I had a friend in ninth grade named Tamara. I remember her bringing a lunchbox full of candy to gym class so that she could share it, and I remember the tiara she made me wear on my birthday. But most of all, I remember her ever-present smile and generosity. I knew she had troubles at home and I knew she was bullied at school. But I also knew that she was strong. She stood up for herself and it seemed like nothing bothered her. I remember wishing I could be as strong and generous as she was.
She died by suicide that summer. I remember feeling so confused and guilty. I should have seen her struggling. I should have been her protection from those kids at school. I should have been there for her.
When I was younger, “Mrs. Doubtfire” was one of my favorite movies. I related to the story because my parents had divorced when I was younger. I remember wishing my dad would have posed as an old British lady just to spend more time with me. I really admired Robin Williams’ character, and I got attached to him as a person. I admired his ability to make people happy. I looked up to him.
Robin Williams died by suicide three days before my 17th birthday. People were astonished. He had dedicated his life to making other people happy. How could he not be happy himself? That was when I realized that happiness might be the only thing we can give away without having in the first place.
I started listening to Linkin Park long before my parents would have approved of it. My older sister owned so many of their albums, so naturally, I thought they were the greatest band to ever exist. Their music was relatable. It was angry, emotional and misunderstood, which was perfect for a lonely teenager. Their music made me feel like I wasn’t alone. I knew so many other people were listening to those songs for the same reasons. The lead singer, Chester Bennington, died by suicide July 20, 2017.
All three of these people, at some point in time, encouraged me and helped me feel a little less lonely. They inspired me and helped me decide who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do in life. Let me tell you about one more person who did the same.
I’ve written about my love for K-pop several times this year, but I got into a specific group called SHINee earlier last semester. I was instantly drawn to Jonghyun because of his huge smile and how he was always caring for the other members. He seemed outspoken and was always making those around him laugh. He was also open and honest about his struggles. He talked about them on his radio show several times. He said he had made it his mission to make sure his mother and sister were happy, but then realized he wasn’t happy himself. I thought that he would understand me. We were similar in many ways, and I connected with his stories, his personality. I thought if he could make it, then so could I. He died on Dec. 18, 2017.
I remember reading the tweets announcing his death. I instantly started sobbing. He was only 27-years-old, swallowed whole by depression. He kept reaching out to friends, even doctors, and they kept telling him it was in his head — that it was his fault that he felt sad and lonely for no reason. And I was never able to help him. After all the inspiration and encouragement he had given me that past semester, I couldn’t return any of it.
This past month has been difficult. I kind of felt like Jonghyun had taken the last bit of hope I had. It was turning out the same every time. I’d find someone I looked up to, decided I wanted to be just like them, and then they’d leave, reminding me that no matter how much they meant to me, I didn’t mean anything to them and that I couldn’t save them.
That’s what I struggled with the most. Ever since Tamara, I was so focused on the fact that I couldn’t save her, or any of them. But if I can’t save anyone, then why am I here? What’s my point on Earth if I can’t help someone?
What I realized was that I couldn’t keep thinking about what I didn’t do then. I needed to focus on what I could do now. Maybe I can still help someone, someday. Maybe someone else could connect with my experiences and feel a little less lonely too. Maybe someone reading this needs a little saving right now. So as hard as it was for me to put these thoughts in order, I decided it was worth it if someone might read this and really hear what I’m about to say.
I’m writing this to tell you there are so many foods you’ve yet to taste, concerts you’ve yet to go to, cultures you’ve yet to experience and hearts you’ve yet to touch.
You may not see the way you influence those around you, but you do. Don’t give up yet. I know the future looks bleak and it seems like it will never get any better, but there are people all around you that are willing to help.
As Twenty One Pilots say, the sun will rise and we will try again.