Yesterday morning I received a phone call from the District Attorney, informing me that Anthony Romero, the boy who killed my dad, wished to send my family a message. Here’s what he said:
Upon receiving it, I felt sad for him. I don’t think he’s very different than the rest of us. We all go through this — bouts of doubt, seeking of meaning, needing to belong, the desire to be seen. I only felt compassionate towards his honesty. Yet at such a young age, his fear and his need to find for identity spiraled him to a dark place, deep enough to result in manslaughter.
My dad used to tell me that the joy of life all starts with being grateful. Something everyone can do.
Scenario: Your house burned down.
Person#1: Oh Thank God, no one died.
Person #2: My life is fucked. I hate life. Everything bad happens to ME and me ONLY.
After the tragedy, my black and white world blurred out to gray and I forgot the teachings of my dad. And while my mom would pray her worries away and “thank God!” in every circumstance and situation, I would roll my eyes or believed that I was the only person in the world having bad things happen to. When my eye doctor messed up my LASIK eye surgery last year and I sat blind in the dark with bandages over my eyes without the promise of it healing, I was in a deep, dark place. I thought, OF COURSE he does Brad Pitt’s eyes and the LA Lakers Team eyes perfectly, and he had to mess MINE up! I battled with inner demons and didn’t see (literally) my mom nursing me by my side. My life has changed a lot since then, and it looks like Anthony’s has too. As he said, sometimes it takes a lot of stripping away.
It’s easy to compare your life to others and feel depressed — She’s marrying her soulmate in an Italian Villa? They quit their job and traveling all over the world drinking champagne? He IPOed on his startup? They just had their second baby?! Well good for them. Let’s choose to be happy for our loved ones, and believe we have a unique path to live (as I tell myself as I write this.) We never know what’s behind closed doors, and life is long and short at the same time.
I’m more affirmed that the biggest differentiator in life is what lens you decide to see your life through, and it ultimately shapes your destination. You can be given the same situation to two different people, and their destination can be a world apart. Of course, external conditions play a significant role: socioeconomic background, natural disposition, childhood conditioning, etc. But it doesn’t have to break us–if we choose to believe so.
In a way, I’m glad that Anthony came to this place, and my hope is to see him on this continued path of redemption and recovery. I chose to share his letter today because his wish is this:
“I find my purpose it to help others, to speak of my story in hope that someone will learn and leave this dangerous lifestyle habits that lead me to my actions and self destruction. I will be a light of love in this great place of darkness. We have the power to convert a negative outlet into a positive one and that is what I will work, strive and continue to do.”
And I believe he will do just that.