As we get closer and closer to graduation, most seniors, including myself, are looking forward to going off to college and experiencing whatever new things life throws at us. As exciting as all of this is, we tend to forget that college is still three months away, and we still have some time to experience new things with the people we love right here, whoever that may be. It is a fact that many of us are take for granted and overlook.
We forget that soon we’re not going to see those friends every day at school like we have been for the last four years. We’re not going to have mom and dad to wake up to and guide us through our hectic days. We are going to be on our own. Personally, I’ve had such a great support system the last couple of years, so it’s hard to let go of the people I care so much about. In addition to my family who has been with me through everything, the people that I will have the hardest time leaving are the ones I’ve made the last two years. Some skip this important step of reminiscing all of the great memories we have had up until the very last moment. So today I am going to talk about what I believe to be the most important life challenge before venturing into college or any large transition—let’s talk about letting go.
I will start by telling a story about a dear friend of mine who will stay in my heart always. My friend Joseph and I were inseparable from the time we became friends all the way back in the first grade. We played sports, video games, and hung out with each other almost every day of the week. Sadly, Joseph was struck with cancer at a young age, one that quickly took his leg. I won’t get into all the intricate details of what happened immediately, but to put it shortly, he eventually beat cancer after numerous rounds of chemotherapy, and we were back to doing all the things we loved to do. We were having the time of our lives; everything felt just like those few years right before eighth grade again.
Alas, good things don’t always stay good, but this time around they were heartbreaking. His cancer came back and it came back with a vengeance. For Joe it was no big deal, just another bump in the road and another reason to fight harder. Towards the end of that year, things were progressively getting worse for him in terms of his overall health, and seeing him every day became difficult. I had become busy playing multiple sports and practicing all the time, and it became difficult for me to talk to him. As the weeks progressed, I had only texted him a few times because of the stress I was experiencing about getting into high school and about baseball.
While trying to juggle all of my responsibilities, and not doing a great job of that, it was almost as if I didn’t remember that Joe was in the bad state he was in. The night before he passed, my dad was driving me home from a late baseball practice and I looked at my phone and saw that he had texted me multiple times, just trying to say hello and ask how I was doing. I was tired, so in that moment I ignored the messages with the belief I could text him the next morning or later on that night. However, the night grew longer, and he texted me again around one or two in the morning, writing, hey can I talk to you about something? I ignored the text, as I was too tired to respond and find out what had happened. I was being selfish.
The next day, that dreadful day, I got a call saying Joe had passed away not too long later after he had texted me. My heart sank, blown up into little pieces, and everything shattered. I felt horrible about how selfish I felt I had been, having not been in the mood to talk to my dying friend Joe. I couldn’t be that strong friend he needed me to be, that one person he needed to count on.
I’m not sure what Joe wanted to talk to me about that night; it could’ve been to talk about sports, video games, a girl. It might have been as simple as that, but I can never be sure. I have to live with the reality that I couldn’t be that strong person he needed me to be: I couldn’t be there for him. The one thing that I hope every day of my life is that he wasn’t calling to tell me that he knew that this was his end, that he knew that night was his last road call. And that maybe, just maybe, he just wanted to talk to me about life, what he wanted his last words to be, maybe hear what I had to say. I’ll never know. It kills me that I have to live with that. I sat for years just replaying this moment in my head over and over again, trying to make sense of it. Not only did he pass away, but a part of me died that day too. The selfish part of me that let other things that weren’t important get in the way of a dying friend.
I just couldn’t let it go, not until one day when I sat down with my father and told him about that night. The most important thing I took from his conversation was when he told me, “We need to accept the things we cannot change, even if it kills us inside, to begin the process of letting go.” In that moment I realized that I would never be able to move on if I couldn’t let go of my decision that night. Because no matter how much I thought about it, debated it, and reflected on it, I always felt the same. So how do you rid yourself of a feeling like this? You let go of that moment in time, not that person. I had convinced myself that if I let go of that moment, I would be letting go of part of my memory of him, but that simply wasn’t true. By letting go of the negative, I could move on spiritually with the positive, and project that onto the other aspects of my life while honoring the memory of my childhood friend.
Letting go of physical objects like cars and cell phones has become second nature in our society, as we are constantly bombarded with new things every year to replace the old. Though when it comes to letting go of people or ideas, suddenly it becomes an internal conflict. As we move onto bigger and hopefully better things in our lives, it’s important to remember that letting go is an important part of life. Before you go off to college or into the real world, keep in mind the people that were in your life that are still family, and let go of that negativity. Let go of everything that you feel has held you back. You never forget the bad things that have happened to you, but you let go of that adverse energy and just remember the good. In my case, it took years because I felt no one could understand, but I’m telling you that I do. Letting go of regret has made me feel empowered and ultimately avoided a lot of mental damage. Liberating yourself is a process, but I believe we are all here to achieve something great. Forgive yourself of regret and pain, and just let go of it. I promise you it will be worth it.
Rutgers Student studying Political Science & Government with a minor in Journalism who has an interest in the intersection of journalism and political movements.