An Anniversary Letter to a Deceased Friend

Reflections on the year since it happened


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Photo: Anne Marie Grudem / 34th Street

I anticipated this day. I have always kept a mental benchmark about how long it’s been since it happened: a month, three months, six months, and now, an entire year. I spent last week in anxiety, agonizing over how to react. It was either going to be a forced disregard of the fact or an overwhelming flux of emotions and thoughts, but no in–between. I considered the first option: pretending today held nothing significant. But I found that choice disturbing—it has only been a year—because it is too soon. So I decided to let the thoughts play.

It was hard, but I revisited the moments before it happened. Looking back, I barely paid any attention to you at the time. There were so many moments that semester when you voiced your anguish and your frustrations, and I dismissed them as trivial. Knowing what I do now, I understand why you did what you did, and I eventually came to accept that nobody deserves to be hard on themselves for what happened. But there are sometimes moments of regret and self–loathing where I must reconcile with the fact that I am nowhere near as good of a person as I once thought I was. I always looked forward to talking to you because you always saw the best in me and made me feel so much greater than I actually was. But when you needed me the most, I was not there. I missed you by several hours and for that, I am so sorry. I am so, so sorry.

Sometimes, I found myself agonizing over what a human life represents and what human relationships even mean. Too often, my mind spiraled down a rabbit hole of questions, questions that have no resolve. Routine, everyday activities became a burden. I struggled to find pleasure in the mundane: day–to–day interactions and social conventions acted only as a thin mask veiling a world that was broken.

People experience something seminal; for me it was a fully reflexive and consuming loss, and everything else pales in comparison. I see people bickering on my management team, trying to prove their superior logical argument, or I see some cliques gossiping in their inner circle, trying to impress people who might be watching and it all just seems so…trivial?

I’ve experienced something that has shaken my fundamental worldview, and everyone around me is still mired in the insignificant. How can be people be so mentally devoted to winning pointless arguments or making peers feel inferior when there are people around them who are suffering, deeply suffering? All these little things are so irrelevant compared to the pain I felt and that I see other people feel. The world no longer made sense; it became nonsensical, disturbing even. At times I feel as though I am stuck in a backwards pit, alone in the dark, yearning to crawl out. In some ways most of my life now has become a distraction; mental and social activities flood my calendar as forms of escape from deeper, fundamental truths.

Human are vectors on a plane, scattered in their respective random walks, but all heading towards an inevitable void

Although I no longer question why you did what you did, there are times when I wish you waited—my God, I wish you waited. Not only just for a few more hours so we could have grabbed dinner for the last time, but also for the darkness to pass. It is so easy in those dark moments to convince yourself that you are alone, and that this suffering you are going through is eternal. I wish you waited for better days.

Sometimes it bereaves me, how this world is filled with so much pain and suffering. I like to think that within it, there are moments of quiet beauty. We let those moments speak to us and we give to the world what we find in those moments. Olivia, I wish you could have seen the beautiful day outside and the waves at Penn’s landing, where I sat on this anniversary for hours, reflecting on your life. It’s easy to think that a human life doesn’t matter, that when someone dies the world keeps going and life moves on without pause. I have felt this on many occasions, but Olivia, I wish you could have seen how much you mattered to me after you left, and I wish I had expressed more of it earlier. I wish you could have seen how I broke at the news of your death. I wish you could have seen how I collapsed and could not function—how I could not eat or sleep properly for days, weeks, even a month afterward. I wish you could have seen me after Hey Day and even at recent Feb Club events, crying alone in my room because I realize that you were not there. I wish you could have seen how much I don’t want to think of you, but still do—there is scarcely a day that goes by where I don’t think of you.

Remember that time we were in the Museum of Modern Art? We tried to look like we were engaged but really we knew nothing about art. We posed just so that we could take artsy pictures. It was so lame, but you did it with me anyway.

What about that time that summer when we sat on a bench and talked for hours? Our future seemed so vast and so unknown. Life didn’t seem to make sense to either of us, and we contemplated how our time with people was fleeting, but by the end of that afternoon, we had concluded that we would both be in New York together after graduation, and that there would be many more adventures to come. That afternoon, and throughout other conversations, I learned about your hopes and aspirations, all the way from jobs and grad schools to the type of boy you wanted to spend the rest of your life with. It sometimes pains me deeply that now, this future is forever lost. When you died, it died with you—a part of me died with you.

Every day I get subconscious associations of you. I imagine the snarky comments you would have made at my current MGMT 100 experience. I imagine how you would have fiercely told me to stop distracting myself with these sad, unfruitful emotions. You would have made a composed but embarrassed face at the emotions I am feeling about you and told me to go back to focusing on schoolwork. And then you would have come back and given me an awkward hug and told me how secretly you were glad that I cared.

There are so many times when I want to reach out to you on a note that only you could understand. So many times I wanted to recommend a movie to you I knew you would take to heart and actually watch. So many times I wanted to invite you to go with me to a new restaurant whose food we would drool over. So many times I wanted to converse with you on an issue that I knew annoyed or bothered us both. So many times I wanted to share a joke with you that I knew would make you laugh. Instead, I linger by myself alone, reminded that you are not there. I wish I could say that I feel your presence but most of the time all that’s left is a gust of twisted emotions and conscious emptiness—there is nothing.

I am beyond thinking that things happen for a reason, or that good comes from the bad. To me that is too cliché, too naïve, and too demeaning. I am beyond thinking that this experience has made me “stronger” or a “better person.” In a lot of aspects, this experience has done neither; rather, it has made me more selfish and entitled about my feelings. How can people around me even begin to comprehend the unbearable emotions I felt surrounding your death? How can most even compare a bad day they are having to the agony that I have recently gone through?

In general, blanket statements describing the effect of your death on my personality and on my life are hard to make. Your death is complicated, easily distorted, and garbled in layers of emotion. I sometimes cannot make out what to say, but one thing to me is clear: I wish it never happened and I wish you were still here, Olivia.


04-20-17, essentials, front page, frontpage, homepage, latest-issue, latestissue, penn, word on the street, Word on the Street

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