I woke up on November 20th from several texts asking if I was okay. I’ll never forget that. Then, I checked my phone and saw a prompt on Facebook to check in that I was safe from the Club Q shooting. My heart and stomach completely fucking dropped.
Club Q was my safe space for a few years when I was exploring certain aspects of my life. I am a bisexual man. I struggled a lot in my early twenties figuring this stuff out. I accidentally moved to an apartment complex that was literally just a mere block away (like, literally a parking lot over) from Club Q so I would go over and and hang out to figure out my feelings and such. I made a few good friends and I loved my times there. As I got older, I couldn’t handle being out so late so I stopped going there unless if it were for special events like the ones they held after the annual Pride Parade, etc.
That week was a triple-punch to the gut.
Woke up to news of a mass shooting at a club that was was near and dear to my heart then just waiting to hear who the victims were was gut-wrenching. The following Monday, my team at work were responsible being in charge of first response to the massacre. We went to a resource center with easy-to-make, quick-to-make meals and snacks because when one has been in such a traumatic situation, it’s obvious one won’t be in the mood to make full meals, etc.
Then on Tuesday morning, I found out the news that my near and dear friends, Chip and Joanne, are survivors of the shooting. Chip being shot once and Joanne being shot five times. Thankfully, they made it through and, especially thankfully, they were both able to spend Christmas with their kids at their home instead of the hospital.
Then, someone I’ve considered a father figure for a long time lost his youngest son suddenly just days before Christmas.
Then, a friend lost her brother around the same time before Christmas, too.
Earlier this year, I lost a dear friend to COVID.
I feel like the silence of grief this year has been deafening.
After the Club Q shooting, I got drinks with two very close friends, Heather and Aaron, and we had a very blunt discussion about how as we get older the holidays seem to lose more and more of the “magic” they held from when we were all younger. Both my Thanksgiving and my Christmas times spent with my mom included lots of moments of tears. It’s hard. This has been a really hard few years and I don’t know why it has to be like this.
But, I’ve learned that growing older just means life gets harder. Loss and grief increases, it compounds, and it just doesn’t stop. Yeah, I can continue to do well and succeed at my job, get more and more pay, make more friends and connections, hike new trails and embrace the old trails I love, but the sense of getting older and that meaning you and your loved ones lose more and more people? This is turning out to be quite the adjustment to make as I get older. I’m only 35 years old and I’m already at the point of “Oh, shit, how much more of this is going to happen for me and my loved ones!?” It’s an unsettling and anxiety-inducing feeling.
I’ve been an advocate for a very long time for the intention of “death to cynicism” and I still believe that, despite how close I’ve been to giving up on that. You can be realistic about how shitty life and the world is but still embrace and hold onto that hope, hold onto continuing to do good for those around you. That’s the death to cynicism; holding onto that hope and energy to continuing doing good for others regardless of how the world is going on and happening. Hell, one specific example I have of holding onto that hope is my close friend, Hailey, having a little free pantry in her front yard to help those in need. If you want to check it out, it’s @pikespeakpantry on Instagram and Facebook and support it in any way you can!
As I’ve written the last few years on New Years posts, “Life is amazing and intense and it is beautiful and it absolutely fucking sucks. Embrace all of it and enjoy all of it.”
I refuse to give up on hope and love and happiness, no matter how hard it is to keep my focus on that. I hope you can do the same.
In the end, fuck the last few years. Here’s to hoping 2023 is halfway decent for all of us.