Over the past month, my worst fears have revolved around figuring out what to do with my life and how to explain to others the decisions that I have made. Not that it matters much, but as a writer the “bohemian lifestyle” has never been fully accepted into the work environment. As a writer, your sole purpose is to bring a sense of joy to the reader. Whether through a captivating piece of fiction, a gritty “tell all”, or something humorous to take their mind off of their mundane work world, each piece published and presented is our own individual masterpiece. It soon became alarming to me that people viewed my life change as a sign of weakness, not a freewilled choice that was made. I was disturbed.
I can remember the exact moment of my day where I was contemplating my life’s decisions, racking my brain at how to explain to people my career choices, and my calculated goals being listed in my head to give me stepping stones towards being a Pulitzer Prize winning author.
And two minutes later after my calculated decisions and agreeance with universal plans came to fruition, I received one of the worst phone calls of my life.
“Ashley”, my brother screamed in the phone.
A little annoyed that he was screaming at me, I screamed back “WHAT”.
“He’s gone”, is all he said. Well, that got my attention.
After a few short sentences, I was able to contrive that my brother’s best friend, and my “second brother” whom I had known for over 18 years, had unexpectedly passed away. It’s hard to think how someone so full of life, someone who played a consistent supporting role was gone. Things like this don’t happen to the second brother I loved: the prankster, a lover of techno music, the one that “lived for the applause”, and a kind hearted soul. An Instagram promise just the day before to visit me at my summer job seemed a lifetime ago. For the second time in a month my heart had been ripped into two, but this time I didn’t know if it would heal. What had seemed like important, hard hitting decisions 10 minutes prior, now seemed pitiful and petty.
Death of a loved one is never an easy situation to talk about, get through, or even understand. When someone dies young, it feels as if someone has taken off your sunglasses on a bright day. The world appears harsher and causes you to squint. That Wednesday’s phone call was one of the worst phone calls ever to have received. The days proceeding that phone call are now a blurry heavy mess that I hate to think about. So many emotions follow grief. Shock, saddness, and anger all made pitstops and lingered. How could this have happened? I wanted to blame someone, make someone pay.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I didn’t truly grieve, but I know the floodgates are coming eventually. At the time, I didn’t need to worry about me and what I was feeling. I had to be a rock. I went into my normal “Ashley work mode” and tried to bring something positive out of the negative. It wasn’t until after the funeral, memorial balloon launch, saying goodbye to friends, and finally sitting down at the computer 3 weeks later did I allow the tears to fly.
Everything happens for a reason. I still hold true to that belief, although this situation is not something I would like to pertain to it. For me, I took one step back and reevaluated my life. Was I happy with my decision to freelance and leave fashion in NYC? What would have happened if I was living there and this happened?
In that moment, I realized I wouldn’t have changed anything. If I had been living in NYC, I would have immediately packed up my belongings and moved. My brother needed me. My family needed me. I needed them. Things happen not out of coincidence, and I can’t help but try to figure out if this “universal plan” put me upstate this summer for a reason.
All we can do is do what makes us happy, live our lives the way we want to. People will judge us, and they will look at our lives and comment. Everyone has a comment. We are born alone and will die alone. One of the few good things that came out of this situation is meeting and reconnecting with people who have been lost in the crowd before. I saw immense love and support come out of those I barely knew, as well as from the umbrella my brother had around him of friends that loved him. Maybe because of my “writer mindset” or because I pay attention to detail, but a lot of beauty could be seen in this nightmare.
A group of grown men, once boys hugging and telling each other how they love one another.
A sea of balloons set off on a beautiful sunny day in memory of our favorite jokester.
A cinnamon cupcake split between two new friends as they talk about their favorite memory.
Unlike my “writer’s mindset”, some are too personal or private to share. Sometimes you have to keep those images locked in your heart to give you a smile later on when you need it most, or when you feel that void from the loved one that has passed. Certain images have filled my bittered New Yorker heart, and gave me hope in humanity.
Hug those you love a little tighter. Make an effort in relationships, and don’t let them slip out of your hands. We all don’t know when our time clock ends, or when someone we love will meet their end. Don’t take your precious life for granted, or live the way someone else wants you to.