by Zoe Schrader
December 5th, 2013. This was the day that stopped me dead in my tracks.
I was waiting for my bagel at Einstein’s when I got a call from a friend. It was an odd time of day for her to be calling and my red flags went off instantly. I could hear her choking back tears; something had gone incredibly wrong.
Our friend killed himself.
There are rumors about your life flashing before your eyes when you die; I hadn’t planned on experiencing this phenomenon anytime soon. Every single memory I had of him played back in my head in a matter of seconds and denial hit me like a train.
What came next is obvious: grief, mourning, questioning, anger, the whole lot of it. But what came after all of this is something you might not expect.
I’m sure you’ve heard the cliché line, “live like you were going to die tomorrow,” time and time again, but what happens when you actually do?
Everyone that knew my friend banded together in a way that I never imagined possible. Phones were ringing off the hook just to check in and say, “I love you”. No one wanted a day to pass with missed opportunities or words unsaid, and I was most certainly one of them.
His name was Ryan. Ryan Vanderveen. He was one of the most outgoing people I knew; everyone knew him. He had a laugh that you could pick out of a crowd in an instant. Not only was he outgoing, but he was also extremely intelligent and a great long boarder. News of his passing spread across the world through the online long boarding community to people who had never even met him. He left behind a legacy in his 18 years of life.
I thought to myself, if he could touch this many people in a short 18 years imagine what I could do in my entire lifetime?
I had a whole new outlook. Every second held so much more value and I didn’t want to miss a thing. I was no longer inclined to waste time on small talk or fighting about things that didn’t matter. I was struck with this powerful determination to create the future that I wanted for myself, and to take advantage of everything along the way. I wanted to succeed, prove myself, break out of my bubble and get to know people on a deeper level.
This lifestyle may seem exhausting, but it is worth it. I came into my second semester stronger than ever with goals to accomplish not only for myself, but for him as well.
Somewhere along the way through all of this, I thought, what if everyone lived their lives like he inspired me to? What if everyone had this immense desire to create their own legacy?
Well, I would like to know what that looks like. I’m leaving my days of complacency behind me and headed towards a future that I will be proud of, and I invite you to join me.
This one’s for you.