My good friend and I were talking late one afternoon on the way home from school.
“Yeah I’m fine.”
“Well okay, but if something is bothering you, I’d be happy to talk about it.”
Like usual, we told each other funny things that happened to us during the day, and casually kept conversation. For a reason I still can’t figure out today, this friend, who I will call Lily to guard her privacy, looked as if something was bothering her, so I asked, “You look a little bummed, is everything okay?”
And then she told me everything. She had recently been in a mental hospital for three weeks. It wasn’t her first time, It was almost just another routine visit. She pulled up the sleeves of her sweater and showed me scars running down the entirety of her forearms. She summarized the difficulties she had to face throughout the majority of her life and the constant mental stress that she carries. She explained to me that she is never able to feel happy, even when she acts like it.
I looked out towards the passing traffic and then back at her, not knowing how to feel. I was in disbelief. I had known her for years and I never suspected that cheery ol’ Lily could harbor dark secrets such as these. I wanted to help her but felt as if nothing I could have done or said would make her situation any better.
During my ninth and tenth grade years, it seems as if all my friends opened up to me about their struggles. One after another, I learned about my friends’ struggles with chronic depression, self-harm, drug abuse and the list goes on.
Every time I found out about one of these things, I felt as if I had been exposed to a much darker side of the earth and sadness-filled schisms had opened up within the bright field of happiness that had been my world beforehand. I knew, of course, the world isn’t a perfect utopia, but I never had seen these problems hit so close to home.
I wanted to help all of my friends out, but their problems seemed far beyond my reach. I felt as though there was nothing I could do.
I reflected a lot upon my own life and appreciated that I never had to experience any of these horrors myself. I thought about what I could do to help my friends and anyone else in need and I realized that the hackneyed phrase “be nice” meant a lot more than I previously thought.
Since childhood, we have been instructed daily by our elders to be nice, and have met their reminders with the automatic reponse of “yes, *insert name of adult.*” However, after being exposed to all of these new problems that people around me were facing, I began to understand the value behind these words.
I recognized that a casual joke meant to be funny could end up causing someone months of sleepless nights and despair.
Growing up, I’ll admit, I’ve never been the nicest guy. I was always the funny guy. I enjoy making people laugh. Often however, my jokes were made at the expense of others. However, I never really saw the effect my occasionally callous yet lighthearted words had on people. But now, after reflecting on them, I realize they had the potential to be extremely hurtful.
After hearing about the many unexpected problems that my friends face daily, I try to be more aware of my peers’ emotions.
I try to be kind and understanding to all. I think before I speak, aware that there is a possibility that my words will affect someone in a way I don’t intend. I do my best to be kind to people and look for ways to brighten the days of others.
As we trudge through the difficulties in our lives, we may feel we have reached our lowest point. However, I assure you that once we hit rock bottom, there is nowhere else to go but up. This is certain: if we all make an effort to be kind to one another and watch the words that come out of our mouths, then it can only get better from here.