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She Was Serious This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     If a stranger looked into her life, it would seem fairly normal. Julia* was an active tomboy with loving parents who got along (a rarity these days), several brothers and sisters and a huge house. A Christian with firm beliefs, she had a ready smile and a quick laugh. An avid participant in her church, she had earned the respect of her peers. She was also a top student, the winner of many gold and silver medals in ice-skating and swimming, and seemed like she had everything a teen could ask for.

A mutual friend introduced us and we quickly became the best of friends. We were a weird duo, the social outcast and the tomboy. I saw her twice a week at church and she always seemed to be enjoying life. When she was around, you felt like you could share anything with her. We remained great friends through seventh grade and bravely entered our last year of middle school together.

Strangely, the warning bells did not go off. I had seen others who constantly laugh to cover a secret, and I should have known something was wrong. When I did realize it, it was almost too late.

Eighth grade was ending and things were great. She had won another gold medal and was well on her way to being the junior figure-skating champion. Then Death crept through the shadows of night and struck hard. Her grandmother was hospitalized due to a weak heart. A very devoted Buddhist, she had dismissed Christianity, but through Julia's efforts, she finally accepted the good news and asked Julia to pray for her. She turned away from a religion she had practiced all her life and accepted Jesus with her last breaths. Two hours later, she was gone.

Julia and her grandmother had been very close, and her death sent Julia reeling. She began to isolate herself and went around in a daze. It was then when she confessed what was really happening in her oh-so-perfect life. In her own school, she was the social outcast. All the popular kids made snide remarks when they passed her in the hall, spread rumors daily, and played pranks on her continuously. A popular kid had even informed her entire social studies class that she hated all African Americans and Latinos. She was totally alone at school. One day she sent me this e-mail:

I don't really know if this is important to you, but I've been fighting a really bad habit for awhile, but finally my mind has come to this conclusion. I'm not afraid of death anymore. Mike, sorry if I break my promise to you, but I'll always luv ya. Peng, you're a really good brother to me, luv ya. You guys are my best and closest friends. Whenever I'm with you, I always feel comfortable. The world can hate me, the world can want to kill me, but when I'm with you guys, all my problems pass me by.

I'm really sorry if I won't be able to say good-bye to you guys when ... I leave. But please always remember I luv you guys. I don't know where I would be without you and I don't want to imagine it either. My life has had good and bad times, but my best times were with my two best brothers in Christ. In case I'm not able to say good-bye before I leave, I'll say it now, so you won't complain: Good-bye. Tied together with Christ and friendship, Julia

How would you react if this came from one of your closest friends? I laughed nervously as I read it again, then the laugh died. "Oh my god, she's serious," I whispered out loud, shocked to the core. I couldn't believe this was happening; it was impossible.

I spent the rest of the day in a daze. I went to my classes, but all the time thinking, What should I do? When? How? Is she serious? How could she do something like this? All these questions went through my mind again and again, nibbling away at my sanity. I had no idea what to do. I waited until lunch to take action. By now, a pit had opened in my stomach and was filled to the brim with dread.

I finally decided to turn to the guidance counselor, Mr. Shaunessey. I had always visualized counselors as people who expect you to turn to them in times of trouble and force you to share your troubled life with them but have no idea what you are really talking about. I didn't believe I was considering going to the guidance counselor to share the biggest problem of my life, but there I was at his door.

The talk with Mr. Shaunessey wasn't that bad. Contrary to my belief, he was the most understanding person I have ever met. He wasn't pushy but proceeded with urgency. He knew exactly what I was talking about and was not shocked. Strangely, I had completely forgotten where Julia went to school since it was in a different county. I had even forgotten her phone number. It had all leaked out of my brain that day. In a race against time, such a mistake could be costly.

Mr. Shaunessey made a number of calls that were dead ends. Finally, we called my mom, only to get the answering machine. She called back 10 minutes later and Mr. Shaunessey wasted no time with pleasantries. I would have hated for my mom to find out about the whole situation, and thankfully Mr. Shaunessey did not tell her everything. My mom gave him the number of a close friend of Julia's.

I dreaded what he would do after he did get Julia's home phone. My worst fears were realized when he talked with Julia's mom. I couldn't hear her reaction, but I later found out she was almost hysterical. If there's one thing I know about Chinese parents, they don't get hysterical easily. Well, she was, and drove to Julia's school to pick her up.

When I saw Julia again, she didn't know whether to hug or strangle me. She's fine now, and her faith has been renewed. She's still slightly uncomfortable around me, and our friendship will take a long time to heal, but it's getting there.

I know at least three other people who have thought about suicide. I really wonder how many others will die senselessly? What does it accomplish? Who else has suicidal thoughts racing through their heads daily? Even I have at times given serious consideration to suicide, but I want to see what God has in store for me and view life with more profound respect each day. Sometimes I still feel those suicidal thoughts buzzing inside my brain pushing and begging to be given more consideration, but I am able to resist. I can only hope that others have the same strength.

* Name has been changed

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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