Final Self Intervention-Forgiveness

When I was first thinking of ideas for my final self-intervention I was going to try to eat healthier, however after November 7th this month I decided forgiveness was something that would be much more difficult but also essential to moving forward. On the night of November 7th, my friend Alaina Housley was killed in the Thousand Oaks shooting. I had just landed in LAX on my way to an honors conference in Boston with some other members of the Cal Poly Honors program when I got a phone call from a friend saying that Alaina had been missing 8 hours now and her family was coming down to Thousand Oaks to find her. An hour later after refreshing the news every 15 seconds, she was confirmed dead. I had met Alaina my junior year of High School in AP Chemistry. She was the first person I met in the class. She was one of those people with the incredible ability to come up to anyone and was one of the sweetest people I have ever met. We were lab partners for the rest of the year and every day her intelligence, wit, and determination amazed me. When I found out that she was gone I was in shock. I had to keep rereading the article because it did not seem possible. She was 18, She was just about to finish her first semester at Pepperdine, how could she be gone? I was really upset and the entire weekend I tried to focus on the conference and being in Boston but I could not shake the feeling of loss. The entire week before break, when I came back to school I was trying to make sure I was staying on top of things. I was trying to accept what happened but I was still struggling to come to terms with it. I think the hardest part about having another life away from where you grew up is that when you lose someone it can be so incredibly hard to allow yourself to be upset in a place where no one else knew the person. The whole week I bounced between sadness for Alaina and her family and anger at the shooter for taking Alaina’s life away from her. I hated that when I thought of Alaina I felt anger and I wanted to change that. I think residual anger although hard to resolve is an important part of moving forward positively. I wanted to be able to remember Alaina only for the positive impact she had on my life and the lives of many others. I think when we lose someone we need answers and the more I looked for them the more sad and angry I felt. The shooter posted on social media during the shooting and when I read what he wrote I was overwhelmed by anger. I was confused by why he did it, mad at him for doing it, and angry that a human being could take the lives of 12 people but I needed to forgive what had happened in order to move forward. Honestly, at first, I struggled. I came to the conclusion that I could never forgive a person like that. I tried to think through it, I tried to rationalize how a person gets to that point but I still lacked sympathy. That changed when I got home last weekend. My best friend went with me to the celebration of Alaina’s life at my old high school. I had the chance to connect with old friends and teachers and her mom who had taught at the school and who I knew well during high school was the first person to give me a huge hug when I came in. Alaina’s friends, family, a first responder who was there that night, and other community members spoke about Alaina’s life. I think that is where things changed. In those speeches, I went from being angry at her loss to celebrating the life she lived and moving away from pointing fingers to talking about compassion. I will never forget when her mom and dad asked the question, “What if someone had asked our daughter’s shooter how he was doing that morning? Would we be here today?” That sentence transformed my outlook. Her dad asked for more compassion in this world moving forward and I think that changed my outlook. I came to the idea that this incident did not come from a single isolated individual but a result of a multitude of events and interactions. After reminding myself of this each day every time I thought about what had happened I have finally been able to forgive the shooter. I am sorry that he was in a place of mind like that. I cannot imagine how much isolation and darkness he felt. I think the only thing I can do moving forward is to remember to be compassionate every day to not only the people I know but to strangers. To appreciate the friendships I have and make more of an effort to keep in touch with people and to work towards gun regulation. I am so grateful for the time I knew Alaina and the incredible life she led and I hope to continue to celebrate her memory through compassion and activism in the future. It was so hard to forgive the man who took her away and sometimes I am still confused and angry but I am working towards letting go of that anger and working proactively to remember Alaina.

-Brenna Eikenbary

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