I'm not sure what's possessed me to write about this today. Maybe because I've found a bunch of old pictures, I don't know. I've only talked about it briefly. I've never written about it. There have been reasons for that and I'm going to speak to them today.
This is something that weighs heavy on my heart. I know that many people have dealt with much worse, and I don't write this to make anyone feel bad for me or to make it sound like "oh how damaged" because I'm not. I've been carrying around guilt in my heart and I owe a dear friend an apology that I can no longer give her face to face. This is for me and for her. So take it at that.
When I was in high school I just didn't fit in. I was scrawny-skinny, and had been picked on since grade school by the popular kids. I was smart and liked to read, and I had no idea how to be fashionable. I was an athlete, but the athletes didn't really have a "clique". In middle school, I had a crush on a guy and so did this girl Dayleen. We didn't like each other because we were competing for the same boy's attention. But by 9th grade, we didn't like him any more and we started liking each other.
Dayleen became my best friend through high school. We were inseparable. Dayleen and I never did anything without the other. We snuck around together; we drove around together; we wasted away afternoons bouncing around our little town together. We shared friends and opinions and deep thoughts; we talked about religion, politics, the state of the world, and relationships. I had a really rough time at home through the last years of high school; Dayleen was my anchor through the whole thing. After graduation, Dayleen and I went separate ways - she stayed near home to attend college, and I moved across the state.
We kept in touch via phone calls for awhile, but over time, we lost touch. We stopped making an effort to see each other at home after the first year or two. Then, when I went back to college after the summer following my sophomore year, I never came back home to live. I'm not sure if it was the distance, or if our lives were just drifting in different directions, but we never hung out again after I moved.
A year or two after I graduated, my little brother, who was still at home in HS, told me he had seen Dayleen at a local restaurant. He said she had asked about me and gave him her email to pass on to me.
I forgot about it for a few months. Then one day I decided to write to her. Even now, thinking about this makes me feel a little ill, because I was immature and insecure and it came across horribly in my email. I remember writing with the intent to put a gloss on my life, to come across as being at an amazing place with amazing relationships in a fun and fast city. I don't think I was purposely trying to make myself and my life look better than hers, in fact I wasn't happy with where I really was in life, but I wanted her to say "wow" when she read my email.
In retrospect, I'm sure I came off arrogant. I no longer was talking to her like my old friend, but as someone I desperately wanted to impress. Why, I don't know. And I regret that email. Terribly. It was like I didn't have time for anything outside of my own sphere. But I didn't really feel that way. I've regretted that email ever since.
We corresponded back and forth. I'm not sure if I'm over-exaggerating here, but I likely pushed her away by not really being a friend and instead trying to be above everyone else throughout our emails. And I've vowed since to never, ever think myself superior to anyone, in any respect, because I'm not. I don't really remember what happened after that. I only know we eventually stopped emailing.
But not until after she sent me the link to her blog. I would think about her now and again and observe her life via her blog instead of emailing her and conversing. Then one day the blog stopped and the vlog began. Why a vlog? Because she couldn't type any more.
From what I can remember, Dayleen was having trouble making her fingers do what was in her brain. Her words wouldn't manifest on the screen how her brain wanted them to. She couldn't read because the words were jumbled. In her vlog, she talked about what was happening. Eventually, scans showed a tumor in her brain. Brain cancer.
She fought. She lost her hair. She kept talking to the world through her webcam. And the whole time I sat and watched it through her vlog, only occasionally reaching out to her via email. Then one day, 3 years ago this month, Dayleen couldn't fight any more. On June 13, 2009, Dayleen passed away.
I wasn't the friend to her I should have been those last few years. I didn't express to her how much she really meant to me, and how she was my savior in high school. I would have been the nerdy, geeky, lonely girl with no friends if she hadn't brought me in. And I always admired her, loved her, and wished the best for her. But I just didn't express it until it was too late. I sent her a deep, heartfelt email right near the end. It was too little, too late, and I was stupid to think she should assuage my guilt while she was fighting such a difficult battle. But I really wanted her to know what she meant to me.
When the world lost Dayleen we lost an amazing young woman. A woman who knew what friendship meant and had the depth of character to always uphold the beliefs she held dear. She was an unbelievable artist and I think she would have found her career success in that arena.