When I was only thirteen, I experienced one particular day that changed the way I thought for the rest of my life. At the time I was attending Booth Fickett Middle School on the eastside of Tucson Arizona. I was still what I considered very innocent at the time. Sure, I had experienced death in my family, household pets running away or dying off. They were the usual pains that everyone had to go through, but none of that could have prepared me for what would happen that day. It was definitely when I was first shown how cold the world really could be.
I remember it starting out a horrible day. I had to walk from my house to the bus stop that would eventually take me to school, and by the time I got to the bus stop I was soaked from head to toe. It's funny now that I look back on it now. Days like this are rare in Tucson, maybe coming around once or twice a year outside of July and August when the monsoons hit. I know that it seems so cliché of films and books to stage a emotional part of a story in the pouring rain, and I think that it's an amazing coincidence that this is how a very important scene in my life would play out as well. I wore suede sneakers that day, so when I stepped into any deep puddles, the water would seep through into puddles in the bottom of my shoes. I had to wring out my socks when I got onto the bus that would take me to school.
When I exited the bus, I spotted my best friend Richard standing by himself near the Coke machine. He had his head hanging real low, and it seemed like it was sitting on his chest at first glance. Even after I called his name, his eyes stayed fixed on the concrete until about the fifth time I called out to him. When he looked up at me I saw that his eye sockets seemed hollowed out, like the eyes of a skeleton. He looked so sad. If I could describe it in one word, I would have to say broken. It startled me to see Richard like this. Richard is probably the most upbeat person. He was the kid in class that would make everyone laugh, and the one out of our group of friends that would entertain the rest of us at lunchtime with jokes and funny stories. I knew instantly that if he was upset about something then it must have been serious, so I approached him and asked him what was the matter. He dodged the question for some time, but after I stayed persistent he finally came clean.
"Abel," he started, tears building up in the bottom of his eye lids, "last night my dad killed himself."
To be completely honest I didn't know what to say. The answer that he had given me left me completely floored. At thirteen you're supposed to be worrying about making the basketball team or if you practice enough for Orchestra class. One thing that I never really worried about too much was if one of my parents would end up taking their own life. I had heard things about Richard's father before. When he and I both started to get very close, he told me a story of his dad having a standoff with the police outside their home. He had painted an air-soft pellet gun completely black and waved it back and forth from the front door of their residence, begging one of the officers to do something. The police luckily had been able to talk him down and end the whole ordeal peacefully. Richard's father was admitted to Palo Verde Mental Institution. He only spent a few weeks in their care before the doctors considered him safe to be released. They figured that he was no longer a threat to himself or to others. We would obviously find out later that they were wrong.
I recall saying the first thing that came to mind after he had informed me of his father's suicide. I told him that what he had just told me was the saddest thing I had ever heard in my life. When he heard my response he began to sob heavily and the huge tears that had been building up in his eyes finally gave way and streamed down his cheek, plopping on the already soaked concrete. He cried there quietly for some time while I stood there awkwardly, my mind racing around wondering how I could relate to my friend in some way enough to show him I understood what he was going through.
Looking back on it now, I can clearly see that I was screwed from the start. Nothing I had went through in my life could even come close to what my good friend Richard had to go through at the moment. No matter what troubles that crossed my path, I still had both of my parents. I would never have to go through the ordeal of my father doing something as selfish as taking his own life. Regardless of any problem my family might have gone through at that point, whether it be financial or emotional, my best friend's one current problem seemed to outweigh mine by tons
I feel that it's when we finally realize that there are a problem bigger than our own is when we truly start to grow up. The ability to see these types of things shapes people and how they look at everything in the world. When you look at the world around you, and you really start to put all of the issues and problems that everyone is facing beside yourself, you start to see that maybe things aren't as bad as they might seem at sometimes. What use is moping around, getting upset about our own problems and shortcomings when there are so many issues beyond our own tribulations? The God honest truth is that there is always going to be bigger problems, bigger issues to deal with for the rest of eternity. And these problems are much bigger than anything that we might ever encounter in our daily lives. There's AIDS and genocide going on in Africa. The UN just released a report on global warming that states that humans are the cause of ninety percent of the earth's global warming patterns. We as mankind have constantly faced obstacles as a whole that seemed impossible to get past, yet we still move forward as a race, mostly out of necessity. No matter how great it would be to go back to a happier, easier time in our lives, it is impossible. The only thing we can do is go forward and face whatever is to come.
It amazes me how big of a problem depression is in this country. More and more people seemed to be getting diagnosed with this mental disease daily, and does not seem to be getting any better. Richard's father clearly had a problem with dealing with certain aspects of his life in a positive way, and in my opinion was more than likely diagnosed or a victim of depression. Richard has since told me that other than a occasional episode here and there, his father was actually a pretty normal guy. He would take the family out to the park on the weekends, watch football on Sunday and baseball in the summer. He was a good provider as well as a great father. But somewhere inside of himself he still felt some sort of inadequacy that unfortunately would bring him to his grave. It would also force him to leave behind a loving family, that consisted of four children and a loving wife. No, I do not know the complete circumstances behind Richard's family situation, but what I do know is that regardless of the situation, Richard's father still had a responsibility to take care of and support his family.
Yes, sometimes are lives do leave us feeling hopeless and beaten. I also know that these feelings can be very hard to shake for some people. Being a full time student and a member of the work force, I know that life can really take its toll on you at sometimes. Anxiety, fear, loneliness, these are all things that we can go through on any given day. But that does not give us any reason not to move forward with our lives. Everybody has to experience these things while we are alive. There is no exception to having to face these things. It's when we do let these things control us that they begin to take over our lives and start to bring us down a very dark and horrible path. A path where we think these problems can't ever be fixed.
Since that day when I saw Richard break down and cry in front of me, I have seen him take a very different approach on life than his dad did. He has since grown into a very happy and jovial person. We laugh at jokes and stories that we share together. We go out drinking together, and pick up girls at parties. We sing our favorite songs in the back seats of our friends' cars when they come on the radio. Richard has learned something that his father could not do, and that is live. To live with the knowledge that things will never be perfect, and rarely end up how you want them to, but it's better than the alternative. Sadly, some people will always be like Richard's father, not finding any fulfillment or happiness in their lives. But what Richard has realized what everybody must come to realize at some point in our lives: it's no one's responsibility but our own to find happiness for ourselves.