Thursday, May 12, 2016

Letters For When I Get Hit by a Bus

One day I'm going to die, and it's either going to be my best day or my worst. I think it's probably going to be the latter, but an optimist might argue that it will be the greatest day of my life, so fingers crossed. My most anxious thought about my death is the people around me not knowing or not being totally sure of how I felt about them. When I was 14, I had a Catholic Studies teacher whose name escapes me; it was something long and Maltese, Mr. Gali-something. He was an olive-skinned, clean yet unshaven middle-aged man with a long salt and pepper pony tail. He had an avuncular heftiness that you'd imagine seeing at a family barbecue or a local ten pin bowling championship. But looks aside, he was a funny yet dead-pan bloke and a very deep thinker. I'd always disliked religion in school, but he taught it like he wasn't following a syllabus and I liked that. To better get in touch with ourselves, in class one day he made us write a letter to someone about all the things we'd want them to know if we were to die suddenly. They were goodbye letters, and this one single day in a small Sydney classroom had such an impact on me that I'm still writing these fucking things 11 years later.

like the fbookz

When I was still in school, I never really thought anything of it; writing these letters, that is. I would go home, type them, date them, hide them, and I never thought that it was strange or particularly worth mentioning to anyone. In fact, at the time, my death still wasn't a real thing to me. I thought I'd live forever. I lived everyday and slept every night like there'd be more of them, even though there was no guarantee on the side of the box. Standard for a teenager, I suppose. At the time, I guess I saw the letters as more of a safe place I could be at my most honest and my most blunt than I had the guts to be in person or on the internet. I was a shy kid who was less than forthright with most of the people I came across. I had a lot of strong feelings for people, both good and bad, and yet I was so afraid to share any of them as much as I was itching to. But at the same time, I couldn't bare the thought of dying and those thoughts dying with me, with no means for someone to salvage them. But I figured as a teen that there was something so honest in death, especially when one feels as if they have nothing left to lose and nothing left to hide, and I wanted to see if I could channel a bit of that myself. That's why you never want to speak to someone who thinks they're dying, because if they've always thought you were a dick, they might finally tell you.

But I think that was what appealed to me as a 14 year old. The first batch of letters I penned weren't pretty, so much so that they could've become what caused my death had they gotten out. They were dark, horrible and extremely vindictive. They were filled with such resentment that at the time I relished the thought of my death just so that people would read them and realise that they no longer had the chance to make amends for the ways they'd wronged me, they would just have to live with the guilt of receiving a scathing letter from a dead guy for the rest of their lives. I was an angry, angry kid who carried around a lot of pain, and the thought of offloading some of that, especially from the grave, made me fucking giddy with joy.

To say that I don't still have that thought would be a bit of a lie, but following school I would eventually better channel the habit more positively toward the people I love. As much as I wanted my foes to know how awful they were as human beings, I wanted my friends and family to be sure of the opposite too. I wanted them to know what it was I loved about them, how they enriched the time I was alive, the changes they made to the people around them, and how I hoped they would live their lives after I was gone, essentially reminding them to hang on to the values and traits that I so revered in them. I most importantly would put my deepest desires in there. The letters I've written to the friends I'd fallen out with are about how much I wanted to ask them to coffee and start a fresh, but was ultimately too stubborn to do so while I was alive. Some are to girls I liked but never had the courage to tell them that I visited the places we first met or kissed and secretly hoped they would serendipitously be doing the same too, even though that would never happen. For over a decade, I have essentially been reverse-eulogising my friends. Instead of them going up to the podium and talking me up as I go into the ground, it was the opposite, I was talking about them to them, albeit in a less sugar-coated and more authentic fashion.

More importantly, the greatest thing to me about these letters, the most vital and character-moulding lesson that Mr. Pony Tail inadvertently laid the groundwork for that day at school was that these goodbye letters are ridiculous. At first, I didn't have the audacity to say half the shit I wrote, that's why they were necessary at the time, but not anymore really. The more I matured, the more I realised how silly it was that I wasn't just coming right out and saying these things. I've written them less in my 20s because now I know that I could die, and I'm driven by that a little. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and would never have actually asked you out for a beer, and who the fuck am I to deny myself of that while I still can? That would be stupid. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm still writing these things regardless, it's just that more often than not, I've started to actually give them to people, just edited as normal letters. I'm not afraid anymore. Of course, I never told them that they started out as death letters and I would omit anything that implied it, like all the now that I'm gones and all the past tenses. But…some people have them.

What that means is that at the core of all of these words my friends, family and ex-whatevers may never read, they made me a more forthright and honest person; not just with others, but with myself. Some might say that the letters made me into an arsehole, but I say that they made me more transparent to most on the outside and they helped draw a clearer path to my heart for a select few on the inside, transforming me from a hardened-boy into a better man. Fuck, imagine if I'd called in sick or jigged that day; God knows who I'd be right now!

To my surprise, I've written this blog for nine years now, and some of these letters still predate its very first post by a long time. This also isn't the first time I've tried to write this post, nor is it the second, or the third. The letters were one of my deepest secrets, and that's not hyperbole. Sure, they live in a folder more hidden, more secured and more deeply nested than...well, you can guess, but the secrecy wasn't exactly intentional. There's not a lot that I keep close to my chest, and anybody who's known me for longer than an hour would be able to attest to that. It just didn't come up, and how could it? Like five people know. Perhaps it was because somehow I felt like they were almost symbiotically attached to my death, like they were the only thing I had saved for my funeral, and if I let that go, what else would I have just for me? I also didn't want people to feel hurt, weirded out or, most importantly, curious.

So, why write about it, and why write about it now? Well, last year I had a four and a half year relationship fall apart. I thought I'd be with her for as long as I lived and I trusted her in ways that I never knew existed, so I told her about them and deputised her into distributing these things in the event of my death. It was an unfair and fucked up request, but it meant a lot to me and brought a guy with no religion quite a bit of comfort. I don't have someone like that anymore and 11 years is a huge chunk of time for a 25 year old. It's time people knew, I think, not because I've been itching for them to know, on the contrary actually, I'd rather it stay a secret. Nor is it because I want people to come looking for them, or that I want everybody to expect that they have one waiting for them, because not everybody does. It's because - and this is the only reason - it's because I want people to know that these fucking things exist and that they will continue to be written, because when I'm no longer around, no body is going to let these people know for me and the letters will probably be lost. This post is my only hope, really.