Defining Moments

by Tam
I can remember the day like it was yesterday. It was a gloomy day, just like my mood. I had just returned home after being gone for almost a week. I knew my father would be waiting for me. I opened the door and saw him. I pretended nothing was wrong. He approached me slowly; I knew that look. I pretended to look guilty but I didnít feel guilty for having been gone for so long. He gave me a lecture and I pretended to listen to him and just stood there and stared him down. Usually I just let him yell at me and I would go to my room for the rest of the night. But for some reason, that night I was brave.

I yelled back and we got into a horrible argument, and it seemed as if all the arguments we had had in the past were coming back. He was yelling about things I had done a couple of years ago, things that were supposed to be long forgotten. It took all my energy just to hold myself from punching the wall. Finally I couldnít take it anymore and marched to my room. He yelled after me that he wasnít finished with me yet. I turned around, and he said that if I really wanted to go, I might as well leave the house and never come back. I calmly walked out the door with the words echoing in my head, "Never come back." The months to come were the hardest ones in my life. It was a time that I sometimes wish I hadnít had to go through, but I now know it made me who I am today and I am stronger and more sensible because of this humbling experience.

During that month I was officially homeless with nothing except for the clothes I was wearing and the little money I had in my wallet at that time. I was lucky enough to have very good friends, and they would rent a hotel room or sometimes steal food from their houses for me. But they couldnít do it for that long because they themselves didnít have very much to give. So after a couple of days in a small and cheap hotel, I was back on the streets again. They did let me sneak into their houses while their parents were gone so I could take a quick shower sometimes or maybe have a quick rest. I would sleep in the park or on the stairs of Muni stations because the walls would protect me from the wind and occasionally, one of my friends would join me through the night. Perhaps it was out of pity or maybe they thought it would be fun. But whatever reason they had, I am grateful I had someone who cared about my existence.

The friendship I gained through this experience is still with me today. Even though I donít talk to them that much anymore, I still feel that bond that was formed during my terrible moments. I learned the true meaning of friendship during that time. Those that were real friends stuck by me even though they had a warm bed to go to. Those that turned away were still my friends, but not friends that I really wanted and had respect for. I feel I still owe those who helped me and it is almost impossible to ever tell them what a big impact they had on my perspective on life.

But not everyone was out to help me. One incident that stands out and hurt me the most was when I went to visit one of my close friends at his school. When he saw me he rushed up and asked if what he had heard was true. I was surprised because usually when I picked him up from school, he was happy to see me. But this time he didnít even say hi and seemed anxious to know what had happened. I asked him what he had heard. He said he heard I left home and was not going to school. I told him it was true and what I saw was something I did not expect from him. He gave me a long disappointed stare and finally just looked away, shaking his head as if I had let him down. He didnít even bother to ask about my circumstances or whether I was all right. I told him to not worry about it, that it was my problem and asked him if he wanted to go get some coffee or something but he said he was busy and left.

I went back to look for that friend a couple more times during the next week, partly because I wanted to see him, partly because I had nowhere to go. But I wasnít able to find him and I got the feeling that he was avoiding me. The friends he hung out with were there and they gave me strange looks as if I were an outsider. They used to say "what's up" or "hi", but now they just looked over as if I were a pitiful dog.

I learned to seek out those whom I could trust and avoid those who would stab me in the back. It is just something that you learn when you are vulnerable and have nothing. It the beginning, too often those who called me their friend, or even sometimes brother, told me lies. They didnít want to be associated with me now that I had nothing to offer them. I heard more lies than truths and it is sad that they felt they couldnít be with me because I was homeless, jobless, familyless, and hopeless. I lost a few best friends because of this, but I guess it was for the better. At least now I knew where I stood with them.

Before that, I would let the people I thought were my friends know they were my friends and my enemies know they were my enemies. Since my experience, I realized that an enemy is a person who is not your friend yet. I have made efforts to make friends with my enemies because they can turn out to be good friends. Differences are just barriers you have to work through, but we always have a common ground.

On the other hand, those that I previously considered to be casual friends stood up and helped me. I was surprised and grateful. I realized that being a friend did not mean hanging out and drinking coffee or partying all the time. It meant sticking by each other during the good times and especially the bad times.

I treasure the sacred meaning of friendship. The value of what it means has grown and I take it very seriously. I want to be that person that is willing to sleep on the street when I donít have to just because my friend is there too. I want to make that same impact in someone elseís life and show them the meaning of a true friend. By doing this, I will continue the legacy that my friends have showed me.