A month ago I lost my grandma.
It would be so easy for me to say the last month has flown by, that it hardly seems like she’s gone. I’d be lying if I said that.
On a personal level I’m feeling better after spending months in a bad place. But I miss my grandma everyday.
I lived with her for nearly 14 years, right? And every time I’d go back home since moving in October (almost weekly) she would light up and ask me how I’ve been doing at my apartment or how work was going. It seems so small, but I MISS THAT.
The reason I’m writing this is because the last month has not flown by. It’s gone by slower than any month of my life. And time going forward isn’t going to fly by. Time doesn’t really fly by after you lose someone until you simply start to forget them. I can’t see myself doing that. I’ll have different experiences as I progress through my own years, but my grandma isn’t someone I’ll forget. Not now or a year from now or a decade from now because never again will I get to call someone grandma.
See the change in title?
But today is nothing to celebrate.
There was another mass shooting in the US yesterday. Unfortunately, it’ll likely be added to the constantly growing list of mass shootings that have all been preventable but still allowed to happen.
When you hear lawmakers say that the US is the only country in the world in which these shootings constantly happen, it’s true. When you hear lawmakers say that the US has a gun violence problem no other country in the world faces, it’s true. After every shooting lawmakers will send their “thoughts and prayers” to the families affected and after every shooting lawmakers will do nothing to prevent the next mass shooting. After every shooting you’ll hear people say that the most recent shooting shouldn’t be politicized.
What’s political about wanting to save innocent lives? Tell me. If you can answer that question, I’m all ears. But you can’t and neither can anyone else. In this country we simply accept that gun violence is the normal we live in. But I say screw that logic and anyone who buys into it.
Think about this: What comes to mind when I say Aurora or Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech or San Bernardino or Orlando or Las Vegas? In this context you know these are all sites of mass shootings. And this is far from an exhaustive list.
The very simple truth is that Americans are obsessed with guns. Not for hunting or for home protection or for any reason besides the need to own them.
Anyone who really knows me has probably heard me say I think cigarettes and alcohol should both be illegal. As “crazy” as it sounds, I stand behind that. Because we have outlawed other drugs that negatively affect people who use them. And guns are no different. They should be illegal for civilians to own. And what happens when I say that? People will just make excuse after excuse about why that’ll never happen. My message to them is simple: You’re right. Civilians will likely never be outlawed from owning guns in this country, but the next mass shooting WILL happen. And more will follow because nothing is being done.
The problem is that people only look at mass shootings and say it isn’t a large enough problem to start making radical changes to gun laws. But gun violence kills tens of thousands of people a year in America, it is so much more than just mass shootings we’re talking about. The problem isn’t solely that guns will likely never be outlawed, but that nothing whatsoever is being done to stop the next shooting.
I’ve written a bit on here over the start of 2018 about my attempt to find some form of happiness. I even wrote more recently about how rough January ended up being. And then I had a lightbulb moment.
I have nothing to be unhappy about. Not a damn thing. Let me tell you what I’ve had going on recently besides my grandma’s death.
In November I earned my first quarterly bonus at work. In December I was recognized as one of the top 8 reps doing my job in my entire office (roughly 100 total). I’m getting my second quarterly bonus on Friday. My 6% pay raise goes into effect April 1. I’m doing very well financially. This isn’t to throw in anyone’s face, but I know so many problems arise from finances. I have a small group of friends who are even better than I’ve given them credit for. I have the ability to travel if I want to or try new things. I don’t have to worry about having food or shelter. And I’m doing my best to finally learn to speak Spanish.
There’s nothing negative in my life. Everyone deals with feeling sad or lonely differently. I know my situation is only my own. But as soon as I stopped feeling sorry for myself I felt better. I don’t dread my days off work. I don’t dread the minute I walk in the door after a workday. And no one should.
Today marks a grand anniversary for me. A year ago today I was able to go to work as an employee for Travelers for the first time. I have lots to say.
I’ve been incredibly open about my struggle to find employment in the months leading up to starting with Travelers. I quit my job at Half Price Books in July, 2016 because I felt like I was settling. Then spent months trying to get a job in law enforcement. Failed. Then spent several more months trying to get ANY job. Got some offers and REJECTED THEM. Why? Because I was holding out for the one I actually wanted. The one I’ve now had for a full year.
Travelers has allowed me to learn and do so much. I finally started investing in my future for the first time with my 401(k). I opened my first brokerage account. I’m giving more to charity than ever before. I’m traveling. I’m helping people every single day I go to work. I’m challenging myself. I was able to buy not one, but two new cars. I moved into my first apartment. I’m not worried about where my next paycheck is coming from. And maybe most important of all, I feel like I know a lot more about insurance than I previously did.
The list could go on forever. I’ve spent the last year of my life employed by a magnificent company. And the time is fast approaching for me to decide where I’m going next. Oh, what a difference a year makes.
During my grandma’s eulogy I asked everyone in attendance to continue to tell their stories they had of her. I’m going to tell my first one today.
This is so low on the spectrum of memories or importance, but I have time to tell more important ones later.
I don’t know when exactly this took place. My parents currently have two dogs. Maya and Chico. They’re largely the same. Both small. Both go crazy when someone gets home. And both will sleep on anyone in the house.
At some point early last year when I was still at home I walked by my grandma’s room and she was lying down watching TV. She was very small in her later years, right? So she was lying on her side just watching TV. And then I noticed Chico somehow lying on top of her shoulder, asleep. She was awake.
Chico does that with everyone in the house. But I guess I just wasn’t expecting to see him there. I also wasn’t expecting her to just let him stay.
Honestly, it was just nice. I don’t remember what my exact reaction was but I’m sure I smiled. When I went on vacation last year for 8 days Chico cried by my door. So I know he knows she’s not home. But it’s okay. He’s a tough little guy.
I mentioned in a post last month that I’m going to be a more generous and giving person in 2018. The goal is to donate to a different nonprofit organization in or around the city of Houston each month of the year. My first choice was the Houston Museum of Natural Science. I’ve made my first donation. Now it’s time to announce the second organization I’ve chosen. But again, I want to explain why.
It really doesn’t matter where you stand on the political spectrum to recognize that over the past year or so hate in many different forms seems to have increased in the public eye.
Now I’m not going to sit here and say that I previously thought racism or sexism or any type of hate or discrimination or prejudiced behavior had completely been eradicated. Of course not. For example, I’ve just read that white supremacists are targeting college campuses more and more with each passing day. It’s obvious why college campuses are the target. Because if a particular group or individual are not allowed to speak or hold a gathering, then that evolves into the university limiting free speech.
Look, if you believe white people, especially men, are the supreme Race, that’s your business. But this IS still 2018. And however many in your sphere believe that, it simply isn’t mainstream. Even with all the talk of immigration that may somehow lead you to believe you’re on the right side of this.
The point I’m making is that we’ve seen things like this before. Some have witnessed first-hand what happens when a group persecutes another group for being different. It’s what history books call the Holocaust. I’m absolutely not comparing what we experience in the US to what took place at the hands of the Nazis. But I visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC almost two years ago. After my visit I bought a small wrist band that says “What you do matters”. I’ve worn it everyday since to remind myself to speak up and speak out against hate when I see it. And to do everything I possibly can to prevent anything close to the Holocaust from happening again. I’m just one person in a sea of billions, but my second organization of the year is the Holocaust Museum Houston for their work educating so many on what happens when the world turns a blind eye to hate and genocide, but also for their work to prevent both.
I began the year by posting daily about my own personal struggles in recent months. I haven’t posted in recent weeks because all the things I’d been writing about worsened and worsened to the point of me texting someone at 4 in the morning a couple of weeks ago that I was on the verge of complete collapse.
But it was something entirely unexpected that caused this. My grandma fell ill.
I’m going to be completely honest with y’all. As an adult I’ve always maintained the attitude that death shouldn’t sadden us the way it typically does because every one of us will reach that day. My grandma was the closest relative I’ve lost. All of my other grandparents died when I was younger. I have memories of and with them, but I had my grandma twice as long as all the others. And I lived with her for 14 years.
She left us on the 19th. I went home from the hospital and cried all night. I’ve cried every day since. I’ve never cried more at any point during my 26 years.
I delivered the eulogy on the 25th. It was the single greatest honor of my life to tell everyone about my grandma and what I learned from her. Her funeral was the 26th. I’m still not sure I can handle this going forward.
But one thing I learned throughout all of this is that I’ve been mistaken for a really long time. I’m not alone, no matter how I might feel. I’ve had old friends reach out to me. But even more importantly, I’ve come to realize I have my family. It shouldn’t take death to realize this.
I already miss my grandma more than I can possibly put into words here. But I’m so much better off because of the two and a half decades I had with her.
Let my experience possibly be a lesson for you. We’ll all experience the feeling of loneliness I’ve been experiencing, but we aren’t alone. Not really. Not a single one of us.