We all have regrets.
Some of them are small. Some of them are large. Some of them are significant. Some of them are not. Some of them we fight to remember. Others we wish we could forget.
Every single one of us has done something that we wish we hadn’t or said something we wish we could unsay. We all have things in our pasts that we wish would just go away.
Personally, I’ve had my fair share of regrets. Unfortunately, I’ve got one regret that stands out above all of the others.
I used to go to a private school. It was very Gossip Girl-esque in a lot of ways, but it wasn’t nearly as snooty. While, yes, there were some snobs, there were also great people. People that would hug you in the hall on the way to class and make you feel like you mattered.
There was a girl named Natalie. She was one of those people that didn’t talk much in public, but would always smile at you when she saw you. She was a sweetheart, to say the least. You could tell she was shy, but she had a big heart and it showed. For the life of me, I cannot remember what brought us together. It was probably a play or a class or something. It was years ago and honestly, that wasn’t what stood out to me. She would always say hi and I would wave back and that’s just how it was.
I remember one day when I was having a rough time. I have no idea why I was upset, but I was. I was sitting outside the middle school on a bench instead of going to the cafeteria for lunch with the rest of the school. I was kind of a nerd, so I spent my lunch period filling out the pages of my science workbooks and reading whatever stack of novels I’d managed to check out from the library that week. That day I was too upset to do any of that. I remember sitting on that stupid bench and crying my eyes out.
And then Natalie sat down next to me. She asked me if I was okay and I shook my head. She didn’t ask what was wrong or what had happened. She just sat next to me and waited. I eventually started talking and she just listened. When I was done with my awkward mixture of crying and rambling, she nodded and said it was going to be okay. And the funny thing was, I believed her. She smiled and said it like it was a fact. It didn’t sound like the empty platitudes that you give people all the time. It sounded real and I knew she meant it.
She had barely known me. I mean, we were friends. We saw each other in the halls. We could have a conversation. We could make small talk. We knew each other. But we didn’t hang out in the same social circles. We were complete opposites in a lot of ways. She didn’t have any obligation to stop and talk to me. And, yet, she did. She stopped and sat down and made sure I was okay. She listened to me vent and she didn’t make me feel stupid about it. That was just the kind of person she was. And she was the kind of person I needed that day.
I think about that day a lot now.
Natalie took her own life on January 27th of 2015.
I had left Augusta Prep about a year after that talk. I started homeschooling and only went back to Augusta Prep once to reconnect with some of my old friends. It was my second semester at college. I remember I was sitting in the game room with Brendan when I saw a post on my Facebook feed. I remember freezing and Brendan asking what was wrong. I remember crying because it couldn’t be true, right? It had to be a joke.
I couldn’t tell you how long I stared at her profile, reading all the posts and trying to understand. I’d like to say that I was surprised. I’d really, really, really like to. But, honestly, I can’t. Looking back, I had known she was struggling. I’d even wondered a few times if I should message her and see how she was. Every time she posted something on Facebook, I would get the urge to open up a chat and tell her I liked her hair or let her know that she was beautiful. But I never did. And I will always regret that.
I’ll always wonder if it would have helped. If it would have been that one thing that changed her mind. Logically, I know that’s stupid and selfish. But emotionally, I just feel guilty.
Natalie, you were always nice to me. You were always there to smile and wave. I wasn’t close with you and I wasn’t a big part of your life. But you were still there when I needed someone to talk to.
You don’t know it, but you saved me. In the beginning of 2015, I was having a really hard time. I was struggling and my anxiety was all over the place. I was having suicidal thoughts and my depression was eating me alive. Honestly, I was about to give up.
And then I heard about you. And I saw all of the posts from your friends and family. I saw how people were breaking and I just kept thinking that it could have been me.
You saved me without meaning to. You made me realize how much it would hurt the people around me. You showed me that life is worth living because people are worth caring about. You matter. And you will never know how much I appreciate your small, but significant part in my life. Thank you for the smiles. Thank you for that day.
I hope you’re happy up there in Heaven. If anyone deserves peace, it’s you. I’m sorry that I never sent you that message. I’m sorry that it’s too late now. I hope you can forgive me.
You’re a shooting star, Natalie. You always have been. So shine on.