This is my story of struggle.
"It would have been so easy. I could drive up into the Angeles National Forest and no one would ever miss me."
It was a moment of desperation.
I remember it clear as day. It was a kind of intervention, really. I was disheveled in a newsroom office, wearing sunglasses because I didn’t want anyone to see how terrible I looked. I was surrounded by people who were trying to talk me off a ledge. People who were trying tell me to please, please take care of myself. My other obligations to them did not matter. All that mattered was just trying to be OK.
I was at a point in life where I really felt overwhelmed and beaten down and I flat out didn’t want to exist.
I wanted the easy way out.
But I know it’s never that simple.
Sometimes you really do believe that no one really cares about you. You stop caring about everything. You stop caring enough that you don’t bother to tell anyone else how you feel because you figure they won’t give a shit anyway.
It becomes a lot easier to imagine a world where you don’t exist.
It is an insidious thing. It is a constant undercurrent that threatens to drown you at any moment. You look perfectly fine, and suddenly, you get sucked in and everyone else is stunned as hell.
I was a pretty bright kid. I was a singer, a musician, appeared self-assured on a stage. But I was also really awkward. Klutzy. Nerdy. Glasses and braces, the whole deal. Awkwardly skinny to the point that people called me anorexic. Bullied until the one day I beat up a boy in choir practice. And then I got to high school and the homegirls didn’t care if you could fight. They’d talk about you anyway.
My sophomore year was particularly rough. I was being shunned by people for reasons I didn’t understand. These were kids I went to grade school with. I spent many lunch periods alone in the hallway. Two of my oldest childhood friends — who went to a different school anyway — moved 8,000 miles away and I lost my safety net. I battled with my mom a lot. I was feeling more and more isolated. Every day was a constant struggle.
I wanted to give up.
I knew how I would do it.
But I had a dream one day. I dreamt of my own funeral. I was mocked for giving up.
I decided then and there that I wasn’t going to be a quitter.
I endured. In the end, the girls who tormented me transferred out my junior year. We also had a wonderful counselor at school that I used to hang out with every morning. I’d sit in her office and play the guitar and we’d talk.
I also became friends with a boy who would eventually reject me as a girlfriend but became my best friend. He once told me I was one of the best things he had in life. It was nice.
But the undercurrent came again.
I was an asshole and we had a falling out. I didn’t go to his graduation. I also essentially threw away 10 years of friendship with another kid I grew up with.
It ate away at me.
Sometimes you know you are a terrible person and that just makes everything worse.
I still carry the scars of all those battles. But I feel lucky. Even in those very dark times, someone cared enough.
Enough to stop me in the bathroom of the newsroom one day and sit me down on a second-floor balcony. No judgement. We walked into the newsroom an hour late for work.
Enough to sit with me in a bar though several glasses of whiskey and then take me somewhere until I was sober at 4 a.m.
It is a struggle. But you get a gift in return, and that is the ability to empathize with other people. You see the struggle. You know what it’s like. In your shared struggle, you both become stronger. You have kindred spirits.
You start to believe that people do care about you. That someone will miss you if you were gone.
Some days, it isn’t easy.
But don’t give up.
Someone really is out there for you. Someone is looking out for you. Or maybe you have to be that person who looks out for your fellow person, and you should.
And it does get better. You may not believe it in that moment, or even soon after, but it does. I promise.