Are you searching for purpose?
Then write something, yeah it might be worthless
Then paint something then, it might be wordless
Pointless curses, nonsense verses
You’ll see purpose start to surface
No one else is dealing with your demons
Meaning maybe defeating them
Could be the beginning of your meaning, friend.
-Twenty One Pilots, Kitchen Sink
Whether or not you have watched or plan to watch the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” this post is for you and everyone you know. The show takes place in a high school where a student, Hannah, has committed suicide, leaving behind cassette tapes where she dictates the situations, people and reasons that lead her to suicide. Regardless of the reasons and our opinions of their validity, the fact is this: for a person to be at the point of choosing death via suicide over living a moment longer is not something up for judgment and debate. By anyone. It’s a show, I know, but it’s a serious matter not enough of us are talking about so I’m glad this show is bringing the topic of suicide and the various forms of bullying, to light. Even though I relate deeply with the main character Hannah, I found myself judging her too. I was discussing the show with a friend and we were commenting on how high school sucks for most people, get over it and move on. As I was thinking about my total lack of compassion in these comments despite me myself having contemplated suicide in high school and many times thereafter, who am I to decide what reason is worthy enough to justify suicide? To judge what causes someone else pain? No one can judge our truth.
Here is a young girl who is blatantly bullied, harassed and outcasted. I was never outright bullied or harassed yet I struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts throughout my school years. Would I have actually gone through with it if I had the painful experiences in school that Hannah did? I remember absolutely dreading lunch time, walking into a cafeteria full of different cliques, desperately searching for any friendly face to have someone to sit with. I would often stake out in the bathroom and wait for the end of lunch bell to ring. I tried to sneak off to the library and disappear in a book but the librarians wouldn’t allow it. It’d be the longest, worst 30 minutes of my day. Every. Single. Day. There are many reasons why then and now that death crosses my mind as the more appealing option.
We were born into these structured, authoritative, soul-sucking systems and are expected to function as happy, well-adjusted people in them. We are born and spend the first 5 years surviving and making sure we get our needs met. Besides that, we are working hard to learn how to walk, get ourselves around and communicate. By the time we hit age 5 or 6 when our little minds start transitioning into thriving mode where we can really start exploring (now that we hopefully feel safe) and playing, we are put into the school system. This system, as good as the intentions are of the teachers/parents, is designed to essentially train us to sit down, comply and compete. Certainly we had fun during art class and recess, but we were slowly being forced to conform. Remember having to line up in the hallways? Can’t speak unless called upon? Having to ask to use the bathroom? Becoming good at memorization? Deadlines aka due dates? I understand getting a handle on a group of wiley kids is incredibly hard but I do believe there are more important things than 1+1=2 to teach humans such as how to be compassionate, how to listen actively, how to communicate honestly, how to be authentic, how to take care of yourself, how to love others, how to love yourself, how to care for the environment, how to grow food, developing a personal relationship with God, etc. When in our lives did we ever get to be free and just be? We go straight from schooling into the work world. We all know how the work world can feel, especially if we aren’t working on anything that excites us in the morning and keeps us passionate all week, month, year, or life-long. Instead, we watch the hours tick by and declare TGIF.
I digress- this post wasn’t meant to depress. Just some realness I wanted to share after watching episode 8. What I’d like to get to is that we are not perfect, our world is not perfect and I do hope we will find other ways to live our time sensitive lives on this planet, treating ourselves and each other better. We judge others and their reasons for their actions such as suicide, because we either can’t empathize/understand it within the context of our lives or because we judge our own reasons, our own actions, our own selves so severely that we default to judging others as a way to temporarily soothe our own pain. Perhaps we figure if we are going to be judged for this or that, then we will judge others too. The solution? I don’t know. Is it human nature to judge? To label? Is it our ego trying to protect or comfort itself? Are our brains wired this way? If so, I know that we can re-wire our automatic thinking once we start catching these thoughts but how can we get better at catching and stopping these judgmental thoughts in the moment they occur? Does it help if we catch the thoughts later and forgive ourselves for them? What if these thoughts turned into actions or words and we hurt someone?
I don’t have the answers but I am actively searching for them. One step at a time, they always say. So let’s start with this step. Whether or not you’ve thought of suicide, this exercise is for you too. Life is all sorts of things but it can be really, really hard sometimes. It might not be now, or never been before, but chances are there’s going to come a difficult time in all of our lives where this list might just save your life. Wherever you are, whatever is happening, however you are feeling, take a moment to write down, somewhere safe, that you can reference when you need to, your 13 Reasons Why to Stay Alive. Here are mine at this moment:
- I believe that life is getting better, feeling better and that there are more opportunities to play ahead.
- For my nieces and nephew, whom I hope to be an ally, friend and mentor to, their entire lives.
- For my cats. I love them so much and wouldn’t want them to end up homeless or in an unloving home. No one can care for them as well as I can!
- For Deborah, my Mom’s best friend, who has been a life saver since my Mom died. For her believing in me and her faith that life has something great in store.
- For my friends. I would never want them to feel the pain of loss. Because of their love and support, and our adventures yet to come.
- I would miss the feeling of the sun on my skin, the sound of the waves and seagulls, the coziness of sand and the serenity I feel at the ocean.
- I haven’t met my soulmate yet, who will see me completely and connect soul to soul, heart to heart. A partner to share, laugh, adventure, grow, play, be my authentic self with.
- For my Mom. As much as I want to be with her with God in Heaven, I know she wants me alive to experience life to the fullest and participate with and witness the beauty and love of God through this earthly existence.
- I might not always like my body but I don’t want to hurt it or get hurt. Despite the “flaws” I perceive I have, this body keeps me alive, allows me to move around, to sing, to laugh, to play, to write, to see, to hear, to feel, to do. It does a lot and does its best to keep me balanced, healthy and happy.
- I haven’t seen all of the world. There are so many oceans, forests, mountains, quaint cities, activities, delicious cuisines I haven’t experienced yet.
- For cozy mornings waking up slowly without an alarm, well-rested, with my 2 kitties snuggled up next to me and the sun lightly shining in. The promise of a full day ahead to choose to do whatever I want.
- For drives to the beach or somewhere I am looking forward to going, or nowhere in particular, with the windows down, breeze blowing all around, country music turned up, cruising along, singing, feeling free.
- There are SO many books I am desperately trying to make time to read and SO many more on my list. Getting lost in a book, hungrily reading all of the pages, soaking it in, connecting so deeply I feel seen, I relate, sobbing hysterically or laughing to the point of snorting, discovering and learning something new to try. Endless opportunities to read. The book I hope to write some day.