This is hard to write. Trigger warnings all over the place.
An old student of mine took her life this time last year. I think about her often. This is to her.
My first, temporary response to the news of your death was relief. Because I was sure the bad news was going to be the Worst News and then I thought I was being told you were only going to be late to the writing meeting. Relief is what I felt. Then your friend went on with the news and it hit me that it was indeed the Worst News and I felt confusion. Confusion before grief.
I looked up how you had died and it took some time because the news were being responsible. Even though your death was news worthy, they kept it out of the headlines. Suicide can spread you see. If the news report a suicide in a certain way, young people can ‘catch’ the compulsion. So, you were a person under a train where ‘all signs pointed to suicide’. Not a fifteen year old girl. Not a K-pop fan. Not a funny, shy and fiercely intelligent young lady. A person. Who died and stopped the trains for a few hours.
I want to smash everything at the thought that your impact on the world was a few hours delay on the trains. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
If I could have told you this somehow:- That genuinely and honestly this adolescence shit does get better even though it is pretty grim for a long time. Would that have made any difference? Could it have done?
Your mother opened a Facebook memorial for you and posted all your gawkiest childhood pics. Just like when my friend died of leukaemia and her mum played Bon Jovi at the wake. She kept calling you a ‘princess’ and ‘beautiful’. You were beautiful. Oh my god, the hearts you were about to break, girl. But that wasn’t the best of you. It wasn’t the most remarkable thing about you. It wasn’t YOU.
Maybe you were a princess inside but that is not what I associate with you at all. You weren’t some fucking girl in a big dress and a tower waiting for some boy to make you a woman. You were a bad ass. You were quietly subversive. You were hilarious. You were a little bit nuts in a good way. You were bookish and shy. You were fierce and brave.
And the way you took care of your friends and the fun you had.
So. I do not know what happened to you and why you felt the way you did. I wish I could have helped you. I wish you had accepted help from anyone at all. I don’t understand what happened. I did all the research I could. Exhaustively searching the internet for clues. Some meaning in it all. Eventually, I just talked to your friends and they told me that you were on an upswing. That you waited for a time when you were feeling the best, so you could never get so low again. We visited your grave. A day of three people not believing what just happened and not knowing what to say to each other.
A teacher at my new school put up a sign in the staffroom “Teaching is the ultimate act of optimism”. I don’t think I agreed with it until now. I taught you and I tried to make your life better. I hoped against hope that you would go on to have a great life. And you won’t. You died as a child. You didn’t get to see that all these thoughts are an illusion. That they pop up and try to pull your strings. But they are nothing. They are brain acid burps. Depression lies.