country, listened as they shared their religious beliefs with me, practiced my language skills, and played some games with their kids. Leena took me back to the subway about an hour later, and we met up with another of her friends and his family a few days later. It was much the same fun experience as my time with her first friend's family, but I scared these people's little girl on accident while I was playing ball with her.

On yet another day, Leena took me on a trip up into the mountains to have a picnic with her and her friends. We all met up at the foot of the mountain and chatted for a bit, then loaded up in separate cars and drove up winding roads looking over amazing views of the forests and city below. When we neared the top, we all got out and took a healthy hike up for the rest of the trip. It was a hot day, and the road was covered in dirt from the mountains above. We also saw some wild, homeless dogs sleeping to the side.

The picnic area was a very comfortable spot shaded by trees and at the foot of a very mild hill. It also had a communal barbecue grill for anyone to cook in. We ate so much food up there that I thought I would explode. Leena and I ate with a dozen of her friends, and families from all over the city. Everyone spoke in English that day out of respect for me and my ok skills, but I tried to converse in the local language when I could. I talked with Leena a lot, too, while we sat around in some trees. I knew she came back to take care of her sick father, so I listened as she simply (and humbly) just told me about the long hours at her job. When the day ended, we all went back down the mountain. But instead of going back to the hostel by myself, I went to an independent supermarket to pick up something healthy for Leena's dad. I got a box of Special K, because I wasn't sure if he could take vitamins or something stronger.

I delivered this gift to her at our final meeting together, when I went to her church to meet more of her friends. We talked a lot about life and the importance of helping others with her friends, and when I got Leena by herself, we discussed her parents, dreams and work, and also how much I had grown. After dinner, and meeting the head of her church (a nice old guy with a lot of stories to tell), Leena took me back outside to walk me to the subway station. And it was there that I made my move.

I asked her if she wanted to go to dinner with me sometime. She asked, "As a date?" so I said yes. She got quiet for a bit, then said that she had to think about it, because she was so busy working and taking care of her father. I held out the optimistic thought that she actually meant what she said, but truth be told, I've heard the "I'm not all that into you, but I don't know how to let you down without hurting you" response enough times to know that that's what I was getting.

Still, I didn't let her response get me down. Two days later, I woke up in the hostel with the morning sun settled just behind some high rises far to the east, and in my hand was my cellphone. Since some time had passed, I thought Leena had had enough time to think, so I was going to call her and get her final response. I dialed, pressed the phone to my ear, and was ready to date her.

But as I looked out the window and on the city from that high floor, I was overcome by a sense of smallness, wonder and adventure. Cars were going up and down roads cutting between huge buildings, people were on the streets and ready to live another day, and here I was to experience it all.

"Hello?" Leena said.

I smiled, still looking outside. "Hey, Leena!" I replied. "Listen, I'm sorry for putting you on the spot that night. I know you're really busy taking care of your father and working so hard, and I shouldn't have bugged you about a date."

"Oh!" she responded in surprise.

"Yep. Don't worry about what I said," I replied, "just concentrate on your family for now. That's the most important thing."

"Ok, thanks a lot!" she said back. "I will."

"No problem. Gotta go, you stay cool and let me know if you need anything," I said.

"Ok, goodbye!" she replied.

I let her go. We had two different paths to follow in life, and while hers took her down the road of support for her family, I had a world to explore. Looking out of that window, I knew that life was an adventure, and the only person who could see me through to experience it was myself. That's what the two people who saved my life taught me.

As for today...

I woke up at 12:00.
My wife took our son to his grandma's house.
I played video games.
My wife and son came home, so I turned off the game.
I ate lunch.
I took my son to the arcade, then we went home.
I watched internet movies with him.
I went to work.
I taught students.
I came home.
I roughhoused with my son.
I watched internet movies with him.
I surfed the net.
I cleaned up the floor and table.
I folded and put away dry clothes.
I watched internet movies with my son.
He fell asleep.
I played video games.
I slept.

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