It was shortly before graduating from undergrad, on the night of Midnight Breakfast when we met. I had planned to meet one of my friends after I left my evening class at the campus cafeteria to pig out on bacon and French toast right before finals. I show up, and in walks my friend and a friend of hers. She introduces us, and it was one of those rare moments when my usual introverted ways feel so at ease with a stranger that I open right up. After a night of talking, eating, laughing, and dancing to the southern classic hit “Back That Azz Up,” I headed home, not even realizing at the time that that stranger, a young man named Steven, would eventually become my best friend.
Over the next six months, we would go through six moves, four jobs, and countless shenanigans between the two of us. It probably just seemed like another black girl with her outrageous gay friend cutting up, but it was a deeper connection and we were both deeper people. That was the Bernie Slanders to my Trillary Clinton, okay? The Petty Crocker to my Julia Childish. I can’t tell you how many times we cried, laughed, and rode around town just looking for nonsense to get into when we both needed a break from life’s stresses.
But Steven was deeper than his troubles and outward character.
Steven had dreams! Probably the most ambitious person I knew. He wanted to become a Brand Ambassador, marry a rich man, move to LA, get a condo with a view, become a self-made millionaire, have a baby, and have his own business in branding. And make no mistake- he would have done all of that and retired wealthy by 35 LOL! But just as his life started to fall into place to set him up for his future, something went left. Shortly before his 24th birthday, we started having these discussions about feeling suffocated in the town and state we lived in at the time. Beyond the outgoing, outspoken, popular façade, my dear friend was unhappy with where his life was.
It was a marked shift. He was always so strong in his faith and belief in God, and it was amazing to witness his testimony in real time. He would get knocked down by life on a Thursday, weep on Friday, plan by Saturday, rebound by Sunday, and succeed by Monday. So when a Monday came and he wasn’t better, it was concerning, to say the least.
He decided to take more than a few days to get back up on the last blow. He decided to move back to his hometown, 9 hours away, to regroup for world domination. I understood despite the sadness I felt, and a day after his 24th birthday, he hit the road. The last time I would see him in person, June 22, 2015, we blew each other kisses and waved a thousand times.
He passed away March 31st, 2016, at the age of 24.
It was months before I found out what had happened to him after I had been MIA following the passing of my mom that January. For inner peace, I have to believe that my beloved gave me one last gift of sanity. They say that God never gives us more than we can handle, and I just don’t think my body and spirit could have handled losing my best friend within three months of losing a parent. I think I found out at a time that was decided and destined for me, and I thank God, and Steven, for that protection.
But a month or so ago, I wanted to die. To put it simply, I was just tired of living, although it’s much more complex than that. I was sleeping maybe 15 hours total- weekly. I was getting three new prescriptions every week trying to combat my fibromyalgia, depression, and occipital neuralgia. My hair was coming out in clumps. I felt physically tired but mentally restless. I was grinding my teeth so hard that some became crooked. I was so nauseous that I was eating probably 600 calories a day. I went days locked in my room not speaking to anybody, and was heartbroken that nobody tried to speak to me, either. I was having panic attacks, mood swings where I would destroy furniture and literally rip stuff off walls. It was hell on wheels, and I was ready to jump the next time my Satan-bound car crossed troubled waters.
Then I finally fell asleep (passed out from exhaustion) one early morning.
In my dream, I had moved back to my old college town where Steven and I met. In real life, everybody knows Steven, especially everybody back there. Well in my dream, I had an interview in an attic for a management position for the dollar store. Don’t ask me why I was in an attic, interviewing for that job; I just was. Anyways, the dream-interviewer asked me why I was moving back, asked some questions about me. I mentioned that a good friend had passed away and I was just ready to do better on behalf of him. The interviewer mentioned that his friend also passed away, and gave details about his friend’s passing.
The last thing I remember was taking the dream-interviewer’s hand in mine, and telling him that our friend was the same person, and everything was going to be okay.
I woke up in tears.
But I knew that everything was going to be okay.
I knew that Steven came back to me for a minute that night to let me know I was going to make it.
And sure enough, a month later, I was offered a new job back in my old college town and an opportunity for a better life.
Steven was always firm and obnoxiously timely about the fact that I needed to get up after a blow and stop feeling sorry for myself. He believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, and dared me to doubt myself in his presence. From him, I learned to comeback harder, better, more faithful, and stronger in my own way and time.
I never believed that I could write a script and have people actually act it out for an audience. But Steven gave me a chance to do it and we made creative history together. I never thought I’d be blogging, thinking about dating again after a rough breakdown, traveling the world, talking to strangers with minimal awkwardness, or just celebrating every failure in life…But I am, and I thank my dear friend for believing in me when I couldn’t see it for myself- then and now.
And I’m grateful that he came back to reinstate that faith that everything in life gets better, and all of our dreams of something better have the potential to become a reality. I wish I could see the young man with all the ambition and talent in the world fulfill his earthly missions, but he had a greater purpose in life and is in a place of happiness. In his death, he got what he always wanted in life: pure and genuine joy. Only now, he doesn’t have to suffer on the way to it. And I’m so proud and happy for him. My baby made it and is living out his dreams. I know he wants me to live mine out, too.
Just like every one of our own lives has a purpose, every life we encounter has a purpose.
So dream big. Love deeply. And never lose faith.