171 Days

Merry Christmas! I’m sure many of you have had a great and comforting day with family and friends, celebrating the best parts of life so as to end yet another Gregorian calendar year on a good note. Did you know that, even before this holiday was internationally standardized as “Christmas,” many cultures already held mid-winter feasts and festivities as a means to cheer people up during the shortened, dark, and cold days? It’s even possible that celebrations were held at this point of the year because it was very likely that some of your loved ones wouldn’t even survive the winter!

Though I’m visiting a country that doesn’t really celebrate Christmas, I did get to spend all day with my family and relatives, dealing with all of their eccentricities while eating delicious food. Still, despite the love and comfort I received all day, my thoughts revolved around one particular person and by extension her family and closest friends who did not get to cheer her up or see her survive until the next year.

Today marks the day when one of the closest friends in my entire life has been gone for as long as I had known her. Chloe Weil removed herself from the physical world 171 days ago which was 171 days after the day I first spoke to her. I’ve been dreading this checkpoint in my life as I feared that I wouldn’t have learned anything from this traumatic experience, expecting to passively regress into my old and comfortable ways.

So, did I keep my promise to inherit some of Chloe’s more admirable traits and spread more joy to those around me? I don’t know. It’s difficult for me to visualize my impact on others’ lives so I choose to focus instead on the changes I’ve made to my own.

As a result of this tragedy, I see and feel the world differently. I’ve been historically very judgmental of others my entire life, mainly to protect myself from people who I saw as a threat or as weak, people who could put me down or bring me down with them. Chloe always challenged me as to why I had these strong-held beliefs, even though I only shared them in jest, and only now can I see how dismissive, divisive, and disgusting they were. Chloe may not have been perfect, she did at least keep open any channels from which she could learn something new or forge a new relationship. I had already started opening my mind for many years after college in order to truly begin letting go of these judgments, but it was only Chloe’s death before I could be almost rid of them entirely.

After I wrote my first and last letter to Chloe, I had so many people reach out to me to see how I was doing. I of course welcomed their sympathy to my insurmountable pain but what really piqued my interest was their empathy. I learned that every single person has suffered some sort of major trauma in life but, as a surprise to me, has been positively affected by it. These family members and friends reached out to me not due to obligation but because they knew exactly what my pain felt like. I’ve always been told that people are more than just the masks they put out in public, but it took connecting with them at such a deep and real level, something that I didn’t think was possible for me until I met Chloe, before I could erase all doubt.

These shifts in my thinking I feel have made me less intense and narcissistic, allowing me to break through a large number of comfort zones. I am more willing to converse with strangers, especially intoxicatingly intelligent and breathtakingly beautiful women. I have reignited my passion for my side projects, such as those apps I’ve wanted to build for the last few years or all the work of rewiring, rejiggering, and repainting that would for the first time ever allow me to refer to my city apartment as “Home.” I am more capable of connecting with others, celebrating their successes and comforting them after their setbacks. I do all of this because Chloe would have.

I am so happy that things seem to be getting better for me. It’s reassuring to finally see that lighthouse in the distance. My only wish is that Chloe survived the voyage with me.

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