And as frightening as it can be, that pain will make you stronger if you allow yourself to feel it. Embrace it. It will make you more powerful than you can ever imagine. The greatest gift we have is to bear their pain without breaking and it comes from your most human part – hope.
future Charles Xavier to past Charles Xavier, X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
The chapter that will be titled “Monterey” in my story was a beautiful adventure in my life, for all the things that I learned and the people that changed me. But my lasting lessons will ultimately not be about policy analysis or quantitative methods, it will be about her.
It’s a personal rule of mine to keep my private life offline as much as I can, so for the last 2 years I rarely posted anything of note about my relationship to social media. For now, all I will say about her is that she made me feel joyful and free, and I will always treasure the life that we shared together in that little town by the sea.
But all stories have endings, even the best ones. And now I am back home in Los Angeles, ready to start a new phase of my life.
I would be lying if I said all is well. Losing her, family issues, finding the right job, and even having my beloved UCSB community hurt by a traumatic tragedy. Honestly, it wears on me.
But I know I’m ready for this. I have to be.
The media wants to discuss “what is a real man?”, but true masculinity is essentialist bullshit. I really don’t give a damn about living up to some societal perception of how a male should be. Instead, I define the values I hold most dear to my heart, and I do my best to live consistently to them every day. Empathy, hope, and a never-ending drive to better myself.
I get it now. We don’t get all the dreams we wanted as children. The world can be a cruel Hobbesian existence, where our lives are solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. You will be let down, you will be fired, you will be dumped, you will suffer, you will lose the people you love most. Life is not only unfair, it will go out of its merry way to try and beat you down until you are broken with nothing left. These are life’s certainties that you will never escape.
And yet despite all that, I have to hold on to the thing that makes us most human. Our ability to rise again. The world is an onslaught of waves crashing down all around us, and now, more than ever, I must be a mountain. The next few days, weeks, and months will be the most challenging thing I will have ever faced in my life, but I must be strong for her, for my brother, for my parents, and ultimately for myself.
I know I can endure the days to come, because I know my road. I know the steps I must take to reach that destination. I know that I have an army of close friends I’ve been away from for too long, people I trust to be there when the road gets tough. My place is here, in Los Angeles, in California, and I have no plans on leaving anytime soon.
For the longest time, I thought I wanted to work in international development, and that journey consumed my dreams. I’ve spent countless hours poring over dev economics and public policy, and truthfully it will never really go away for me. But now, I realize those wanderlust dreams of traveling the world are not for me. Those dreams belonged to a younger boy who wanted to be like the wind, who now realizes he has an infinitely more important dream,
At the end of my journey, in my daydreams, lies a house with high ceilings. A grand piano in a ballroom, with glass windows peering out. I can smell the ocean salt as I rest my worn out fingers on those keys, the sounds of my melodies echoing throughout a not-so-empty house. She is reading to them, surrounded by bookcases teeming with fairytales, classic literature, and history books I’ve picked up over the years. And I can be happy, for I will have known I made it.