This week, your story ended. But it’s a timeless classic.
If I could put the impact your smiling face left on our close-knit community in words, I wouldn’t be writing it. I’d be screaming it from the rooftops until I was black and blue in the face. But that’s not case. Because your friendship is something special. I’ve witnessed it firsthand. Though we personally weren’t close, I’ve seen you change people just by knowing them. I know you’ve changed me.
It’s always astounding how out of nowhere a person comes into your life and changes you for the better. I think the most beautiful part of it is that most of the time, that person doesn’t even know it. You never knew it, Justen, and regrettably, you will never know it. But a couple people, even if it’s just two or three, will know by the end of this post, and I know that your impact works best when it’s indirect.
It was sophomore year in Driver’s Ed. We sat next to each other. My knowledge of you was that you were one of the more popular kids, and I knew popular kids by association, I just wasn’t one of them. I thought they were all two-faced and had wrong morals, not anything I wanted to be around. This was a judgement embedded in my brain, and any type of judgement is wrong, especially those based upon assumption. I still remember how easy it was to talk to you. You’re still the only person to ever ask me how my day was every. single. day. Without fail. You singlehandedly changed my perception of my peers, and I thank you for that. I realized that judging people by pictures and not their personality is where my perception as a millennial was messed up. People are their actions, not their snapshots.
After Driver’s Ed ended, God willed our path to intertwine more often than not. I thought you would ignore me when you were near your high-profile friends. Nevertheless, you would still stop and say hi with your toothy grin and clever hazel eyes. It could be the middle of the passing period with ten seconds left, it didn’t matter. Your genuine care in our friendship is what gave me the courage to break out of my comfort zone and make more friends that year, no matter who they were on our school’s totem pole. And I’ve gotten my closest friends from that choice.
Do you remember Black Friday junior year? Oh my god, I do. I came to Walmart with my sister to get her Xbox 360 and you came with your mom to get Xbox 360 games, so we ended up in the same line. We hung out for over two hours until they let people start purchasing. Your mom is the sweetest, and I instantly saw where you got your great heart from. I remember thinking how I’d never forget how special the moment felt. I expect you not to remember, but Justen, you’re always full of pleasant surprises. You kept proving to me that no matter when or where, a friend is a friend. This is a quality that so many of us lack, we’re such a judgmental society, but you’re one of the special ones who can unconditionally look inside a person.
I’m writing all this because I feel so lucky to have known you, Justen. And if anyone reads this, I challenge you to think of a person not in your life who changed it for the better and thank them, because you honestly never will know when God will decide it’s their time to go home. When it’s decided that they have already lived out their duty on Earth, and even though we don’t understand why it has to be so young, it’s often better that way. A Canadian Ted Talks contributor calls them “lollipop moments”. Thankfully, the person he impacted let him know. I never got to let you know in person, Justen, but just know I’m sending love your way. I still remember what you taught me in college. You’ll never truly be gone, because you’re still ink in my story. Justen with the hugs.
From the girl who would always hype about Lana with you in the middle of class,
Kayla with the glasses.
Love you. See you soon. xx
P.S.-in answer to your question senior year, “hydroponic” means growing plants without soil. (:
Today’s Jams: Brooklyn Baby, Lana Del Rey. Born To Die album, Lana Del Rey. Anna Sun (Acoustic Cover), The Griswolds.