I always thought of myself to be a grateful and content soul. I had a roof over my head, a source of income to provide food and other necessities, and friends who genuinely cared for and appreciated me. There was nothing else I could have possibly asked for. My grades were average, but in my opinion, there was nothing wrong with average. In high school, I was a member of a sports team, and it was for that reason that I ended up meeting many of the friends I had today. My mother and I got along well. I always urged myself to help her out in any way that I could to maintain that pleasant atmosphere we’d striven to create.
Even without ever having known my father, my life was perfect. I had no reason to complain. In the start, however, I won’t deny that my mindset was nowhere near to the one I had today. I was bitter, and for the longest time, I truly believed I was incapable of achieving happiness. Jealousy and dissatisfaction with my own life enveloped me, and I spent each day pushing my mother and my friends farther and farther away from me just for the sake of creating distance. Because a part of me thought that would help. My chest felt empty, my expression void of the slightest smile, my eyes having abandoned any light they once held. And it was no mystery to me what the greatest cause of this was.
Shortly after I turned twelve years old, my dog died. The German Shepard, stricken in years, collapsed by the side of the road after we’d returned from a leisurely walk—at some point, I suppose he just couldn’t hold his own any longer. He had been my best friend since the day we adopted him from the animal shelter, and saying farewell to that great big ball of enthusiasm and joy was like sending a part of myself to the gallows, while the other part would be forced to watch from a helpless standpoint.
My mother, sympathizing for me more than the loss of the German Shepard’s life, took it upon herself to fill the “gap” in our home by adopting a new pet—not another dog, but instead, it was a cat, not even half the size of our previous pet, and its fur was purely black like pristine charcoal. I hated that cat. Its presence was a painful reminder that my best friend was gone and would be gone forever, and all we had to show for it were a couple of photographs and an apathetically undesirable replacement.
It tore me apart. Piece by piece. Gradually, it seemed, yet nonetheless only a fool would’ve been able to disregard that explicitly pitiful state of my life. However, on the very same day I thought to be at my lowest point, something fell into my line of vision, and I came to realize the most significant aspect that I had been overlooking from the start.
There were others out there who were so much less fortunate than me. Some people couldn’t experience the innocent bliss of being able to sleep in a bed at night, to be able to sit at the table with one’s family, to even have a stable relationship with that family. To be healthy...to have a reason to be happy.
And so I set aside the pessimist inside of me. I began taking good care of the cat my mother had adopted intending to see me happy again, and I found myself feeling immensely grateful she had done so. Everything in my life had been set straight again. And I could smile like I used to, even with the subtly lingering jealousy that attempted to surface whenever I would see my friends with their fathers, and especially when I discovered how close they were with one another. I didn’t need a father to be happy. I didn’t need a dog. My family was complete, stable, satisfied. And so was I.
That was the way I wanted things to remain. To maintain this lifestyle, I thought it’d be best not to take risks, to avoid getting myself involved with strangers, to avoid getting myself involved with things that would bring to my attention something so very, very obvious.
But in my second year of high school, I found myself doing just that.