A letter for a late friend: Thank you for the learnings I wasn’t able to understand
Yesterday, 3 July 2021, was the day my friend from high school passed away. We barely talked since 2010, a couple days after we joined a pageant competition in high school — one of the most embarrassing moment in my life.
His name was Vebryto, a friend that was quite close to me since we shared many interests and common grounds (we both grew up in Cinere, a small village in Depok). He was smart, bold, and talented. I remembered he used to sing in school choir and he was one of the best.
One day, a school teacher asked me to join this Abang None Remaja pageant hosted by a mall in Jakarta and asked me to find a partner. I took Vebryto with me. He didn’t seem super excited, yet he still signed up. It was super impromptu that we didn’t have much preparation. I even rented the traditional costume D-1 the event and we agreed to perform a duet — which was the only thing we could — for the talent show.
The lack of preparation got us unprepared for the show. We didn’t know that we had to prepare the instrument — in our case, the minus one — for the performance. The D-day was chaotic. Vebryto had to look around the mall running in his costume to find a place where he could download the minus one and burned it to a CD. He couldn’t find one. So we perform without instrument, just clapping our hands like two kids awkwardly singing in a lame birthday party. I could even hear someone from the audience shouted “turun! turun!” (or “boooooo!”) during our performance. It was a complete nightmare. Yet since it was a pageant competition, we kept our smile until we left the stage.
Of course we didn’t pass to the final. We learned the lesson that we can’t expect anyone to get things sorted out for us, we need to be well-prepared ourselves. So we moved on. However, a couple days after the show, kids started to talk about us at school, about how terrible we were. It felt bad and embarrassing. And a mutual friend told me that Vebryto didn’t actually want to join the competition, it was me who made him do it. I was furious. It felt to me like things went south and I was the one to blame for everything. And I really hated the fact that Vebryto wasn’t being honest to me. I thought, he could have just told me the truth that he wasn’t up for it and I could find someone else to partner with, or not even sign up.
But now I feel sorry. I feel sorry that I avoided him back then. I feel sorry that I didn’t tell him how I felt and that I chose to ignore him until we graduated. And I feel sorry that I didn’t get the chance to apologize to him, until now that he has passed. Yet I know, regret doesn’t change anything.
So I want to thank him instead. Thank you for teaching me that some people may not tell the truth because they can’t afford our reaction and we shouldn’t be offended because it’s our job to think of how to make people feel more comfortable — or create a psychologically safety environment — to speak their mind. Thank you for telling me the hard truth that — for a privileged kid like me — nothing is always readily available and I have to be the one who takes responsibility to get everything sorted out myself.
May you rest in love, dear friend. The news was devastating, yet I know you’re now in a much better place. Hope you can forgive me for any wrongdoings I did and — once again — thank you for all the lessons you gave me back in high school.