10 Things I Learned When My Friend Died

10 Things I Learned When My Friend Died

“There is no way for me to fathom how this is going to impact all of our lives, Lexi.”
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“There is no way for me to fathom how this is going to impact all of our lives, Lexi.”

-Opening line from an entry I wrote on September 3, 2015


A year ago, on September 2, 2015, my friend passed away. I’ll never forget that phone call or those weeks and months to come when I experienced a physically painful, emotional grief that I didn’t know was possible to feel. I remember the following months all so vividly: the call, the driving to and from friends’ houses and spending all my time with them, the vigil, memorial, and monthly anniversaries. Walking through the halls at school feeling like our friends were all under a magnifying glass and trying not to break down when a teacher asked how we were holding up. Not wanting to talk about it at all, to only talking about her. Sleeping too much and sleeping too little. It was something I could never fathom until I was actually experiencing it. A year ago, when I wrote that entry, I couldn’t imagine what it’d be like 365 days later.

If I could jump back to then, I’d tell myself that there are things that happen that are so heavy that they can’t help but impact you, so don’t try to avoid it. I’d let myself know that I would soon learn so much about myself and about life from these things, and that what I learn would somehow mend the part of me that broke. So, this is what i’ve learned:

1. Just because death is permanent, there is an upside.

I swore from the moment I heard that phone call up to just a few months ago that I would always feel that harsh pain lingering inside me. I still do; you just kind of get used to it. However, the short-lived friendship and life that Lexi shared with all of those she loved is worth every ounce of pain that those of us who knew her may feel. Even though that pain may last forever, that also means the friendship will last forever.

2. You don’t always have to find the positive in everything...

Some things will be stamped by the loss, and appear ruined. I normally have my Spotify playlist on shuffle, and this past year Regina Spektor’s Eet always crept its way to the top of the queue to play next. I would get angry when I heard it. I knew I could just click next, but the day would somehow feel ruined when once I heard it.

3....But it helps.

But after a few months, I stopped getting angry. It no longer ruined my day, which now even makes me feel guilty for saying. This song was played at her vigil and holds a personal significance. I have my headphones in on the bus sometimes or in the library here at school, and now when the song finds its way through the wires of my headphones, I feel my heart jump a little--some sadness, some happiness, some gratitude. Sad that I can’t hear one of her sarcastic comments, happy that I can remember all the hilarious comments she did share, and thankful that I got to experience them. The song is just Lexi stopping by.

4. Vocally appreciate everyone you’re appreciative of. We don’t do it enough.

One of the things I wrote in the entry was,

“Lexi, you are the reason I met and joined our wonderful, crazy group of friends. You are the reason I found my way through school and taught me not to give any cares what people thought. You were great at that. Your sarcasm and humor lined up so well with mine, and I am sorry that we drifted and didn't build it up more.”

I’ve learned not to be regretful because regrets, in the case of a death, won’t help anything. So that’s why, no matter how cliche it sounds, all we have is now. Yes, it’s nice to be appreciative, but be proactive with it. Grateful that your friend is really good at listening? Tell her. Thankful that your cousin has that weird sense of humor that can always make you laugh? Tell him. Happy that your family exists just because you like being around them and feeling at home? Tell them. Even the littlest things, vocalize them--make them the big things.

5. Listening to sad songs and crying actually helps.

I tried for a while to avoid those typical, sappy songs. I thought, “Why put myself in a place that is guaranteed to hurt?” But it is so necessary. It is so necessary to feel that hurt and experience it from every angle. The pain is what will help you grow, growing is what will help you heal. Sometimes, you will want to refuse the pain because you think you have to be strong, but that’s why you throw on the saddest playlists you can find and just let it all out. It would hurt, but I found that after those crying sessions sometimes, I would laugh. I thought about how Lexi would be poking fun at me for how funny my face looks when I sob, and how she’d be doing some weird voice or gesture to cheer me up.

6. Make the most out of every moment. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

One thing that really gets to me is that our senior class got to have that “senior year experience” and we would all be looking forward to the next chapter of our life with the college experience. It hurt me that Lexi wouldn’t get this. Living in the moment was something Lexi was great at. It taught me to focus more on my feelings and being present and grateful. We are alive and are living this human experience, how amazing is that? We have this ability to feel emotions, good and bad--take them all in. We have an ability to think and to form thoughts and ideas--run with those ideas and make the most of them.

7. It is OK to keep your head up.

I remember feeling like it was a sin the first days I started to feel a little better. I felt so guilty. But if you keep your head down and your gaze on the ground, you will miss eyes that were meant for you to meet. You will miss the way the sunset changes the sky, you will miss the stars that are still shining to remind you that “this too shall pass.” It in no way means that it’s forgotten, it means that the past isn’t the only thing we’ve got going for us. Just because Lexi can no longer enjoy the taste of her favorites snacks, like Takis or Lemonheads, doesn’t mean family and friends shouldn’t enjoy them for her.

8. Laughter can feel so wrong at times, but like music at others.

I remember hearing the laughter of strangers in public. After her death, hearing laughter sounded like the devil’s lullaby. I hated it and hated those people for laughing. I was angry that the world was still going on like nothing had happened, while the world's’ all of those who knew Lexi were at a halt. I, myself, didn’t dare to laugh, it felt so wrong. Yet, at one of the many get- togethers with our friends, we came across a video of Lexi having one of her laughing fits. We all laughed with her, and I’m sure they’d all agree, it was the best thing we’ve ever heard.

9. All your feelings are valid. Every single one of them.

I remember feeling my stomach drop and collapsing when I hung up the phone. I remember not feeling much on the drive to my friend’s house the night of the accident. I remember feeling guilty for not always feeling something. I remember feeling stupid for feeling too much at inappropriate times. I remember not knowing what I felt. Every emotion is valid and fair game. Something so profound is bound to leave you speechless in a whirlwind of emotions. Don’t feel guilty for feeling fine sometimes and being left crying out-of-breath at other times.

10. Everything happens for a reason.

This has always been a saying that is very personal to me and is close to my heart, and it was validated through this experience. I realized I learned things from Lexi that I was meant to learn; we had our arguments but they were necessary to make us the people we were meant to be. She moved to our town freshman year because she was meant to fill our halls with her loud personality and use her beautiful voice in our musicals. There was a reason Lexi was meant to be a part of Lemont High School’s Class of 2016, and there was a reason she had to say goodbye for now. These reasons are personal for each person, and it’s important that we find these reasons for everything--good and bad-- in our lives so that we can grow and come to peace with whatever turns life takes.

Cover Image Credit: facebook

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To The Girl Who Isn't Graduating On Time, It Won't Feel Any Less Amazing When You Do

Graduating is something to be proud of no matter how long it takes you.

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To the girl who isn't graduating college "on time,"

I promise, you will get there eventually, and you will walk across that graduation stage with the biggest smile on your face.

You may have a different journey than the people you grew up with, and that is OKAY. You may have some twists and turns along the way, a few too many major changes, a life change, you may have taken most of a semester off to try to figure your life out, and you're doing the best you can.

Your family and your friends don't think less of you or your accomplishments, they are proud of your determination to get your degree.

They are proud of the woman you are becoming. They don't think of you as a failure or as someone any less awesome than you are. You're getting your degree, you're making moves towards your dreams and the life that you have always wanted, so please stop beating yourself up while you see people graduating college on time and getting a job or buying a car.

Your time will come, you just keep doing what you need to do in order to get on that graduation stage.

Your path is set out for you, and you will get there with time but also with patience. The place you're at right now is where you are supposed to be. You are going to thrive and you are going to be the best version of you when you graduate and start looking for a company that you will be proud to work for. Don't look on social media and feel less than, because at least you're still working towards your degree that you are finally passionate about. You will be prepared. You will be ready once the time comes and you cross the stage, move away, and start your journey in whatever field you're going into.

Don't question yourself, and be confident in your abilities.

With love,

A girl who isn't graduating on time

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The College Experience

A series telling the true experiences of modern day college students.

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Everyone tells you to prepare for the best years of your life.

They tell you to prepare for all of the new challenges and new opportunities.

They say that you will meet your future people in college.

What they don't tell you is how much it will hurt.

Seeing old friends disappear because you are no longer home.

Watching your grades fall because the class is too difficult to pass.

Hearing and witnessing your family struggle and you aren't able to be with them.

Seeing all of the adventures that others are going on while you are stuck in your dorm room with the same stack of papers you have been trying to finish for three days now.

They don't tell you how difficult the transition will be.

They especially don't tell you how hard it is to live with someone.

The best of friends can live together and then grow to hate each other.

Complete strangers will move in and never speak.

You'll find friends that are simply just your "writing friend" or "band friend".

Many of the labels from high school can sometimes stick around.

If you're not out drinking or clubbing, then people think you don't have a life.

College is great, but don't think that it will be easy.

You have to make things easy in order for things to happen.

You can't just go around doing whatever and expect things to work out.

It takes time and it takes commitment to succeed in life, and in college.

The best way to deal with it all, find someone!

Find someone that you can get coffee with and watch sports with.

Find someone to eat dinner and lunch with.

Find someone to study religion and math before the next test.

Find someone!

Find your someone, a friend or someone special, to help you make it through everything that life throws at you.

If I had that someone I might have been better off my first year.

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