A Letter To Friends I Lost

Mallory McMahon
5 min readSep 24, 2020

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When midnight chimed on December 31st, 2019, things seemed simpler. Easier. Sure, there was an illness tearing its way through Asia, but Americans were content to live in bliss, thinking nothing like this could ever happen to us!

They were wrong.
We were wrong.
I was wrong.

There’s a sense of dread, now, every morning when I wake up. I wonder what awful piece of news I’ll have to take in first — the fact that we’re spiraling towards another election that’ll cost thousands of people their lives, the heart wrenching truth about our justice system, and the systematic racism that flows deep within the roots of our nation, or another loved one suffering at the hands of a pandemic that our government failed to protect us from.

Sometimes, it’s all of the above.

Before this gets any deeper, there is an elephant in the room: my whiteness. The outrage and anger and sadness and horrifying reality I live in is only one thousandth of what a black person experiences in this 2020. That’s double for black women, and triple for black members of the LGBT+ community.

With my outrage, however, have I unsettled many a fellow white person in my life. In fact, this year has taught me more about what I value in a person more than anything else in my life. I’m only 28, there’s certainly more to come, but the fact of the matter is that I’m tired of being tired. When a former peer of mine uses racist rhetoric to justify their unsafe 2020 travel plans because they “just want things to feel normal again”, a gentle (or not so gentle) reminder about how that shit doesn’t fly shouldn’t be met with such hostility.

And yet, it is. And it has been. And many people who I thought meant a lot to me have shown their true colors during one of the most volatile times to be an American.

This isn’t a pity letter to myself. This isn’t a fun, casual reminder that I’m a Good White Person. I don’t speak on these subjects to earn fake brownie points in the world of being “woke”. I stand up for what I believe in because of just that — I fully believe in these things. And when my beliefs are questioned, interrogated, and treated as if I’m simply being “difficult” by people who cannot even begin to understand the expressed hurt of what people are going through? It pisses me off.

To those I’ve lost along the way, to those that’ve made me feel less than, ostracized me, antagonized me, and caused an already terrible year to down spiral into maybe one of the worst mental health episodes I’ve suffered, I only have this to say:

I hope you feel better. I hope you learn. I hope you grow and change your thoughts and ideas in a way that doesn’t cause your life to implode.

As a human being, I deserve better. But, the thing is, I’m not even the one that deserves it the most. In fact, your apologies can be directly sent to the queer people, the people of color, and the loved ones you jeopardized for a chance to go to the beach and drink margaritas.

Every day, I sit in my house. I’ve been here for months, since the end of March. During these awful times, I’ve done my best to ensure that the people I care about know that I’m here for them. Maybe I stretched myself too thin, played therapist a couple times where I shouldn’t have, and maybe that cost me. But, in the end, we have to start normalizing the fact that these are unprecedented times. Expecting things — people — to behave the same way they did even six months ago is too much.

Every day, I donate, I pledge, I sign, I speak out. I support, I purchase, I use my (small) platform to lift up the voices around me. The ones that’re hurting the most, the ones that need me to use the color of my skin to ensure that they’re safe to speak on whatever they need to say, without fear of death. Plain and simple.

I’m angry. I get angrier every day. And, quite frankly, I’m sick of people not being just as angry about this. Choosing to ignore what’s happening in the world, throwing your hands up and saying “well, what am I supposed to do about this?” simply isn’t good enough. It never was. It never will be.

Maybe this makes no sense. Jumping from point to point, I find it hard to focus on anything now a days that isn’t grief. So many people have suffered this year. I carry them on my shoulders, thinking of them and how I wish I could’ve done more. How I want to do and be better. How my friends — disabled, those with pre-existing conditions, members of the LGBTQ+ community, people of color — deserve so much more than they’ve gotten.

I’m not a holy savior, a white knight, or some strange beacon of hope. I don’t want pats on the back and gold stars and a sense of feeling good because I did something anyone with a conscious would do.

I want the people around me to do better.
I want the people I care about to do better.
I want those who decided that “hearing about politics” all the time to know that it’s a privilege to tap out of the current news.

To the friends I’ve lost: I’m sorry. But, at the same time, I’m not.

Because I know what I believe. And if that’s enough to punish me, then I’m glad. The guilt, the anxiety, the depression I’ve felt because of being pushed aside, shoved out the door and made to feel less than, it’s all been worth it.

It’s nearly 4:30 on September 24th, 2020. I’ve been quarantined since March, I fight from my makeshift office in the upstairs of a house I share with 5 people total, and I’ve made plenty of mistakes during one of the worst times this world has ever seen.

Maybe you’ll see me in 2021. Maybe we’ll try to reconcile. Maybe we won’t.

Either way, we all deserve a little better.
And finally, I’m not sorry for asking for it.

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Mallory McMahon