This I Believe

Julia - Alpharetta, Georgia
Entered on April 27, 2009
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: carpe diem
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The respirator consistently beeps at a painfully high pitch. The irritating noise distracts my attention from the visit and I begin to secretly wish the respirator’s beeps will shut off completely. Reality intervenes into my selfish desire when the respirator begins to beep at irregular patterns in even higher pitches. All of a sudden, nurses rush in and the parents look worried. I stand in the center of frantic commotion; I watch different emotions fly about the room. Guilt overwhelms me when I steal a glance at the beeping respirator that I wished would stop just moments ago. I realize that an end to the respirator would mean an end to the life of Courtney Doyle.

Teenagers take a lot for granted in our young lives and I believe it takes a devastating experience to open our eyes. I grew up thinking of life as a newly-paved road without any bumps or potholes. I was ignorant about several things, including my future because I thought I would always have everything handed to me. In my eyes everybody was perfect and stories about disease or even death were stolen information from episodes of ER.

And then I met Courtney in the fall of 2006 on my first day of high school. Every student in our 6th period drama class will never forget the infamous performances Courtney put on. I anticipated 6th period every day because I was eager to see what Courtney would do next. But towards the end of first semester, she rarely attended class. I thought she was sick with a cold or on an extended family vacation. Little did I know the brave 17-year-old was in the hospital, struggling for her life. I was soon to discover that a rare form of spinal cancer invaded Courtney’s system and shattered teenage life as she knew it. At the time, I refused to accept the seriousness of her situation because I believed that truly good people, like Courtney, deserved nothing less than greatness.

But on May 1, 2008, I had no choice but to accept the gravity of Courtney’s cancer. She died the day after I read this piece to my lit class. I went to visit Courtney at the hospital with a friend the same afternoon I read this piece in class. Unlike the first time I visited Courtney, as depicted in the introduction, I felt a sense of comfort standing beside her. I remember not wanting to ever leave her side. During the visit, the beeping respirator was like music to my ears, a music I never wanted to end. Unfortunately, it was time for the music to conclude. The next time I saw Courtney was at her wake.

Once regret fades, I believe that every teenager is capable of developing an optimistic outlook on life along with newfound maturity. I am ashamed to admit that I lived my life dependent on regret. I could sit through visits with a straight face and happy presence when Courtney was alive because I knew sadness was inappropriate at the time. I regret the fact that I was unable to emotionally prepare myself for her death, because I had told myself several times over that miracles can happen, and will. When she passed, all of the emotions I held back throughout her struggle suddenly poured out of me. I became a wreck for the remainder of the school year, blaming myself for other people’s mistakes, pointing fingers at those who would rarely visit her because of a busy schedule or because of fear. I was constantly pinching myself as I tried to wake up from what I thought to be a nightmare. I was affected by her death in unfathomable ways, but I have learned to accept reality and move forwards with my life. I cannot dwell on the outcome of Courtney’s cancer; instead I have learned to embrace everything she offered to the world. I believe that teenagers who overcome the pain of tragedy and are able to grip a nuance of understanding of the situation will notice their maturity level increase as they discover the road to optimism is desired over the life of pessimistic views.

Ever since her death, my outlook on life has changed completely. I am constantly flooded by memories of her death, which brings unwanted emotions to my heart. While I, personally, have a difficult time overcoming the loss of such an amazing friend, I can’t help but feel relief for her. It’s taken months for me to understand that death was the simplest way to end Courtney’s pain.

I believe that going through a devastating experience alters teenagers’ perspectives on life and leads them through a transition into a newfound maturity. Adults commonly perceive teenagers as materialistic youth that take life for granted. Little do they know not every teenager is the same. The teenagers who experience a tragedy serve as counter-examples to the adult’s misconceptions for they are prepared for the rest of their lives with memories of the lost souls that impacted their perspectives. From personal experience, tragedy has taught me the importance of life. I live each day to the fullest because I am aware that nobody knows exactly what the future holds for them. I never thought I would admit how Courtney’s death ultimately helped me in the long run. Now I am ready to face the challenges that wait for me past my teenage years for I am emotionally prepared for what’s to come. I don’t wish the pain of loss on all teenagers, but at the same time, it helps. Instead of taking life for granted, I believe it is necessary to be thankful for life itself. After all, there’s no way to know when someone will pay you a visit and selfishly wish the high pitched beeping on your respirator stops.

I have never witnessed an individual composed of such strength and determination until I met Courtney. She made it her goal to put others before herself, even when she deserved the attention. Not a day goes that I don’t think of the inspirational Courtney Doyle, whom I love and miss.

Life is too valuable to waste, this I believe.