“Happiness is only real when shared”
— Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild
It’s tough to write about something as complicated as death. A friend of mine passed recently, and my mind and my body have been in shock. The spectre of death surrounds us all, as a pandemic flanks the human population at a faster rate than it’s ever been. We’re all on the edge of living on borrowed time at this moment, and so I don’t want to write about death. I want to write about life.
My friend lived a full life. I saw him every so often, usually when I hung out with one of my best friends. These two though were unlike any other friendship I’ve ever seen. They were kindred spirits. Brothers. Family. I wasn’t as close to this friend as my best friend was, so I heard everything about his life after his passing.
I listened to my best friend shed away his emotions through the screen of my phone. We cried, we laughed, we reminisced and said everything we wanted to say. Through his eyes, I could see that this person really meant the world to him, and all I wanted to do at that moment was hug him.
From the outside, looking in, I could tell they had something special going for them, a bond that could only be shattered by a fucking expiration date. Every time I saw them, they’d be the liveliest, purest, most carefree people on this planet, and I could see that it was only because they had their own lives to share with one another.
It’s in their friendship that I’ve taken this period of mourning to really think about what I have right now. 2020 was supposed to be my year of individual achievement, but instead, it made me appreciate all the love that’s been granted to me by my friends and family.
I’m coming to learn that the people we surround ourselves with are ultimately what makes us happy. Yes, we must seek our happiness by ourselves, but are we truly happy if we don’t have anyone to share that joy with? Our western individualist mindset has pressured us to face our challenges alone. Yet, it will never be as fulfilling as sharing them with the company that we choose to keep despite our individual successes. We were never meant to live this life alone.
As I’ve gone to meet more people that I grew to love in my life, I’ve come to learn that it’s in the simple moments shared with them that brings me the most joy — a laugh, a phone call, a text, a smile, an embrace — these are the moments that we take for granted. It’s in these small moments that I feel the most alive.
My friend’s life didn’t have to be cut short so suddenly. He took care of everyone around him, no matter how close to him they were. He made sure to connect with anyone he met because he chose to live his life appreciating other people. He lived his life to the fullest because he knew that he had friends and family to celebrate his own life with.
Despite living in different worlds, whenever I had a chance to reconnect with him, he always made sure to understand where I was coming from. He always carried within himself a composure that allowed me to be vulnerable with him despite the space between us.
It’s time to take that extra step into doing that with others, especially those I love and care for. I hope to one day be like Trieu, a man who faced the world without fear and regret. His death will not be in vain. From now on, I want to live this life genuinely understanding and appreciating the people I surround myself with, because if we can’t do that, are we truly alive?
We miss you Trieu.