On paper or even a digital medium like this it would seem to most people that I had a banner year. I’ve had more opportunities than I’ve ever had in the past. I’m mere months away from earning my degree and maybe moving away and doing something new with my life. My triumphs this year have been numerous, but if sitting in a million undergraduate history courses has taught me anything it’s that years are not remembered by the good things but by their tragedies.
For instance no one remembers anything good from the year 2001. In that year there were countless babies born, astounding innovations in technology and some greatly terrible movies such as Zoolander. No one thinks of those things however. You only think about the tragedies, you only think about the crumbling buildings and the lives lost. I’m not saying that the good things don’t count but that the tragedies always trump them.
Back to me, this year I’ve done a number of things that I should feel incredible amounts of pride in. I am finally a legitimate published writer. I’ve had my name on the pages of a newspaper at least a hundred times in the past few months. I’ve made real inroads into other forms of media such as radio, where I’ve been freelancing since my internship last summer. I even got the chance to be a marketing intern for Microsoft. MICROSOFT! None of it matters.
Our years are only counted by the tragedies and not the triumphs. 2012 will never just be the year that I started my career in earnest. The year will always be known by me as the last time I spoke to Son Tran. The last time I saw his face or made him laugh. The year that should have been one of my best was instead marred by this one terrible thing.
I last spoke to him just a few hours before he died. Though the conversation was completely frivolous, I can’t help but playing it in a constant loop in my mind. I was studying for my first government test of the semester with the notes he had taken when he took the class. He called wanting to talk, and I told him that I was busy. I knew how he worked and that if he persuaded me to push off my studies that we would end up on the phone for hours. I could never have a short conversation with him, it was always hours long. As I was about to hang up he asked me if he should spend $200 on underwear. I don’t remember the brand or type of the undergarments, only that he had just received his student loan check days prior and wanted to blow some money.
I told him that he’d be an idiot to spend that kind of money on something like that. He eventually agreed with me and I got off the phone. I often wonder how things would have changed if that had happened differently. If I had put off my studies would we have talked for hours causing him to be too tired to go out that night? If I had told him I thought that $200 was a perfectly reasonable amount to spend on underwear, would he have felt so guilty for having ordered them that he would have stayed home that night to save money? Would he have died? Would he have lived?
I say this not to make it sound like I blame myself for what happened, but what if it had changed something? Would I have just been delaying the inevitable? Would someone who was so funny and fragile and leaning precariously on the edge have eventually met the same fate whether it be on that night or on a million other possible occasions?
If he had lived would my year have turned out any differently? I’m not always sure what I believe in, but what if all the great things that happened to me this year were given to me as a sort of peace offering? Some celestial being saying, look, I know I dealt you a hard hand when I took your friend away, so have these opportunities, take these things to ease the blow.
I would trade those things for him. I would trade my name in newsprint if it meant things could have turned out differently. I’d trade the paychecks for not having to feel like I can’t breathe whenever I drive past the spot where it happened. I would trade the whole year for him to have one more day. None of that matters, those things aren’t real.
I’m looking forward to 2013. I’m looking forward to moving on and branching out. I’m hoping that in 2013 for the first time the good things will finally outweigh the bad.