I met her a few years back. I was attending a leadership conference in Washington, D.C. I knew no one who was going to the conference, and was randomly paired with a roommate. When walking into our hotel room, her stuff was already settled. Since my bus broke down I was obviously late, and had to hurry and drop my stuff in a big old pile before leaving.
It was not until entering the room later that night that I met her. When I first saw her I didn't know what to think. This trip I had a goal in mind to meet as many different people as possible and just be a friendly person. My roommate (M we will call her for the purpose of this post), had streaks of pink in her hair. She was wearing mostly black and her eyes were surrounded by a smoky dark makeup. There was nothing natural about her look. Trying not to judge I introduced my self and we exchanged basic information such as what we like to do in our free time and where we live. I'm not going to lie; I pretty much wrote her off for the next few days, not purposefully, but enough so that I didn't really see her that much.
A few nights later lying wide awake in bed, and pretty tired, I began to talk to M. I'm not completely sure what prompted me to do so, maybe it was my lack of sleep, but I did. Somewhere in our twisted conversations I fell asleep. The following morning, though, I felt like a whole new person who had learned so much about someone so different from myself.
Turned out, that night we had an early bed time. Still not really tired, the two of us, M and I, kept that lights on in our room and began to talk. And as M talked, my whole perception on bad situations changed. M received a call from her mother, and M put her on speakerphone. Her mother did not sound like one at all. She cussed ever other word and talked about things teenage girls would gossip about. After the phone call I asked M was that always the case, and from there her story unraveled.
M grew up in a home where both her mother and father did drugs and were clearly addicted. There would be nights that her parents would throw parties after she was in bed and she would wake up and walk down stairs, witnessing her parents injecting themselves. At the time M was so young she didn't know what was going on. Then her mom was arrested, and her dad decided to clean up his life while her mother was in jail. Her father dumped M at his parents' house and left with no further explanation. And that is where she grew up.
At school she was already with "that" crowd. They were the kids that did drugs and drank uncontrollably, possibly to fit in, possibly because it was in her blood. Her grandparents knew, and she was never allowed to do that stuff. Seeing the direct correlation with her parents she chose the right decision, but became the designated driver. She explained to me how her friend first began drinking in elementary school, as that is what her friends witnessed her parents do. In a detailed explanation, M told me about the first time at recess her friend got drunk and she had to hold her friend's hair and take care of the drunkenness as her friend puked. How disturbing.
When her mother finally was released from jail, M did not want to return. She wanted her mom to get her act together first. Around the same time M heard from her dad. He was sober and started a new family. M made the decision to move to that new family and start on a clean slate. Her mom still calls her weekly with her teenage gossip, but according to M, they are really close.
As M told me this horrific story, tears were a constant stream upon my cheeks. She truly made me realize the importance of my family and just how much they have done to make my life the best it can be. I told M she was my hero; all that she has done is heroic.
A few days later while still in Washington, D.C. my grandfather died a few thousand miles away from me. I never was able to say goodbye due to being I was part of the leadership program. Never in my life have I felt so greedy. My roommate was a girl who never even had parents or a support system, and I had everything. M was the reason I got through my grandfather's funeral and was capable of speaking at it.
M's lesson didn't just teach me about heroism or to never drink and do drugs, but she told me about the true meaning of life. You can chose to be friends with whomever you'd like, but ultimately it is your decision to say no in bad situations and not use illegal substances. I hope to be just like M, and stay clean my entire life.