some thoughts on living, dying, and telling your story

A work friend died suddenly over the weekend.

The strangest part about these kind of things happening is that before we got the news on Monday, I don’t know if I would’ve even thought to call her a friend. We were friendly, she was someone who I knew of and followed on Tumblr for years, who knew my mutual friends. (Fandom is strange like that.) About a year ago, she ended up getting a job in my company. I laughed at the time at the randomness of someone else from “the fandom world” joining me in this professional space of work (I don’t know, I feel like it’s special little club – like, you can be IN fandom but there’s a difference between the Tumblr/AO3/vids fandom and just reading fic. People know you. Or you know people.)

We worked together, but we really didn’t see each other that often. She worked for the video team, my job is in publishing. She moved to a different floor a few months ago with her department and I was barely up there except to visit other coworkers every once in awhile. But we emailed regularly because of some comic book videos that we produced, and I was often in contact with her throughout the day, depending on schedules. We saw each other at work social events when we went out for happy hours and it was at the first one she attended, back in March, where (a few drinks in) I finally just blurted out that even though she didn’t know me, I had actually known her for awhile thanks to mutual friends. Then we bonded over X-Files.

The last time I saw her was a week ago; we did a small Women of Marvel photoshoot with the new Marvel Vans and spent about 20 minutes of our work day outside goofing around and taking random pictures outside of the office.

It feels silly to write this, because we weren’t really close. I’ve been seeing tributes and grief online from people who were close to her, and it feels like I don’t have a right to be sad about losing someone I didn’t know very well. But she was also more than a name in an email at work; she wasn’t just another person, she was a person. And I can’t remember the last time I knew someone who died so young, so close to my age, and who I knew. There have been people in my life who have passed away unexpectedly, but I had lost touch with them or I knew them vaguely through a friend – realizing they were gone was sad, but it didn’t shake me. Losing grandparents is hard, and there’s been a lot of that in mine and my fiancé’s life, but even if it was unexpected, they were older. That, to me, seems to make a little more sense than the fact that a 32 year old is working on SDCC video feeds one day and is gone the next day.

Maybe I’m just more sensitive than usual due to my mental state. I’ve got a lot of stress going on in my head, coupled with the ever-present feeling of “will I ever be enough?” I’m thinking a lot about my future and my birthday is in two weeks; my birthday is ALWAYS the time of year when I get more depressed than usual because even if I try not to, I can’t help but focus on my age and where I am in life compared to other people. I hate getting older. I hate that age is a number I care about. But suddenly, something like this happens – and you start to think. You think about that trip you’re not taking because you really can’t afford it, or that friend you’re not seeing because you’re too tired to go out and you’ve been out every night this week, or that best friend who you know is having a hard time but you don’t text often because, well, you KNOW they’re not doing well but life is busy and you’re in different states. And suddenly, things that are stressful or worrisome of freaking you out don’t seem that important anymore.

Like the fact you have 3 credit cards at balances that are too high for you to pay down ever.

Or the knowledge of being in student loan hell until you’re about 90, if that.

Or that lingering raincloud of overdue rent hanging above your head, even if your fiancé never asks you for it because he doesn’t want to upset you.

Or the fact that you have 9 dollars to your name in your checking account until your next payday.

When I was in my 20’s, I had the opportunity and time and (kind of) had the money (it wasn’t the best and most responsible decision, but oh well) to travel all over the U.S. with my best friend to go see a favorite band. We’d book flights that had us visiting cities for 48 hours, rent cars to drive from one state to the next to save money, sleep on the street, and spend way too much money on tolls and fast food. It’s easy for me to regret some of that experience because I did a lot of it at the expense of a relationship I still regret giving up, even though I believe that was less about how I spent my time and more the influence of who I spent it with. But it’s still an experience I had, that I’ll never have again, for various reasons. It’s easy to get caught up in “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve” when it comes to how I spent my time, but that year was a celebration of ME, of life, of something I’ll never get again and that’s special, no matter how you look at it.

I think a lot about Hamilton – who lives, who dies, who tells your story? It can be cliché, but then things like this happen and you really do wonder – who will tell your story? Who will people remember you as? What will they say about you? What have you brought to the lives of your friends and family that make you loved and appreciated? Did you live your life to the fullest? Did you have that glass of wine because, fuck it, it’s nice out and you want a nice lunch outside? Did you splurge on that new dress you wanted because it made you feel amazing? Did you look at your bank account and shrug and book a flight that you know you probably shouldn’t have paid money for but who cares, because you get to see your friends?

There’s a lot that could be said about dying young and loss and grief and the shock of losing someone you actually knew. And I don’t know what to say about it all except that maybe Hamilton is right. You don’t know when your time is up. So you should never throw away your shot.

And I’m sure as hell not.

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