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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn Shaw

48 hours

When I was at university I had been trying to get work through the cities job placement centre. I’d show up in the mornings along with all of the other, mostly men, that were looking for work too. One morning I saw a guy that looked my age, and a lot less rough than the usual crew. We ended up working together for 2 days doing a landscaping job. Tom and I worked in silence, but I could tell by the way he pulled the weeds he was kind. At lunch he offered me some of his sandwich, and we started talking. He talked about family and how he was going through a rough time. I listened as Tom told me about his depression, how he lived in his moms basement and how he wanted more than that. I admired his ability to be so candid and find the humour within it all. We laughed. The kind of laughter that sends you into a silent fit, and the truth was I had not laughed in weeks. I was also struggling and his ability to share and shed light on his suffering propelled me. I wanted to learn more. I wanted to meet Tom 10 times over again. To know that I was not alone.

The next day I shared traveling stories. I was honest with him and shared about the good and the bad, and how I thought if people could travel and wanted to they should. We ended that day in-between best friends and strangers. We exchanged emails, both too broke to have a working phone, but ultimately our friendship stayed preserved in space and time and we never heard from each other again .

A few years ago, 12 years after meeting Tom, I got an email from him. He wanted to thank me for sharing my stories. He said that after we met he saved up and travelled all over the world. He traveled for years and it’s a part of what he does now. I had no idea the impact I’d had on him, and he no idea the impact he had on me. His stories connected me to my laughter, something I had lost. He inspired me to go into counselling, and share my experiences in efforts of offering what he had offered me: a sense of normalcy and okayness. He showed me that although mental health is serious there can be humour in the challenges of being human. And most importantly - there are people out there who truly do understand.

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