I was passing by my old stomping grounds where I used to work. I ran into an old colleague of mine who was giving me updates on how things were going and finding out the latest gossip. Our discussion led to another former colleague and how a neighbor of his found him dead just about 5 days after his actual death. His neighbor was curious why she wasn’t seeing him while doing her normal routine where they would cross paths daily even if it was to step out of the house to get the mail. I assume they would see each other everyday and talk. He lived alone about an hour away. He had no family or kids and lived by himself. I was told another colleague posted photos of the two of them on social media about a month later. The neighbor saw those tagged posts and reached out to her to tell her the story. Then it got back to his employer. It happened to be that he wasn’t showing up to work with no one realizing his situation and not knowing what was going on in his personal life. He passed away just shy of Christmas of 2021. Everyone at his job, former colleagues I used to work with, didn’t find out about his death until late February of 2022. 

***

I went to Aruba on Valentine’s Day. I treated myself to a trip onto the island because I  would hear people rave about how amazing the island is. Since I was living in Los Angeles the only place I would normally fly to for a quick exotic getaway or even to work was Hawaii, but that became overrated to me. Because of COVID it is more difficult to just get on a plane and travel across the world so I have not gone international. Don’t get me wrong, I love Hawaii. I used to consider relocating and living there. However I needed a change, so I decided to head to Aruba. 

The minute I walked out of the airport in Aruba there was a sign that said “Aruba One Happy Island.” As I felt the warmth of the sun beaming on my face and the humidity breeze through my hair I knew I was happy to be there. The driver and staff at the resort where I stayed were by far the most friendly people I’ve come across in most destinations I would stay or have a layover in. I really enjoyed what this island offered. The beach and blue bath water a very brisk feel jumping in after being toasted from the 90 degree humid weather. The flavor of both food and drinks were in unison to that island feel. This island will give you the vacation of a lifetime when you visit. And I felt that happiness being there. 

I decided to take a walk around town while the sun was setting after a long afternoon of being at the beach. I then noticed that the Valentine’s Day setting was beginning to kick in. The tone of it all was at every corner and building you pass by. As I went to have dinner at an Italian restaurant across from the resort there was a singer performing the tune of Ed Sheerans hit “Thinking Out Loud.” And that’s when an emotion of heart break, loneliness came knowing I was by myself in a beautiful happy island eating fine food with a glass of wine by my side. I’m used to traveling alone. I’ve gone almost around the world solo, but this time it was hitting me, it was different. I was all by myself. 

After dinner I walked around the town. I cut into a corner with a couple holding hands with the girl’s head on her, maybe, boyfriend, fiancée or husband’s shoulder. There was a group of friends just hanging out making jokes at the side which almost looked like a bachelorette party. And behind me a family with the father giving out gelato to his kids that he just purchased from the food truck look alike across the way, seeing all this while a violinist playing Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” At that point I never felt so lonely. I was alone on the happy island. 

I was ready to go back home to Los Angeles since I did start feeling that loneliness when I was in Aruba and I was already tired, jet lagged and dreaming about sleeping in my own bed. I did enjoy my time in Aruba. The island was small, beautiful, quiet, just about perfect if you wanted a vacation. On my flight home I realized that I would go back to my regular routine. I would wake up early in the morning with that cup of coffee in my favorite Versace Mug, read emails, browse online and seeing what kind of houses I can possibly buy if I can even afford one since I’m somewhat house hunting, check work schedules in case I wanted to work to pick up a shift with overtime offerings and more pay, hit the gym, catch up on what I call “trashy television” which is the typical reality shows I watch daily such as the Housewives Franchise and Love and Hip-Hop shows which I waited every week for the new episode,  or even old episodes of Jersey Shore. However, I would have no one to go home to, an empty back house that I was renting out. I have a great group of friends back at home, an amazing support system. But their typical lives consist of their own families and kids, their loved ones, the majority of them having to take their kids to soccer basketball practice or swimming lessons everyday, friends being in a committed relationship, friends just getting pregnant, friends running their own businesses, each in which had little time of a social life for any of them. Me, on the other hand, had so much time on my hands that I caught myself doing a lot of things on my own and people rarely even reached out to me other than a lot of my family that lives hundreds of miles away. But my closest friends were all so busy with their own lives they just had little time. I didn’t want to be a burden or interrupt anyone. So what was the point in me going back home to Los Angeles when I felt at the time there was nothing to go home to, no family or kids . All I had was my work, but I can easily pack my bags and work elsewhere. Was I even happy to go back home even though I was already going to feel lonely being back? Maybe I should go back to Aruba, the happy island, and try to find that happiness just like the driver and resort workers were expressing how happy the people in that island are. But if I were to go back it would make me more depressed maybe because I was there on Valentine’s Day, single, unlike everyone I know who’s in a committed relationship or married. I even considered moving to Hawaii like I originally thought I wanted to do because it did make me happy going there as well, so I might as well live there. But either way I would just feel lonely again. At that point I was just confused and lost. 

My birthday is coming up and every year I try to celebrate as big as I can. But this year is different. I did not know what I wanted to do and I told my close friends I’m not celebrating it this year. But maybe I would try and give it a shot. Two of my friends and I went to different spots to check out possible venues. What I usually do for my birthday is I would have dinner and find a small little venue afterwards that played good music since I love to get down on the dance floor. My plan originally was I wanted my birthday to look like the “Despacito” video and I did manage to find a location in Hollywood that has a live salsa band certain nights of the week but they weren’t going to have the band play the day of my birthday. Instead they were scheduled to play the day before, which won’t be as special because it’s not on my actual birthday, they would be closed. So I changed my mind to having dinner, but all restaurants in Los Angeles County would not hold 10 people or more due to COVID restrictions as they were easing. Even at a particular restaurant in Beverly Hills I wanted to have my dinner but couldn’t for the same reasons. At that point I was disappointed and I gave up because it wasn’t how I pictured my birthday to be. So I didn’t want to celebrate and felt it wasn’t meant to happen. As much as a lot of my loved ones wanted to celebrate with me I wasn’t feeling it. Part of me also questioned why would all my friends want to finally stop what they do with their busy schedules for my birthday, and I didn’t want to interrupt anyones daily routines because I would feel bad, even if it’s only dinner.  I felt so spoiled in having a great celebration but I don’t know what got to me. I wanted to go back to being alone and not being around anyone. It felt normal to me and that’s how I wanted to spend another year in my life. I wanted to be alone. 

Past couple of months I’ve been depressed. I found myself being alone at home not leaving all day stuck in my room in the dark. The only time I actually would get out of bed is to grab something small to eat, make coffee or even use the restroom. And this would be almost 2-3 consecutive days of not getting out of my own bed. I even called off sick from work because I didn’t want to be around anyone. At that moment when I was in Aruba on Valentine’s Day, I began to notice that all the anxiety I was holding for a really long time was now taking a toll on me. Depression hit me hard and it comes and goes until now. I was in so much denial. So I finally got treated and sought professional help which made me realize that I’m not alone. I have a good support system of family and friends which helps, but I always knew they were by my side. Even the therapist mentioned I’m not alone, well maybe because that’s her job.  But that alone feeling and depression is still there and I’m working on it. 

I look back to when I went to Aruba. Even though it was a little less than two days being there, I really felt some sense of light regardless of how alone I felt. While I came across this little dive bar in Aruba they were playing latin reggaetón music and all of a sudden “Despacito” started playing. A Light skinned tall attractive young girl named Kiara asked me to dance. She had to be at least in her early mid twenties. So I went ahead and danced since I did mention I love to get down on the dance floor. I asked her where she was from and she stated she was a local. I remember how that conversation went. 

Me: So where are you from? 

Kiara: Puerto Rico but I live in Aruba. 

Me: if you’re from PR (Puerto Rico) why did you move to Aruba?

Kiara: I’m so much happier here. I love it In Aruba 

Kiara and I had that moment and only danced to the song and that was the end of it. I have been to Puerto Rico and I love it out there. I never really asked or told her anything else after she told me she was happier in Aruba other than thanks for inviting me to dance with her. But seeing her being happy made my night. She was living her best life. 

As my birthday is approaching I still have no idea what I want to do. I’m turning 39. What am I supposed to do at that age? Am I happy that my birthday is coming up? Yeah sure but I don’t plan on celebrating it like the “Despacito” video or having dinner at a fancy restaurant in Beverly Hills. Maybe I can go back to Aruba but I feel it would be dejavu seeing people in love and families enjoying the island while that violinist or singer performs. Although, it wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day, it would be my birthday. Am I happy with my life? Am I still depressed? Those are difficult questions to answer but I know that I have a lot to work on. That’s why I’m getting the help that I need. But the question is, am I happy? A friend of mine told me that whatever my feelings are I have a lot to be grateful for, and she’s absolutely right. I don’t need to move to Hawaii to become happy. And I don’t think I’m as happy as those people In Aruba or how happy Kiara is but I know I’m grateful. 

I remember working with my former coworker who recently passed away. He used to walk into work and briefly, or not at all, greet everyone. I would have small conversations but that would be it and we would go about our work day, it was always the same thing with him. When I would try to hold a conversation he would brush me off and walk away and I let it be. But no one knew what he was going through. On the outside he looked fine but was he in pain? Depressed? Alone? From what I heard his daily routine consisted of going to work and coming home to an empty house but that was all hearsay from the talks from my former colleague. No one really knew what his lifestyle was like. However from what I heard It seemed Similar to mine but was he feeling the same way I did? I felt Some sort of connection from what I was hearing. You never really know what someone is going through. Maybe if he were to step onto a happy island to get out of their daily routine, he would have realized that something was wrong and he needed to fix it. Aruba and Hawaii are both islands but they were different, i stepped out of my routine, and it made me realize something wasn’t right with me. If only he was able to get that help I’m now getting, where would he be today? At such a young age he was gone too soon. But The one thing almost everyone I know told me when feeling down, lonely, alone, depressed that I wished someone would have told him is that “YOU ARE NOT ALONE!”

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