This week’s post was supposed to be about coloring, but due to recent events, I’ve decided to push things back.
If you’ve followed me on social media, you might have seen my posts during the last week about my friend Michael Meyers. Mike was a great friend of mine while I was in high school.
He had gone hiking in the Sierra Nevada region, and no one had heard from him in days.
At first, I had thought nothing of it, because he had always been an outdoorsy type, and was so experienced at traversing tough terrains in the wilderness.
However, when I had heard that he had been missing for more than a week—I knew that something was abnormal. Mike was a person that liked to “check in” with people – he was so consistent about keeping loved ones updated on his status and whereabouts.
I tried my hardest to help spread the news of Mike to help the Meyers family as much as I could.
It didn’t matter that I hadn’t spoken to him in years. I knew that he would have done the same for me if the situation was flipped.
Unfortunately, this story does not have a happy ending.
His younger brother Will, messaged me and revealed that Mike was unable to successfully complete his trip, and did not make it off the mountain.
Honestly, for days prior to the news breaking, I had been trying to mentally prepare myself for the worst.
It didn’t matter.
After reading Will’s message, I was hit with deep, heaving sobs… the ones that consume you entirely.
A lot of the thoughts I had seemed dark, and selfish. I felt awful because I had the terrible thought of “why couldn’t it have been ANYONE else in his graduating class.”
He was probably the only one I cared about.
Grief is a strange thing. The feelings of anger, guilt, sadness are normal. I'm accepting this reaction because anything else would be disingenuous. I think that most people have a fleeting thought of "why them...why that person..." after losing someone.
The pain I feel is a result of the relationship I had with my friend, and no one ever wants to experience that.
My high school is a 30-minute drive from my parent’s house. Before I got my license, I had to ride the school bus. The length of the ride was always AT LEAST an hour long.
Mike (and later his brother Will) were some of my only companions in the first half hour of the bus ride. We talked about everything.
Mike was very distinct person. He had a presence to him.
A lot of ticks and speech patterns he was prone to use are habitually part of my current vernacular.
We probably talked every day, either in person, or online. He would also randomly message me with lyrics from popular rap songs, which I always found hilarious.
I’ve had family pass away… but they weren’t people that I could think of that tangibly changed my life and my perspectives.
We were complete opposites. Mike loved the outdoors, listened to country music, was a math/science GENIUS and was pretty conservative politically.
I hate being outside, country music is OKAY. I’m extremely liberal and more of a humanities person.
It’s a situation where you can be (at face-value) fundamentally different from another human being, and they can still leave a lasting impact on you and your life experiences.
A majority of the time, especially during middle and high school, most students older than you never gave you the time of day. Mike was never like that. He would listen to the things I had to say, and he always gave his honest opinion and the best advice he could offer.
He’d speak in staccato sentences, gave strong-armed hugs and had the quintessential Minnesotan accent.
Typically, I don’t think before I speak. Mike would give me a considering look, before offering his input and perspective on whatever dramatic event I had blown out of proportion.
I remember having to take an outdoor skills class in middle school (as an elective). Mike sat with me and tried his hardest to get some of the concepts that were so foreign to me into my thick skull. He didn’t have to do that.
Most people wouldn’t.
He was a runner, and a skier. Once, I was lost in the hills of northern Minnesota – and the entire cross-county ski team had to search for me – Mike’s booming laugh afterwards still puts a smile on my face.
He was blunt, and kind -- a human reminder that life really is as much as you make of it.
He truly was a TRAILBLAZER.
What I regret most, is that I hadn’t seen him since surviving my first semester of college.
He told me:
"Irene. You’re probably going to change the world. You’re a good person. Life is damn tough sometimes, but it’ll be worth it."
I’m upset that I didn’t keep in touch with him.
Oh well, huh.
Thanks for reading.
This is in memory of a friend who was an explorer, a scholar and a good man.