This I Believe

Christine - San Gabriel, California
Entered on October 10, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: death, setbacks
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I believe in struggle. To some this may sound cold and heartless, but through struggle I have found the truest thing that any human can find; I found myself. I wish that life was full of rainbows and sunshine; however, I am a realistic person and I know that that world does not exist. I believe in struggle because it sure does believe in me. Through the pain of struggle, people can learn more about whom they are and what they believe in.

My whole life has been one big, constant struggle to just remain sane in an insane world. I have been exposed to drugs, suicide, murder, divorce, and emotional abandonment. Through my struggle I have found that I am much stronger and more capable than I thought I actually was.

It was my senior year in high school when one of the most tragic events happened in my life. One April afternoon, I was coming back onto campus with a group of students that provided counseling sessions for children and teens on different school campuses. Our group had nothing really in common except the desire to help others.

Our session was over and we were strolling our way to the front of our school’s big, iron entrance. The school looked like a prison on the outside, yet it was a tropical paradise on the inside. I was laughing with a couple of the other girls in my group like typical teen girls do, when I saw one of my good friends. He was walking out of our giant prison doors earlier then the rest of the school because he didn’t have a sixth period. He walked with total ease and confidence, but all the while conveying with his eyes a sense of humanity and humbleness. I turned to my classmates and told them I would catch up with them another time.

His name was Ryan, but no one ever called him that. We all called him “Milky” because even though he came from a Hispanic family, he was as pale and pasty as an Irish man. He almost made me laugh just seeing his gangster strut through his washed out skin color. We hugged and greeted each other like any other normal friends would. We talked about how we needed to catch up with each other some time that week because we were going to prom together. It was our senior prom and I knew I would have a blast going with a friend, because neither one of us would be obligated to stay with the other.

Milky and I were standing together in front of the school entrance, when the bells chimed interrupting our conversation. As I was about to leave for class, I took one last look back at my friend and saw compassion in his eyes, which always made me feel warm and comfortable. As he made his typical crude gesture, I giggled like a little girl and ran off with out saying goodbye.

Knowing I would hear about it later, I ran back and gave him a giant bear hug; unlike any other. He laughed and asked, “What was that for?”

I responded with a casual tone but with a hint of attitude, “Just wanted to say goodbye you punk.”

“You better have or you know you would have gotten it later. No manners today, what is the world coming to?” He said this with his usual sarcastic tone, but in a friendly manner. I walked off and went to class.

Soon after however, my world fell apart. Our school was complete chaos in the front. There were ambulances, cops, and the crowd was only growing bigger. At first I thought nothing of it until I started to hear the whisperings among the students. “Someone was shot.” one girl whispered to her friends. Another group was saying there was a shoot out, and the conversations were only getting worse as you walked past the crowd. I still wasn’t really sure what to think, not until a friend of mine came to deliver the bad news.

“Milky! It’s Milky out there!! He was shot. They are taking him to the hospital right now!!” My friend dropped this bomb on me and my heart dropped into the pit of my stomach, where it met its demise. I felt as though I couldn’t breathe. For a moment I stood there in shock staring at my friend as if what I heard was a hurtful rumor or some cruel joke. I came to my senses when my friend started to give me a look as though I had uttered some nasty racial slur. I knew my unexpected reaction made me look like a heartless demon, so I took a deep breath and shakily asked, “Are you sure it was Milky? How could any one know that yet?”

My friend spilled out all the details and to this day I still don’t know how she named them so quickly. I had to go because as I was being force fed these details, my emotions were about to boil over, and I didn’t dare make this event about me by making a scene in public. I retrieved my little sister and we went home. She too was Milky’s friend, so we sat in an eerie, cold silence in the car. She turned to me they way a child does to a parent hoping that he/she will make it all better and asked, “He will be alright, right? It’s Milky, there is no way he won’t survive this.” I turned and shrugged as a tear came out of one my eyes. I too wanted to live in denial about the situation, but as every second went by in that car, I grew more and more scared. He had to survive he just had to. I repeated this statement to myself as I went home and had to get ready for work.

When I got to work I couldn’t do anything that conveyed any real emotions, in fear my tears would come falling out like a waterfall. I sealed those gates with a cold, icy exterior just in order to endure the night. That barrier was blown through when my dad came to see me. He delivered the news I feared all day and didn’t want to hear. My friend died by two gun shot wounds; one was to his stomach and the other to his head. The reasons for the killing are still a mystery and I doubt I will ever know. It turned out though that I was the last of his friends to see him alive and was the last person to say goodbye. I broke down into tears as my dad stood there holding his eighteen year old daughter as though she was a new born baby, crying in the middle of the night. I couldn’t understand why my friend was taken from me.

For a while our school wore black as a sign of respect and didn’t talk to any reporters. I never was able to stand by Milky’s side at graduation, laugh with him, or do anything with him ever again. I have made peace with his loss, but when I saw his empty chair on our graduation stage, I cried. The tears still come, but there is an awkward sense of peace that follows those tears. I feel blessed because I WAS able to say goodbye, unlike any other person in his life. Milky was murdered and there is no going back. Overcoming this strange reality that sat before me was truly terrifying. I had no choice but to face the fact that this was not going to be an easy hurdle to get over, and that I will struggle. I never have gotten over it, but I do have a quite sense of acceptance of the situation.

I have seen and been through a lot, but nothing prepares you for murder. My friend is now at peace, and in a way it comforts me. It took almost a year of crying and tears for my soul to come to peace. In the end, the struggle made me stronger and wiser of the ways of the world. I believe in pain and struggle. Struggle builds us all up for the harsh and cruel realities of this world, and then teaches us something about ourselves if we are willing to look for it. People speak of death as though it is in the distant future, but few realize death can be just around the corner. His death allowed my soul to accept the struggle of this world, and accept the things that I can never change. I love him then and still love him now. My pasty, pale Hispanic friend taught me something ever day we were together. He even taught something in death and I owe him my sense of inner calm and peace. Everyone struggles, but looking for the truth in this struggle will teach you something that will last all of your life.