Letter to Karen
Hey Karen! How are you? I hope that you’re doing well!
I wanted to share a story with you because I thought that it’d make you happy to hear it. It’s a story about how my life was saved by Jesus Christ. You probably already heard parts of my story but I wanted to share the parts that you haven’t heard. Here it is!
I always thought that everything in life could be logically explained; through science, philosophy, sociology, biology etc. But gradually, my mindset has changed. My friend, Erin, has played a significant role in my religious and personal journey; I don’t know where I’d be without her.
I met Erin at a Study Abroad mix and mingle event. Erin had gone to Argentina, and I had gone to Brazil. Interestingly, we were both assigned to the South American table. Almost immediately, Erin and I clicked. We shared stories about our adventures in South America, conversed for several hours and were the last to leave the mix and mingle.
Later that night, Erin invited me to her Small Group. I agreed to go, but I contemplated about whether I should break my routine of non-stop studying. However, I had promised myself that this year would be different: that I would let go of my insecurities and that I would allow myself to be happy. So I took the risk and went to Erin’s Small Group the following week. Small Group wasn’t what I expected it to be: a group of weird goody two-shoe Christians. I actually related to these people. It felt good. So, I kept coming back.
I remember one night, a month after joining Erin’s Small Group, when Jay Tee (a members that I met at Small Group), invited me for tacos at twelve a.m. We stayed up talking for hours after he walked me home. Jay Tee asked me about my religious background and I told him that I never believed in God. I shared my point of view, and he respected it. Jay Tee said that he wasn’t out to convince me to believe that God was real; he simply wanted to put the possibility out there and allow me to make my own decisions. So he shared the story of how he began following Jesus Christ.
Jay Tee said that he was raised in a Christian household, so he always believed in God. But he later began questioning his faith when he reached high school and fell into depression. Not too long after, he met a friend who shared similar struggles. Jay Tee resonated with this person and they became good friends.
Soon after, Jay Tee was accepted into UCLA; his friend wasn’t. Gradually, Jay Tee and his friend drifted apart. One day, Jay Tee received a call from another friend telling him that his friend had taken his life.
While driving to the funeral, Jay Tee fell asleep and was almost in a car accident. At that moment, Jay Tee could care less if he died. Jay Tee began questioning God’s presence in his life, and asked for a sign to show him that God was still there. A few days later, Jay Tee received his sign.
I remember when Shelly shared a story about God during my first Christian Fellowship retreat, (two months after meeting Erin and Jay Tee). “God knows you. He knows how to speak to you in a way that no one else can.” Shelly also shared a biblical passage about a man named Joseph. Joseph was blind his entire life until he was cured one day. When people asked Joseph what had cured him, he always gave the same answer: doctors and medicine. It wasn’t until the sixth time he was asked, that Joseph realized his recovery was a miracle from God.
I remember wondering, could this be a story about me? Am I Joseph and have I been blind to God’s presence my entire life?
I began putting the pieces together and I realized how particular events in my life had occurred in such harmony with each other. It was too much of a coincidence. For any of this to make sense, though, I should probably share my story.
On November 11, 2006 I was shot. I was shot with a shotgun to the back of my head and right shoulder. I instantly fell unconscious and was surrounded by a puddle of blood. I was taken to Lodi Memorial Hospital and was pronounced dead on the spot.
I was flown to UC Davis Medical Center thereafter, (for the purpose of preserving my organs) where doctors tried to convince my mom to consent to the organ donation process. My mom refused to believe that I was dead or to sign anything. She whispered in my ear and begged me not to leave her. It was then when she felt my breath on her face.
I was quickly connected to all sorts of machinery, but doctor’s strongly doubted that I’d survive till morning. The following morning, I was alive.
After waking up from my three week coma, I realized how different I had become. I was no longer able to sit, walk or eat. I was partially paralyzed on the right side of my face and body, and I had to relearn how to function on my own again.
After two months of surgeries, countless hours of physical, occupational and speech therapy, I was released from the hospital.
For the first few months, life was good. I indulged in all the extra attention and I enjoyed being treated like a child again. I don’t remember when it hit me though: the realization that I was different.
It hit me pretty hard. I can’t count how many times I was stopped by strangers and the police because they thought that I was drunk, or how many times people stared at me as if I were some sort of circus animal. I became a bitter and angry teenager. I hated everyone. I hated life, and I hated myself.
I blamed my mom the most for all of my problems. I told her that it was her fault that I was shot and I did everything to make sure she knew how much I hated her. Eventually, my mom gave up and stopped acknowledging my existence. Little did she know that all I wanted was for her to love me again. But in contrast, she abandoned me.
High school, perhaps, was where my sense of rejection hit me the most. I felt like nobody liked me and that everyone constantly judged me. No one teased me though. In fact, everyone was pretty nice to me. Maybe that was the problem. I felt like everyone was nice to me because they thought that I was mentally challenged. People spoke to me as if I were a baby, but I knew the truth. People are expected to be nice to the “new kid,” and even nicer to those who are mentally challenged. So, they spoke to me as if I were a baby because they thought that I was “special.”
Every day, I pretended as if there was nothing wrong with me. I hung out with my “friends,” went home and locked myself in the house. This characterized my life for such a long time that it became routine to me. I sometimes cried throughout random times of the day, realizing how pathetic my life had become. I felt completely and utterly alone.
I don’t remember the first time that I attempted suicide, but the second attempt still lingers in my mind. I was 15 years old and I was home alone. My parents had gone out shopping, but I later found out that they had really gone to my nephew’s birthday party with the rest of my family. It was then that I acknowledged that I had nothing in life anymore and that I would probably be rejected forever.
As humans, our instinct is to survive. If you put a newborn baby in the water, he will instantly begin splashing his arms as if he were drowning. If someone were to begin choking, s/he would automatically begin struggling to breathe again. So you can imagine how much pain I had to have been going through in order to go against all of my instincts and convince myself that taking my life was the best option for me. But, I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t handle the constant hours of crying, the rejection, the abandonment, the pain, the misery, and the emptiness. Life sucked. It had to stop.
I contemplated how to go through with it. I considered shooting myself but I didn’t have access to a gun. I considered hanging myself but the fact that I didn’t know how to do it without a rope meant that that wasn’t very possible either. I also considered cutting deep into my wrists or throat with a box cutter, but I didn’t have the guts to do it. I had my mind set on hurting myself in such a way that it would lead to absolute and permanent death, but I was a stupid teenager. I had no idea how to kill myself nor was I strong enough to handle the pain. Thus, I resorted to a drug overdose.
This obviously wasn’t an absolute way to die, as I had no idea which pills were enough to kill me. So I ingested everything in sight: narcotics, over-the-counter medications, everything. Once I swallowed the last pill, I instantly regretted it. I tried walking to my aunt’s house for help, but my legs were weak and I felt as if I was about to fall over. My head kept spinning and my hands kept shaking; I thought, “Wow this is it, I’m going to die.” I began to cry and I told myself that I didn’t want to die. In a final attempt, I dialed 911. I regretted that decision once the police arrived. They made me drink a charcoal tasting liquid and put me on a stretcher. It was embarrassing.
Later that year, when I began attending community college, I told myself to get over it. That I was fine and that I had other qualities to be thankful for. I never believed it though. I thought that if people thought that I was happy, they would like me (no one likes to be around a negative person).
It became easier to accept the fact that I was destined to be alone. I focused on my academics in order to distract myself from reality; I earned nearly perfect grades, was awarded several scholarships and was later accepted into UCLA.
I participated in the Transfer Summer Program during my first summer at UCLA. I met several people, smiled and laughed. I felt good. It didn’t last though. I didn’t believe that people truly saw me as a friend, so I continued to isolate myself. I spent most of my time on campus pretending to be busy. Fall quarter wasn’t very different either: my fear of rejection prevented me from making any friends, and I reverted to my routine of spending most of my time on campus.
Eventually, I acknowledged that I didn’t want to be alone forever. That something had to change. I had to find happiness.
Perhaps, I told myself, if I went somewhere where no one knew anything about me, I could pretend to be someone different. Maybe then, people would like me and I would find the happiness that I was looking for. So I decided to study abroad in Brazil.
I wasn’t expecting to meet Veronica before leaving the country, becoming close friends with her and having a great time in South America. But living in Rio de Janeiro, for six months, was the best decision I ever made. I met the most amazing people. I visited every tourist attraction; swam in the beautiful beaches; experienced the nightlife; tried the delicious food, and adapted well into the culture. I resonated with the people and the country. I developed a love for life and I gained a strong sense of purpose and belonging.
Although, I realized that it wasn’t the country that allowed for this change within me. Surprisingly, I felt lonelier when I arrived in Brazil compared to how I felt in the U.S.: I couldn’t talk to anyone, I didn’t know anyone (besides Ruth) and I had a lot of trouble adapting to the culture. But the pain that I had endured, the misery and the realization that I had to change, persuaded me to take a risk and allow myself to have the most extraordinary experience of my life. So I know. I never pretended to be anyone else in Brazil. I never pretended to have fun. It was real.
My biggest regret after leaving Brazil, however, was that I allowed (occasionally) my insecurities to prevent me from experiencing everything that the country had to offer.
After returning to the U.S., I was more confident, more independent, and I had a new perspective in life. For the first time in a long time, I was sincerely happy.
So there you have it! That’s what I wanted to share with you; not only how I found myself but how I found a grander meaning to my life-my love for God.
Thanks to everything that I went through, I now clearly see how God has been with me throughout my entire journey, and how everything that happened, happened for a reason. Everything from my injury, my depression, my suicidal attempts, my pain, going to Brazil, meeting Veronica, Erin, Jay Tee, joining Intervarsity Bruin Christian Fellowship; it all played a significant role in helping me find myself. I know who I am now, and I accept all my flaws and imperfections. There is no other person that I’d rather be. I’m happy and I thank God for giving me this perspective. I thank God that I’m alive and I thank God for this wonderful life.
One last thing, there is this quote that I wanted to share with you that sums it all up. It’s a quote by Pablo Picasso and it holds a significant meaning to me. It narrates the story of how I found myself, the meaning to my life and my purpose. It narrates the story of how I found God: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”- this is my story. This is my gift.
– I hope you liked it!
Some after thoughts and comments from the author:
I have always strived to serve others. I aspire to help those who have been oppressed by our unjust society. Hence, why I shared my story. Although my story describes a genuine experience in my life, ultimately, my story is not about myself. The purpose behind sharing my story is to demonstrate that there is hope. No matter what we go through in life, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. I believe that that light can only be found through God. Because of God, I found meaning and a grander purpose to my life. Because of God, I was saved. Now I live to serve and glorify Him. By sharing my story I am sharing His love. God’s love, I believe, is the best gift that I can give to others.
So with this story, I wish to communicate this love to others. To help people find their value and self-worth. To help people realize that they are loved, to help them recognize that their lives are meaningful and to help people understand that they can never give in.
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