Reflecting on goodbyes with both happy and sad endings
After four months working for Rocky View Publishing, I must say ‘goodbye’ because I accepted a reporter position in my hometown, Kamloops, B.C.
I am extremely grateful for the people I have met and everything I have learned in my short time covering Airdrie and Rocky View County news, however, this new opportunity fills the void I feel without my family, friends and - yes - a special boy.
While I have countless knee-slapping newsroom stories I could reveal before venturing back across the provincial border, I have opted to share a more personal one.
This will not be your typical mushy-gushy, lovey-fluffy, nostalgic, goodbye column.
While reflecting and moving into the next phase of my life, I have thought about how far I have come in almost 25 years of being alive.
I am the happiest I have ever been.
If you’ve ever met me, you know I am outgoing, smiley and social. I was even once called ‘one of those shiny, happy people.’
I don’t mind the label. I am happy, and I am grateful. ‘La la la la la’ – I’m not shy about it.
Off the cuff, it may seem like I have always been this way, however, I took several wrong turns on the road to happiness.
In high school, I was awkward, introverted and self-conscious. I was a late-bloomer, questioned everything, was fueled by irrational anger and struggled to find my voice in a small community. I also invested all of myself into an unhealthy, co-dependent relationship at a young age and I crashed and burned.
While I had nothing concrete to complain about with a wonderful family and privileged upbringing, I was confused, depressive and felt trapped. I shut out all the people who are now most important in my life and felt lost and alone. I isolated myself and sank deeper and deeper into a dark place.
In my darkest moments, I regrettably turned to self-destructive behaviour and eventually rolled the dice with a bottle of aspirin and Bacardi rum, falling asleep and intending never to wake up.
I opened up about it shortly after during a high school retreat in front of my entire class as well as teachers and chaperones.
While it was therapeutic for me to admit my insecurities and moments of weakness, I chose the wrong audience to seek closure, and as a result I became even more isolated and alone despite adult audience members who tried to help me.
I constantly dwelled on students’ comments and what people thought of me as I tried desperately to move forward in a high school state of mind. It was only after graduating that I felt free from that burden and able to find myself, move on and be happy.
Amanda Todd, a 15 year old from Port Coquitlam, B.C., recently committed suicide after succumbing to incessant bullying.
She was tormented over a nude photograph that circulated online and ran from bullies until reaching a breaking point.
Her story exploded online and hits close to home for many, including myself.
It saddens me that Todd didn’t have the opportunity to escape high school and become her truest self and find happiness.
Unfortunately, whether it’s kicked-over sandcastles or private photos posted online, bullying has always been a problem in society and will continue. However, it may be getting worse.
While the Internet is a free and open medium that can be used as a powerful tool to organize protests, sell used goods or talk to someone across the world, it can also become an echo chamber for rumour and malice.
The Internet has the ability to amplify a bully’s voice to a much larger, more permanent audience.
Naivety is being given an unsupervised microphone and Todd is one of the casualties.
Her case reiterates the power of this medium and how it needs to be used responsibly. Whether commenting on a news article or blogging about an ex-boyfriend, everyone needs to understand their voice will be heard far and wide online and parents need to instill this in children who don’t know better.
I would never want to go back to high school and I sympathize with young people when their small high school world’s problems are amplified and exposed online to the entire world.
Looking back to that dark time in my life, my world felt so small and I was ashamed of myself, afraid to admit my problem and afraid to ask for help. If I could go back and tell my former self one thing that applies to everyone, it would be to find support in times of need.
I wish I would have leaned on others and prevented some of the ugly scars I live with to this day.
However, I’m lucky and grateful to be here – even happy.
For those struggling now, no one will judge you, you are not strange and you are not alone. Talk to family, talk to friends, talk to counsellors, talk to someone – just get help.
As I move home to work for an online publication, I intend to use my online power responsibly.
Thank you for sharing your stories with me these past four months. I wish you all happy endings.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) offers a national hotline at 204-784-4073.