In Loving Memory and Suicide Prevention

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe

 

They say that no matter what happens, life goes on. And it does— unless something else gets in the way.

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On Wednesday, our 15 year old yellow Lab, Samson, passed away and though I am incredibly sad to have lost a member of our family, I am also thankful he had such a long life with us. Over the years, we watched him grow up, climb fences, father puppies, and eat our food (two whole cakes at one point). Then we watched him grow older, slow down, climb the stairs less, and inch his way towards a deadline none of us could see.  

No one can ever truly see it coming.

But that’s the point. Because lately I have been thinking a lot about life and death, or more specifically, death when it comes by way of suicide. We’re not supposed to be able to see that deadline, but far too often, people make their own.

It has been almost three years, yet I can still remember a young boy who had attended Folsom Middle and went as far as homeschooling to escape relentless torment— Ronin took his own life because he was bullied too far past his breaking point. At age 12, he was said to be kind, outgoing, and even “better than some of the girls” when it came to the junior cheerleading squad. I still remember the green ribbons tied around trees throughout town for him. He was only in seventh grade and sometimes I wonder where Ronin would be now if he were still alive; a question none of us will ever have the answer to.

Three weeks ago, a junior from Cal Poly Slo took his own life after battling what seemed to be bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. I never knew Jack either, but from what I can tell he had an incredible amount of promise and a personality that made others feel like they mattered. Though there may be no proven cure for the two illnesses he suffered from, there are countless ways to find help and reach out when someone is struggling to cope day by day. Every day the stigma around mental illness fades little by little, but even so, the rates of suicide in young adults and teenagers continues to rise.michael-dam-258179.jpg

Something needs to change.

Two weeks ago, a girl I can only say I knew from passing in the halls of Vista Del Lago High or as part of the Class of 2015 also took her own life. Yet Cinnamon is survived by so many people from the music program at the high school, which you may donate to in memory of her, to her family and friends alike. Though I can say nothing about her motivations or the situation she found herself in that led to her death, I can say that she was loved and made an impact on countless people throughout her life.

A life that was cut too short.

I said this last year in my post on world suicide prevention month, but this is something I can never say enough: Your life matters. No matter what you’ve been through, from family divorce and bullying, to heartbreak and failure, the universal truth of the matter is that life goes on.

But it can only do that if you let it.

When it comes to mental illness, or bullying, or hardship that seems too large to overcome, people can find themselves wanting to quit, wanting a way out. Maybe you aren’t where you wanted to be in your life or you don’t think you’re strong enough, good enough, smart enough… The list goes on and the people who feel this way begin to add up, when maybe a just few of them can’t hear it when someone says “I love you” or “you’re important to me.”

These words cannot be said enough, if you love somebody, tell them that. To anyone who has ever found themselves losing hope, or running out of fight, know that it is okay to ask for help, there is nothing wrong with that. For you are not broken, you are never a burden, and you will always be loved by someone. Just because you don’t always feel strong or like people need you in this life doesn’t mean either is true.

Just because you cannot see the stars in the daylight does not mean they aren’t there.

For the survivors and those who have lost loved ones, support is always, always a priority. My heart goes out to all of you in hope that healing can come with time.

In order to help raise awareness and prevent tragedies like this in the future, here are just a few warning signs of suicide to look out for and a link if you want to know more: Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose, talking about being a burden to others, increasing the use of alcohol or drugs, or withdrawing/feeling isolated.

annie-spratt-218458Below, if you or someone you know ever needs assistance in a hard time or just needs some help, here is the Crisis Text Line which is a toll-free, nationwide 24/7 crisis text line. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24/7, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline for suicidal crisis or emotional distress. And lastly, The Trevor Project which is a nationwide organization that provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.

And on a final but very important note, if anyone ever needs someone to talk to, to not talk to, or just sit and exist with, I am always available no matter who you are, how I know you, or even if I know you at all. My email is on the site, kwilliamsbooks@gmail.com, feel free to reach out to me, any time and any day. Because you are worth it.

Though we may not be at Hogwarts, and I may not be a wizard, the quote still stands…

“Help will always be given [in my life] to those who ask for it.”

 

What it means to have Pride

Welcome to June, the month I finally get to begin my (short) summer, the weather really starts heating up, and the world gets to celebrate something very important.

Welcome to Pride Month.laura-ockel-197421.jpg

If you’ve been on Google today you might have seen the rainbow colors on their doodle for the day, that is something special. Those colors represent the birthday of Gilbert Baker, the man who designed what is now known as the flag that represents LGBTQ+. Though he passed away just this year in March, his activism and his flag, has spread through this world in a way that is very much alive.

That’s what this month is about.

For those of you who do not know, Pride month itself and the celebration of its essence began back in 1969 with the Stonewall Riots: a stand against police harassment towards a group of gay customers in Greenwich Village, New York. At the time, most states had laws passed against the group gathering of LGBTQ+ people, gay bars, and public homosexuality. This riot began in protest of discrimination in the Stonewall Inn, and as people shouted “gay power”, standing up up for their own human rights, they stated something they never saw coming.  

Protests lasted for days with even 1,000 people attending at once. Ultimately, this led to the Gay Liberation Movement and Christopher Street Liberation Day which happened on June 28, 1970; the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots with as well as the first Gay Pride march in U.S. history. It covered an entire 51 blocks through to Central Park.
F3FH5XYZY0Known as the “Mother of Pride” for her help in organizing the march, Brenda Howard originated the celebrations  and festivities held every June and also coined what we now know as the term
Pride.

From there the movement spread, as all movements do, to San Francisco and LA, then Boston and Dallas, and so many more places before the culture behind it had shifted completely into something global. Something stronger. Here in the United States, it took us until our 42nd President, Bill Clinton, to recognize Pride on June 2, 2000. Since then, both Clinton and Obama acknowledged this month, however, President Trump could have been the first Republican President to do so. The future of that possibility is yet to be seen.

Around the world, we celebrate the people who make up the 7.4 billion population we are surrounded by. Among those who have passed away, many of the most incredible people were also a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Have you ever heard of Bessie Smith, Empress of the Blues, and one of the highest paid black entertainers of all time? Maybe you know of, Tennesee Williams, writer of the Glass Menagerie? Or how about Sally Ride, the first woman in space? Each of them were a part of LGBTQ+ history, a part of what this world has now come to celebrate, and major contributors to the music, entertainment, and accomplishments of the United States.

We cannot celebrate our history without recognizing all the pieces of it. Just like Black History Month or Women’s History Month,

sorasak-217807 (1)we celebrate Pride as more than a month, but an appreciation for every person it applies to. Because no matter what a person identifies with or what defines who they are, they just might change the world someday. I know some LGBTQ+ people who have already changed mine.

Before Baker’s flag emerged in 1978, the symbol of gay pride was a pink triangle— Hitler made homosexuals wear them as a tag during World War Two. We have come a long way, legalizing gay marriage two years ago, but there is still a long road ahead as the world around us becomes more accepting of what being an “American” really means. From accepting that racism is still an issue to coming to terms with the status of our Earth’s climate, things have changed a lot since I was born, but not as much as I believe they will in the future.

One way or another, an easy way to bring change is with education— today, I hope you learned a little bit more about what Pride Month really means. Whether you identify with, support, or simply understand the community, know that like any other identity in this world, it deserves to be respected at the very least. If you join in on the celebration this year, at a Pride parade or anywhere else, it’s important to know the boundaries not to cross— how to appreciate without accidentally discriminating. Like Gilbert Baker believed when creating the flag, “We needed something beautiful, something from us. The rainbow is so perfect because it really fits our diversity in terms of race, gender, ages, all of those things.”

Not only did he create a beautiful flag, he created a safe space for more equality, brought people together, and probably changed so many lives in the process. Because thdimitar-belchev-235925at is the beauty change in this world and the ability people have to come together in communities. In a world of 7.4 billion people and 12 months to celebrate each of every one of us, this one is for LGBTQ+. And that is the beauty of Pride.

P.S. If you want to learn any more, click on all those blue words and it’ll take you right to the info!

A Lesson Learned

If you read my blog post on Friday, then you know what today is: Today is the day to share more writing with you. writer's life

This month is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and I wanted to share poem I wrote in my AP Literature class during my senior year. This was in response of support to another poem two students read aloud in class, Lindsey Hobart’s How to Tell a Rape Joke which you can take a look at hereA Lesson Learned is straight out of  my poetry anthology (page 66) and even though I could probably quote every line of it in my sleep, here it is. I hope you like it.

 

A Lesson Learned

She’s insecure in her own skin,

andy-wang-39028.jpgthough most people don’t really know why.

She worries about the scars on her body,

about how difficult they are to hide.

Because they define the mistakes of her past

and everything she thought herself to be:

a one-out-of-six, a statistic,

that most people cannot understand, do not see.

She is scared, the lonely kind of isolated,

the way her mind replays and goes back to

the moment it happened, what she did to deserve it.

Though in the end no one does. If only she knewclem-onojeghuo-111360.jpg

how to protect herself, how to stay safe.

How to know what to be, what she needed to say.

Or in the aftermath, how to put herself back together again,

that soon enough, she would somehow be okay.

But she will be stronger next time. She hopes and she prays

that maybe she will be guarded and able to show

the man who stole her dignity, her faith, and her pride

how damn good she has gotten at saying No.

PS. Since I forgot to mention it last week, I did a guest blog post a few weeks back for my publisher! You can take a look at it here, happy Monday.

 

There’s No Place Like Home

I’ve been home for a week, and I’ve got to say, it has never felt so good. This week, I have done all the things I didn’t have time to do over the quarter, like drawing, writing, catching up with old friends, and best of all, sleeping. I forgot what it was like to sleep in my own bed.

manu-adan-205044.jpgAs much as I have caught up with people, talked about college, and taken time for myself this week, it has also given me a lot more time to just think. For the past year, as of May, I have been working on this drawing of each of the Hogwarts crests together on a page. It’s quite complicated and takes my complete and utter focus in order to get it right. In the process, I’ve realized that some of our best work, or better accomplishments, require us to be doing nothing else at the same time.

Some things require our undivided attention. That being said, I am now beginning to understand one problem; it almost seems like nothing I have done since I got to Cal Poly ever truly had my full attention. I never stopped multitasking.

That’s the funny thing that I discovered about college and the schoolwork it involves— all of the classes almost seem like distractions from each other. Question is, is it all simply a distraction from something else, a to-do list per say? Let me explain.

Between the classes, the social life, the clubs, and the attempt at figuring out college, it was all multitasking. Maybe there was too much to do without enough time to just do it all one by one. From what I could tell, even if we tried, we might stop in the middle of one assignment to remember another task we forgot to do. Ever been in the middle of relaxing with friends before looking at the time, seeing 11:34, and remembered a bill you forgot to pay or an assignment due at midnight?

Just because we multitask doesn’t mean we remember to do everything… If anything, I think we may actually be more unproductive than ever.brianna-fairhurst-2888

7 days back at home and it’s given me time to slow down, to focus on one thing and actually finish that drawing I told you about. Being back on familiar ground, driving on familiar streets, I am even reminded of how easily time passes while we do other things with our lives. In visiting my advisory teacher whom I had for the same class with the same people all four years of high school, I got to take a look from the outside to see all the freshman students who have now taken our place. This is their start, everything is still so fresh and new to them. They’ve got choices to make and a path to take those first steps on— that’s where we used to be.

And now we’re here.

Today I got a chance to catch up with an old friend who is a grade above me, someone I was lucky enough to run with from sixth grade through to my junior year of high school. We talked about college, about life and where our paths are headed now. I’ve been out of high school for almost a year, she’s been out for almost two, and yet we’re both still trying to figure things out. I guess that never really changes. Looking at her, I could almost see that time that had gone by; she looked a little older and more mature than I remembered.

I wonder if that’s how I look to all the people I went to go visit.

Because now, I’m on a different path than I thought I would be when I started high school. Is that a bad thing? I’d like to think it isn’t. Personally, I would like to think that the paths we take and the turns we make along the way all put us where we need to be. Sooner or later, none of the things we do are distractions while each and every one of them are no longer just a to-do list.

Sooner or later, I hope that the things we do are exactly what we want tojames-padolsey-152010.jpg be doing, and if not, I hope that they will help us get there. At least that’s what I’m striving for in my future.

So here’s to my last quarter of freshman year being something more than multi-tasking. And here’s to each and every one of you finding something in the world that means enough to you to give it your full and undivided attention.

This One is For The Women

brooke-cagle-52214It seems that with every month comes something new to discover and a new idea to think about. With March comes Daylight Savings time, the beauty of Spring, and last but never the least, Women’s History Month. Welcome to the celebration of some of the most amazing people I have ever met and the history of the women this nation is built on.

Back in January, I had a small post on the Women’s March, speaking on the Beauty of Standing Up. Just in case you haven’t read it and want to check that out, go ahead and click that link. Last month I told you all about black history, whether it was through poetry, experience, or the help of another perspective. This month, I don’t think I need to tell you all about the importance of Women’s History and how far we’ve come, from the wage battle to the fallacy of equality.

I don’t need to tell you how important women are to each of our lives, both those born female and those not— just take a look at your mother, your sister, your girlfriend, your best friend…

Women are an integral part of this world, I don’t know where I would be without the incredible ladies I am blessed to have in my life.

So here’s to each and every one of them.

Did you know that Women’s History Month aaron-burden-185993.jpgstarted off as just a week in 1978, designated by the the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission in order to educate more people? Fast forward eight years and by then, 14 states had made March Women’s History Month… A year later, in 1987, Congress declared the month nationally


If the history of women in our nation was important enough to go through Congress to add to the monthly celebrations of who we all are, then why are we still struggling to pay attention?

Just like I said that black history is more than a month, and so is Women’s History. There is a wide array of ethnicities, cultures, and people who make up this world that we live in— we ought to be celebrating every single one of them.

Though the definition of a “woman” may be changing to incorporate the circumstances of every person’s life in the 21st century, it does not take away from the incredible potential each woman here in America has. Considering that Wednesday, the 8th, was International Women’s Day, should we still have to fight for the equality that it seems this world knows we deserve to have?

Barely sixty years ago, as a woman, I would not have been admitted to Cal Poly. As a black woman, I may have been hired as cooking staff… Maybe. You noah-hinton-172343see, we’ve come quite a ways from where we used to be in regards to our inclusion as part of society, however, we are still so far behind men that baby steps don’t seem to be enough anymore. Though the genetic difference comes down to a single Y chromosome, apparently it makes all the difference when it comes to wages, career outlook, and even perceived positions of power. 

Women deserve more.

By more, I mean equality in not only the way we work or what we get for working, but in the way we are treated every single day. Stereotypically, women are seen as less intelligent, more emotional, and weak. It still surprises me that people believe women aren’t as strong or capable as men are— have you met my mother? From the woman whom I owe my life (and half my genes) to, to so many others who have changed my life, the this month is a celebration of everything each of us can be. So why not talk about it?

It’s one thing to have a month designated to celebrate a certain group of people, and it’s another thing to actually celebrate it. I feel like there is a tendency to assume we all already know what we need to know, whether it’s the meaning behind this month or the knowledge that comes with it. Let’s be honest, many people believe in the idea that “ignorance is bliss”. Depending on your opinions, sometimes this is true.

When it comes to Women’s History Month, or any culture/group appreciation in general, ignorance is simply just ignorance. Educate yourself. Considering we are in the 21st century, with access to Google and far too much information at the tips of our fingers, there is no longer any excuse as to why we do not know who people james-douglas-730.jpglike Helen Keller and Dr. Sally Ride are. These months are more than a label, the titles are more than suggestions, and these women…

They make up 3.4 billion of the world population.

This is a call for action, to understand why we have this month designated to 3.4 billion people. This is a month where I want to say thank you to each and every woman who has impacted my life, from my teachers to my best friends. This is a time for women empowerment.

May it forever be more than just a month.