person uses smartphone

How A Stranger In The Group Chat Changed My Life

It has been over four years since I was there—running to the bus, rushing to find my pass, and holding my breath for a 90-minute long commute. I never looked at anyone during the bus ride, just at my phone.

The first tab I opened was a group chat on Messenger filled with caffeinated students, much like how I was. The other tab I scrolled through was my lecture notes. But my brain slept as I skimmed through assignment questions, trying to understand what magic existed between me and math prompts.

To the boy in the group chat: Were you in the same position as me that morning? Proving theorems wasn’t my strong suit, and therefore, I decided to message you. You were the last person to talk in the group chat and address another student’s concern, so I thought you could understand me as well.

I bit my lip as I typed. I wasn’t sure what your schedule was and who you were. I wasn’t sure what you’d say, and I didn’t know what you’d think of me. I clicked the ‘send’ button and my hands started shaking, and I could guarantee you that it was not because of the Tim Hortons’ double-double.

As I stared out the window and thought of graduating in the next four years, my phone trembled between the palm of my two hands. Pressing the home button with my thumb, I saw that you replied to my message.

I felt myself smirking when I asked about your ambitions, which you outlined clearly: making it into the Computer Science program, securing a co-op position, and achieving the best GPA that you could. But that’s everyone’s goal in the group chat, I thought. What’s so special about meeting people?

Before long, the bus reached its final stop. I slowly trudged off and walked briskly to the classroom. I closed my phone.

After an hour had passed, I held the home button for my phone to power up. I checked my messages and saw that the first one was from you. But this time, we weren’t talking about our ambitions. I revealed my life and told you about the hardships I faced. We didn’t know each other at all, but something inside of me told me to keep on telling you about me. Something about your personality seemed so special, which I could never overlook.

I struggled hard that semester in one class. I cried, and somehow, you became my venting outlet. Whatever I said, you replied. Even when I was bawling on Christmas Day, you were there for me. Even when I drained you, you still had loads of energy left. And even when I thought that the world was ending, you convinced me that I mattered.

I have looked back and asked myself, Why did we speak about all that before we met?

But I never knew that we would meet until two weeks later.

It was the first week of January, and I remembered eating cake while you messaged and asked where in the lecture room I sat. You made your way down the stairs, and when I looked at you, I couldn’t believe that you were next to me. The times we spent during and after the lecture were great, and from that moment on, we continued to piggy-back off each other to prove theorems.

I remembered the day after we sat in a morning class. We chose to meet up and walked to a nearby park together. Then you revealed something about yourself that you never told me before: You were lonely and you didn’t want anyone leaving your side. You leaned on me, slept against me, and cuddled me until we were no longer shivering from the harsh Toronto winter days.

We skipped class that day just to explore the city. And before we knew it, our first date happened. Those moments we spent and the time we learned about each other wouldn’t have happened without the group chat.

Even when I left, I still thought of you sitting beside me. Even when our paths diverged, I still felt your spirit talking to me. And even when I was forced to join a group chat, I thought of you, the man that I never would’ve ever thought of meeting.

Through it all, I was encouraged to do well because of you. I was encouraged by your words of kindness and thankfulness. I was encouraged by your inspirational talks about not giving up. I was encouraged by the fact that you would always be here with me, regardless if it was a group chat or not.

Through it all, I learned so much from you. I learned that I should be hopeful amidst the uncertain future. I learned that someone would always lend a hand to figure out a solution for the never-ending challenges. And I learned that group chats were not as bad as I thought, especially when midterms or finals season arrived. But most importantly, I learned that when love is there, it will arise.

So thank you, even if it was not enough.

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