I Don’t Know Where I’m Going, And That’s Okay

I don’t have a clear direction for this article. I honestly just want a place to reflect on recent events in my life, and hopefully reassure people. The reasons will quickly become apparent, but I’ve had a lot of people checking in on me recently, and throwing out the same NPC dialogue tree options is getting a bit tiring. This will seem very rambly, and that’s because it is rambly. I just hope that whoever is reading this is willing to read what I have to say through to the end.

In 2019, I wrote an article for an old blog that talked about my life’s journey as a poor kid from mid-Michigan who was forced to grow up a lot sooner than he had any right to. I had a lot of these goals and aspirations I mentioned in the piece because I was so sure that those were the things I wanted. However, it’s been three years, and so much has changed that I will not link the piece nor mention the article’s name. There’s a lot in there that I don’t agree with, and reading it back, I was very vitriolic in some moments, and that’s just not who I am anymore.

It’s funny how some of the things I talked about in that piece did happen. I graduated high school and got into my dream college. I studied journalism for a year before changing my major to communication. And yet, as I type this out now, I can’t really bring myself to be happy or proud of my accomplishments. Right now, all I feel is empty. I feel frustrated because it feels like the work I put in to get to college and get my degree has been all for naught. And I don’t know what I’m going to do, or where this road leads.

February was the worst month of my life. At the beginning of the month, my Dad and I were on the absolute brink of homelessness. Through a week-long campaign coordinated by myself and my best friends in the entire world, we raised enough money to pay off the rent we owed and keep our apartment. It seemed like we were finally heading in the right direction. For the first time in a long time, I thought that my Dad and I were finally going to make it out of all the bullshit. I allowed myself to be excited for the future, even if things weren’t perfect just yet.

That hope lasted a single week. On February 11, my Dad passed away. He suffered a massive heart attack. It was extremely sudden, and it has turned my life upside down. I went from being concerned about finding another job to shaking in my downstairs neighbor’s living room with no fucking clue as to what I was going to do next. I basically moved out of the apartment I fought so hard to keep just one week after winning that fight. It took me the rest of the month to clear it out, but the only thing I truly knew was that I would not stay in that apartment.

Have you ever made a plan to do something, maybe go on a trip with a couple of friends? You save money, book hotels and flights, look around for things to do, etc. Only for something to happen right as the trip was about to begin, and your work was all for naught. This isn’t the best analogy, but it’s the best I can come up with right now. I feel like someone has punched me in the gut, but instead of a fist, they hit me with a semi-truck.

My Dad and I never had much. I am 21 years old, and it’s been the two of us for most of my life. And the two of us worked for everything we had. My Dad busted his ass to make sure we had everything we needed. I saw him walk three miles to work a shift at McDonald's, walk back when he was off work, and then literally crawl to the bathroom the next morning because he was in so much pain from the day before. And yet, he found it within himself to get up and make that three-mile walk again.

Everything that I mentioned in that aforementioned article were things I wanted to do, but the financial aspect was a means to an end. I wanted to do a lot of those things because my main goal in life was to find a job that paid enough that I could support both myself and my Dad. He went through so much in his life. He deserved to live out the later years of his life without worrying about the costs. And while I had taken on a lot of that burden beginning when I was 15, I wanted to completely take that burden off of him. It would be my way of paying him back for all the things he had done for me.

And now, it just feels like there isn’t a way for me to repay him. Someone out there in the ether decided my Dad wasn’t worthy of living out the rest of his days in comfort. Apparently, he wasn’t worthy of being there when I got my degree, got married, had kids, etc. I’m sorry, I’m trying not to allow my bitterness to seep through this piece. My point is, I just don’t know what I’m going to do at this point. I did everything I could to keep the both of us afloat when he became physically unable to work. I even stopped going to class, which I was doing with the idea of helping him out in mind, to help support us when the financial situation became too much for him to deal with on his own.

I still want to go to college. I definitely still want to get my degree. My passion for writing and storytelling is still alive and well. Beyond all of that, though? I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t know what I want to do with my degree, the classes I want to take, what I want to write about or the stories I want to tell. And until a few days ago, that ate me alive. I hated that feeling. Now, though, I’ve realized that there’s nothing wrong with this.

I’m going to write an article dedicated to the game itself and the impact it had on me, but I recently played Life is Strange: True Colors. I got a pretty crazy discount on it. I was excited. Early in the game, there’s a character death, and the main character is struggling with it. For those who aren’t aware of the LiS series, the game gives you a ton of dialogue options. One option I picked was telling this supporting character that the main character was a wreck, to which the supporting character responded, “it’s not your job to keep it together.”

That hit me, and honestly, I have to agree. I don’t think it’s the responsibility of anyone who lost a loved one to keep it together. You’re allowed to show your pain. You can express your emotions. Everyone is allowed to grieve, and no one should hide their struggles for any reason. And that helped me. I felt a lot of pressure to just tell everyone I was okay. If I told everyone I was okay, they’d just let me be. They wouldn’t worry. It worked for a bit, but as much as I’ve grown to feel guilty about everyone checking on me, I fucking hate lying to people.

Without spoiling too much of the game, the game wraps up with this message that the only one who can truly know what to do following the death of a loved one is you. You have to live life for yourself. That’s not to say that you have to completely move on, or that you have to stop grieving, but there isn’t a magic wand to this game we all play. There isn’t an instruction manual on how to deal with death. You can only live your life and make them proud. The main character is faced with a choice about her future at the end, and that stuck with me even more.

I am at that same crossroads. I don’t know what I want to do. Should I continue on this path, writing reviews and venting my thoughts? Do I expand into something like scriptwriting? What about filmmaking? That sounds interesting. And the answer is, I just don’t know right now. But that’s okay. I have time to figure all of that out. I don’t know where this road will lead, and I don’t know why I’ve been put in this position, but I will figure it out. I always do.

So, am I doing okay? Absolutely not. I’m unable to sleep at normal hours, I constantly fear that I’m just going to drop dead, and I continue to replay the night I found my Dad in our bathroom in my head. I constantly question what I could have done differently, even though I know there wasn’t anything I could’ve done. Despite all of this though, please don’t worry, because while I am not okay right now, I will be one day. And when I look back on all of this, I know that I’ll have made not only my Dad but all of my loved ones proud.

I love you, Dad. I hope to see you again someday.

Author’s Note: Normally, I put a small blurb at the end with a link for those who may want to donate to me and support the writing I do. For this piece, I also want to share a fundraiser that my Aunt had started. She’s raising money to help me get back on my feet essentially. If you want to donate to me directly, you can do so here. Regardless of whether you can donate, or whether you even want to, I just want to say thank you. All the support I’ve received since my Dad’s passing has been so appreciated. And I hope one day, I can repay all of your kindness. Thank you once again, and I hope everyone is well.

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Tristin McKinstry

Associate Editor for ClutchPoints. San Antonio Brahmas reporter for XFL News Hub. Also worked previously with The Inquisitr.