Sometimes, people miss a chance to say really important things and they regret it all their life. It’s a truly horrible feeling to look back and wonder “what if”, and know deep inside that there will never be an answer.
And sometimes, people say what they have to say; at the right time, in the right place, to the right person, for the right reasons. Yet it is impossible to predict the future; how things will turn out years down the road. Sometimes, an afterthought remains; things you just couldn’t say, couldn’t know, couldn’t even guess at the given time.
This post is such an afterthought. I know with certainty that I have said and done the right thing, years ago. I know that everything that had to be said was said, heard and understood. This chapter is closed, with no regrets, no “what if”s. This afterthought may or may not reach the person it is meant for. And just like I have no doubts about the past, I have no doubt that – if this is the right thing to say – it will reach this person, at the right time, for the right reasons.
About 8 years ago, I was in a very wrong place. I did not really realize how wrong it was. I told myself it was the best place in the entire world; exactly where I wanted to be. I had made a dream come true for myself, and I wanted it to be ‘right’. But the thing with dreams is that not all are meant to be lived. Some are better if you keep dreaming them because reality doesn’t live up to them. This was such a dream. If I had been honest with myself, I wouldn’t have known where to begin with the things that were not the way I had hoped. I was Don Quixote, fighting windmills, and even though I realized – deep inside – how futile it was, I told myself that I just have to try harder to make everything ‘right’. Just, the everything didn’t want to be changed. The world just wouldn’t bend at my will. And so I played along with all it’s wrongs because, hey, I was living my dream; why would I ever want to give it up? I had given my everything for this life. It was worth everything to keep living it, wasn’t it?
It was not. One day, I encountered the one wrong I could not accept. A wrong that didn’t even involve me personally. It would have been easy, so damn easy, to look away one more time and convince myself the dream was worth the weird feeling in my stomach. But I couldn’t do that. Not this time. Deep inside, I knew I could make up for everything else later; could make things right somehow. Everything, but not this. And so I gave my dream for the sake of a stranger; to prevent a wrong that wouldn’t have any consequences for me – except the feeling that I would never be able to look into a mirror again if I did nothing. I faced my worst fears; I put all the hope I had left in my realm of shattered dreams into this one moment and trusted that it would make a difference for someone I didn’t even know. It was my last chance to wake up from the dream – by breaking it in one truly selfless act of hope.
I know, I know, it sounds melodramatic. In fact, it was. I only realized it later, when I read a graphic novel – Midnight Nation – what had really happened. The protagonist of this story ends up giving his soul to a doomed stranger he knows nearly nothing about, knowing that he will remain soulless, but that breaking the habit of leaving the doomed doomed and living as if nothing ever happened will send a sign of hope to the world. By dooming himself and giving his soul to the hopeless, he ultimately saves himself, too. That is what happened to me. I gave up my dream to restore hope in a place where it was nearly unheard of.
Unlike the protagnists of Midnight Nation, we did not remain strangers. We shared thoughts and observations, and even if we didn’t stay in touch for very long – just a few months – I still think of us as kindred souls. We had lost our way in the same area, had lived out our dreams and had found them not to be what we were really looking for. We had found the right path, almost around the same time, and we were heading in a similar direction.
Yes, my friend, I helped you out in a tough spot. You know why I did it, where I struggled, what I ultimately sacrificed. You helped me through that dark alley, and you know you did. But what you don’t know is how much the two simple words “thank you” meant to me. Sometimes, people ask me how I made my peace with the past; how I can so easily admit I made mistakes and know for certain I set things right in the end. The letter you sent about 5 years ago is the first thing that comes to my mind. No matter how painful some memories are, knowing that I made a difference for you makes up for it all. You were the one person who reminded me of who I really am. That I was not the monster I sometimes saw in the mirror.
If this letter finds you, I’m sure you’ll know it’s for you. Just like I’m sure you’ll know who I was when I first contacted you. And thanks to you, I’m much better now.