This I Believe

Thomas - Royal Palm Beach, Florida
Entered on October 11, 2006

I believe life is too short to care about anything less than finding your personal happiness; drop everyone’s idea of what you must be and only care about your own expectations.

There is only way to put it, my insecurity ran my life – my best energy went to into proving to everyone that I was worth it, trying desperately to fit into a mould that I thought everyone would accept me in. At the time, towards the final days of middle school, you could have asked me what I wanted to do with my life, what kind of person I saw myself as – and I would have answered right away, I knew the answers so well, they told me them. Everything was flowing so smoothly, they told me everything, and I did everything they said – ever hoping that they’d think I was something.

“Thomas…we need to talk…”

“…ok….”

“It’s about dad, he….”

“………?”

“Well he’s sick….”

About a week later I realized what “sick” exactly entailed – an acute case of Hepatitis C with a liver transplant being the only way to keep him alive. Naturally I was shocked, confused, concerned, but still at the time my mind had yet to truly wrap itself around the idea that my father was slowing dying. Yet on the surface he looked fine, he kept going to work, kept smiling – maybe that mysterious Hepatitis C and far-off liver transplant my mother kept grimacing about wasn’t so horrid.

That was my mistake, horrid couldn’t even begin to describe the next two years. Initially I still continued on putting all my energy caring about what everyone else thought of me, and then the disease started showing. Over a period of eighteen months his health dwindled, he aged rapidly – someone who was once at the peak of health looking like a walking cadaver: with dried out yellow skin, between bile spots poking through between dry patches, face sunk in. I’ve never forgotten how he looked towards the end, it would be a lie to say it didn’t dramatically effect me later on. Nevertheless he got the liver transplant by a stroke of luck, less than a month before they expected his organs to shut down. He was rushed off to a far-off hospital in Miami, where it was done. I remember sighing with relief when my mother called me two days later, saying it was a success, that he was now resting.

A week later my father was still sleeping in a hospital bed, one I’d never see. Yet I was outside, it was rather bright out – the grass was vividly green, so much so it could almost be yellow; my mother was in the thick of it, weeding. I made my way over to say hello, she looked up and didn’t say anything. Minutes rolled by without either of us making any effort to speak. In a strangely calm voice she started telling me about why it all happened, why a man seemingly so happy-go-lucky would drink his liver into oblivion. I left that conversation with wide eyes.

It was another two months before he came home, weakened and shriveled, but alive. It was another two or three weeks before he sat me down and really started to explain everything. In a nutshell, because his father abandoned him, he was left insecure and confused; together created a man who lived his life trying to please people, to be approved by everyone. Naturally, this bending over backwards to please (which always failed regardless) left him tense, dismal – alcohol became his new best friend. Somehow a virus got mixed into the whole mess and the rest is history. It was everything my mother had told me three months earlier.

After he’d left the room I just started thinking about what he’d said, thinking of a comment he’d dropped midway through, “what a waste of time…waste of twenty-five years”. Fitting into someone else’s mould started to seem ridiculous to me. I compared myself to my father – I didn’t want to end up like that, regretting the past twenty-five years of my life, criss-crossed with massive surgical scars. This was the first time I can remember I really looked into myself, and ask myself what did I want to do about myself. I started my new lifelong process of searching inside myself for what I wanted to do, searching for my personal happiness – something that I’ve recently found is unattainable when trying to fit yourself into a cookie cutter.