In the last two or three months, three people I’ve known have died, and I found out about a death of someone else I knew from back in 2012. It’s odd.
The first death that blipped on my radar screen was a guy I went to elementary and junior high schools with. We weren’t close friends, but we were in many of the same classes and we’d talked and hung out with the same people (when I was invited to hang out with anyone). Another former classmate had been tagged in an elementary school class picture, one of the years I wasn’t in their class, and a discussion with a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a loooonnng time started. Being nosy, I read through the discussion to find out that this guy died in 2012. Not just died, but committed suicide. I still remember him, small, blonde hair, blue eyes, and always kidding around and laughing. Now he’s gone. Weird.
Then a former co-worker from my school died. He retired last year and had been sick on-and-off in his last year or so at work. I’d known him since I was 14, when I was a student at the school. Nice guy. Not unexpected since he was an older guy, but sad.
Two weeks passed and another former co-worker, one who worked at a bookstore with me, died of cancer. He’d been fighting the good fight for a while now, but it was still very sad, considering he was in his early-50s.
And last week, a woman I’ve known since high school died unexpectedly. She was a friend-of-a-friend in high school, and a family member to my ex-wife afterward. I last saw her about two years ago when my daughter still bowled. She was a year younger than me.
And I already wrote about my dying uncle.
I know at a certain age, death becomes more prevalent, but isn’t 36 (almost 37) too young? I don’t know. But it’s got me a little freaked out. And I’m ready for this trend to end now.
It sucks being a teenager. It really does. By teenager, I mean from about 12 until about 20 (though things don’t get much better in your early twenties). But yeah, they suck. There are feelings and emotions coursing through you, making you feel unlike anything known to humankind. You’re parents don’t get you, your teachers don’t get you, and most other teenagers don’t really get you, either. And while the logical part of your mind knows this isn’t true, your heart feels that it is, and that just fucks you up. You’re not alone in feeling this way, yet, you are alone in being able to overcome it.
That’s depressing, isn’t it? Yeah, we’re here, we adults. I’m a father and a teacher to teenagers. I was a teenager once, too, and not a very good teenager. I mean that most teenagers get up to shenanigans and do stupid shit. I didn’t. I stayed home and wrote. I was too shy to talk to girls, didn’t really get along with guys, and preferred reading and watching movies to more social activities. And I was depressed for a large part of my teenage years. Partly, the bullying I endured from the time I was 10 until around 15 contributed to these feelings. But I got through, became a father at 20, and pulled myself through many things. The year I turned 30, things began to change. Still, that lost, helpless (and somewhat hopeless) teenager still resides within. The way I got through was accepting the love of those whom I trusted (parents, a teacher who acted as a second mother) and by eventually changing myself.
I was around 19 when I decided to change the way I was. It wasn’t instantaneous, nor did it happen easily, but the beginnings began at that point. I knew that even with the love I had of those around me, I could get myself out of those funky years. And that’s what I want to tell you. You should accept help from those who mean to do well by you. Parents, teachers, guidance counselors (most of guidance counselors aren’t worth their weight in anything, but every now and then I meet one who is excellent), coaches, etc., are often willing to help. They cannot fix everything, but they can listen and maybe give advice. You won’t take much of their advice, but you’ll wish you had. Someday. And it’s okay that you didn’t heed their advice because you need to fall down. You need to have your heart broken. But you also need to get up again and try again, even when everything in you says you don’t want to.
Kid, you’re given one life. One. Yeah, some of you believe in an afterlife or reincarnation or somesuch, and if you really want to wait for that time, that’s your call, but the way I see it, even if you do believe in that stuff, you cannot deny that this is what you have right now, and this is where you need to focus. In this one life, you must live. You must take chances and experience the pains of failure. And it will suck to fail. And you’ll cry. Man will you cry. And that’s good. You have to push yourself to get over that pain of failure, whether it’s a relationship or a goal or something else entirely, and then try again in a new way.
It won’t be easy. I can’t do it for you, but I can help you. And even if I could do it for you, I wouldn’t. You need to be able to take responsibility for yourself. But I promise that if you keep trying, if you keep making those attempts at whatever it is you wish to achieve, sooner or later, something will happen. It may not be exactly what you’d wanted; your dream girl/guy may never love you, your dream career may never be anything more than a dream, but you will find happiness with someone, doing something. But you have to make it happen. All those sad people in the world who tell you it will never happen have given up, or haven’t realized that their happiness is within them.
Look, I don’t have all the answers, but I promise that even though you have to face your personal fears alone, you are not alone in this world. We can, and will, support you.
I hope this message finds you, whoever you are. I know being a teenager sucks, but it’s the only thing you’ve got right now, and someday these struggles will prove to be inspirational. You’re doing a great job. Now don’t shut yourself off, just live.