R’Perspective: The Weight of Memory

Courtesy of Nathan Swift, Ryan Vargas, Ariel De Leon and Jennifer Alcalde
Courtesy of Nathan Swift, Ryan Vargas, Ariel De Leon and Jennifer Alcalde

What a mixed year 2014 was. There were a lot of ups and downs on a global scale … almost too many to count. 2014 was the year that mankind landed a spacecraft on an asteroid flying through space, but it was also the year that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) came to prominence. 2014 was the year that gave us the ALS ice bucket challenge, where the structures of social media and the simple power of goodwill came together, but it was also the year of the Ebola outbreak (and the media hysteria that followed). It was the year where a woman was lauded as a feminist icon for winning the Nobel Peace Prize while another was threatened after giving a moving speech to the U.N.

For many, it could’ve gone great up to a certain point, followed by a sudden turn of events that did nothing but darken their mood and mindset. Out of the seven billion people occupying this planet, surely there must’ve been some people who looked back at 2014 and thought to themselves, “What a painful year.”

2014 was the year we lost beloved people such as Robin Williams, who passed away on August 11 from self-inflicted injuries. It can be pretty hard to imagine just how Zelda Williams, daughter of the late actor, has felt since her father’s passing. Saying that the loss of a loved one is devastating doesn’t do justice to the feeling.

A person’s identity never comes from one single source. We’re defined not just by our inherent traits and personal qualities, but also by who we interact with, and how we see ourselves in the eyes of others. This is why people often remark that the loss of a loved one is akin to losing a piece of themselves, because it’s true. Losing a loved one is like losing a tire on a car or a support beam to a house. There will always be days when you wake up, ready to begin your routine and, without warning, a sinking sensation will flow through your chest, sapping you of your physical and mental energy. “Oh no,” you’ll say, “not again. I already dragged myself through yesterday feeling like this. I can’t do it again.”

I speak of this from personal experience.

2014 had been an alright year for me, but I held high hopes for fall. I was starting my junior year of college, was living in a better apartment than the one I lived in last year and it was my first full quarter as an editor on the Highlander, so I definitely wanted to end 2014 with a bang.

On Oct. 4, I received a phone call from my best friend. A phone call that told me four of our friends were killed in a car crash the previous night.

There are days when I think to myself, “OK guys, I know I’m pretty gullible, but the joke’s over. You four can come out right now.” And then I’m reminded that it’s not a joke.

Their absence was the cloud hanging over my head when week one of the fall quarter started. It’s never really left, and it never will. Grieving is a process with no time limit, nor the “right way” to go through it. There were days when the smallest change of plans or differences in daily routines resulted in an eruption of anger. Some things that I love to do, like reading and writing or listening to and playing music, would seem to suddenly turn off in my brain, and I’d perform those tasks feeling numbness in place of the joy. My attempts to make small talk with friends (so that I could be open and normal, like I had nothing to hide) could go smoothly. Sometimes, though, it felt like watching a leaf cling to a tree branch against a strong wind — cold, fleeting and futile.

So to everybody out there who thought that 2014 was a pretty decent year, I agree. As previously noted, some pretty neat things went down. And for those who were having a good year up to a certain point followed by tragedy and personal loss, you should know that I’m right there with you. To those people, I’ll try to say this: 2014 hit us pretty damn hard in the gut, hard enough to the point where you’d want to drink your troubles away and forget that 2014 ever existed.

But as much as we want to, let us not forget 2014. To forget that last year existed is to deny yourself the last memories you have of the loved one, and thus deny a part of who you are. Don’t do that. Remember those you’ve lost, and remember the pain that 2014 brought in order to look forward to 2015, to a better year. You have to live with your pain in order to grow, as do I. As Shakespeare put it, “So foul a sky clears not without a storm.”

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