Your words were the tourniquet that stopped me from bleeding out over and over again.
When you said you were in the business of helping people live awesome lives, I will admit that I laughed at you. I laughed because, up until that point, my life had been anything but.
You know the story as well as I do: I was caught in a twister of addiction, anorexia, and trauma.
By my mid-20s, it felt like I’d lived several lifetimes worth of pain. And I’d become so deeply accustomed to it, I figured I’d live out the rest of my life as a shell of what I could’ve been.
But you saw past the shell, and drew the light out of me like alchemy, like a gentle magic.
You didn’t have to dismantle my walls. Instead, you made me feel safe enough to tear them down myself, so that I could meet you on the other side.
I didn’t know that could happen.
Your words were the tourniquet that stopped me from bleeding out over and over again. Everything that was hurting and ugly and raw, you met with fierce love and compassion.
When I couldn’t see a future, you painted a vivid picture of San Francisco nights, of a life beyond the ledge I stood on, and helped me to rewrite the story.
When I hit rock bottom, yours was the hand that assured me that there was no darkness that I would ever meet alone.
When I was lost, you averted my gaze to see the bright spots around me, guiding me back to myself.
When living felt like a chore, you helped me see the beauty in the tedium.
When the world was cruel — and when my mind was, too — your loving words became a shield I carried into the war.
I thought I was something broken to be fixed; not someone whole, to be loved.
But like muscle memory, I learned to love myself because you made it seem so easy to do.
I’m moving in a couple of weeks, which means our shared journey will become a more separate one.
I wasn’t the kind of person to dive into change, but I’ve grown to embrace the shifting winds, letting them carry me.
I trust myself.
I know now that I can trust myself to steer the ship.
The sadness cascades into gratitude every time I think about parting ways.
Gratitude because this profound sense of self-worth is a garden we planted together.
Gratitude because the life I’ve built for myself — a joyful and wild adventure — was made possible by the tools you gave to me.
Gratitude because there’s no thread of my life that you haven’t touched and, together, we spun into gold.
The mosaic of lessons I’m left with are a compass I will keep close, a true north that will always point me back to the direction of hope restored.
Lessons like: It’s bravery, not perfection, that makes the world a better place. It’s self-compassion, not self-discipline, that helps us grow. It’s vulnerability, not just grit, that makes us stronger. It’s the doing and the moving and the growing — not the “finished,” “there,” and “done” — that makes for a meaningful life.
And the most important of all: It’s authentic connection, not self-protection, that finally lets us heal.
When being alive felt like a punishment, you helped me see the gifts I held in my small, scared hands.
The gift of having the time to learn, the ability to change, and the resilience to start again, as many times as it took to get it right.
The gift of being here long enough to have crossed paths with you. The gift of having underestimated you.
(I think the universe got it right this time, don’t you?)
Looking back, I understand now that I didn’t need to be fixed or reassembled. I wasn’t broken; I wasn’t a mistake.
All I really needed was to be seen.
Thank you for seeing me.
Sam Dylan Finch is a writer, positive psychology practitioner, and media strategist in Portland, Oregon. He’s the lead editor of mental health and chronic conditions at Healthline, and co-founder of Queer Resilience Collective, a wellness coaching cooperative for LGBTQ+ people. You can say hello on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or learn more at SamDylanFinch.com.