Sometimes things happen that shake us to our very core, and change us forever. Often it’s a big event that does it, but sometimes it can be as simple as four words.
“You’re no fun anymore.”
That’s what a dear friend said to me when we reconnected after not seeing each other for way too long. Perhaps it doesn’t seem like a harmful statement, and I know he didn’t mean it in a hurtful way at all, but it struck me hard.
It may or may not surprise you, depending on how well you know me, but I was a bit of a troublemaker in my teenage years. As a 16 an 17 year old delinquent, I enjoyed heading up to South Beach with my other underage friends and trying to get into clubs so we could dance our hearts out. Occasionally we’d go up during “Electroclash Night” which was an all-ages event that played a lot of indie pop and new wave music – perfect for a bunch of punk rock kids.
I met Ian on one of those many South Beach adventures. We were walking down the sidewalk in one direction, he was coming from the other. I don’t remember the exact exchange that happened, but I do remember it involved a lot of inappropriate language and some conversation about his drag queen name. And then somehow, I found out he was in between places to live and my penchant for bringing strays home kicked in. Yes, I brought a stray human home.
He slept for like the entire next day in my bedroom, while I tried to explain his presence to my parents who weren’t expecting me to graduate from bringing cats home to bringing people home. I didn’t really have to do much convincing on his behalf, though, because once he was awake, his charming personality won everyone over. My mom loved him as much as I did, maybe more, and he helped her around the house way more than I ever did.
Ian was a bit older than me, in his mid-twenties. Honestly, I never bothered to ask him his exact age. He had so many stories and adventures, and we had some of our own adventures too. I was always up for anything, and didn’t mind getting in a little trouble. A few months after he came around, I ended moving out of my parents’ house and out to Vegas (where I met Andrew shortly after) and Ian stayed with my parents for a little longer before he moved out too.
My mom kept in touch with Ian better than I did, and he would often call her when he was in a pickle. He got into a lot of pickles. Despite his incredible heart and loving personality, Ian struggled with relationships, with legal troubles, with drugs, and with disease. He would be doing well, and then he would fall down again. It was a vicious cycle and it was really hard to watch and not be able to help him. Then we lost touch for a while.
Ian had HIV, and I always knew in the back of my mind that I would lose him one day. When we reconnected, I was so happy to have him around again. In August of 2016 I took a trip to Portland to meet up with some friends for a music festival, and Ian happened to be living there. The rest of my friends headed home, and I still had almost a whole day left in town. I met up with Ian on the morning of my last day. I grabbed us donuts at Blue Star Donuts and met him at the courthouse, of course. I met his partner, we caught up on life, we cruised around town, and then had lunch before he dropped me off at the airport.
Shortly after I left, Ian told me that he and his partner were getting the heck out of Portland and heading to Texas. Our house was on their way, so naturally they would be stopping by.
My mom lives with us as well, and we were both excited to have them stay with us for a couple of days. But when they arrived, it was a bit chaotic. I went into mom-protection-mode a little bit, and wasn’t as care-free about having them around and wasn’t really up for any spontaneous craziness.
It was at some point during their short stay with us where Ian told me, “you’re no fun anymore.” Ouch. Sure, I’ve changed a lot since my teenage years, but was I really not fun at all? His words stuck with me, even after they continued on to Texas, and then later on to New Orleans. We of course kept in touch through Facebook, and he was always leaving inappropriate comments on my posts that I sometimes had to censor.
In early December of 2016 I headed to New Orleans for a week to work a conference. I didn’t make much of an effort to get a hold of Ian and spend time with him. (This is something I will regret forever, probably.) I went back home and went on with my life, occasionally chatting with Ian over facebook and on the phone on the rare occasion that I actually picked up.
Things started getting really rough for Ian maybe around February of 2017. He often posted his troubles on Facebook. He was never shy or secretive about anything. His cries for help were often met with supportive comments, but he needed more than just words. I know he wanted to come back and stay with us, but my non-fun self just thought it would be too much. I didn’t want to add more chaos to my household.
In March 2017, we lost Ian forever. To an overdose. It shook me to my core. I can try to say I didn’t know he was using again, I can try to say I thought he was clean, but in my heart I can’t deny that I knew he was struggling really hard and I didn’t try harder to help him. I will always feel like I could have helped him. I will always feel like I could have done more. We had just barely reconnected. I got to meet his love, he got to meet my love, he got to meet my kids. They loved him. He would have been an amazing “crazy uncle” figure.
I can’t change what happened, I know that. But I can change how I live going forward. As we come up on the year anniversary of losing Ian, I can honor him in a way that would make him proud. I can choose fun. I will always choose fun. Reconnecting with him helped me reconnect with my sense of adventure, and I will always choose to enjoy everything life has to offer. I will say “yes” more; I’ll go to that concert, I’ll play that game with my kids, I’ll go on that adventure, I’ll put my phone down, I’ll step away from work for a little bit. Because it can all be gone in a second.
And I hope that when I’m gone, when I reconnect with my beautiful friend again someday, I can say that I made the most of the time I had. That I had fun.