This isn’t a nice post, and it’s not about those who we’ve already lost. It’s about why we’ve lost them and how to keep from losing more. Thank you to the many people who helped me write this for your support and your points/opinions, many of which I pulled from. I hope those of you who do read this, understand where it comes from and why it needed to be said. Nothing can be done about those we’ve lost, but we can prevent losing more.
*UPDATE: I posted this on Facebook but for those of you that are finding this through another means, I’ll comment here, too. I’d like to make something as clear as I possibly can right now: This post was not written as a hate piece against Acton-Boxborough or to bash any particular group of people, including the teachers and counseling staff of AB. I was trying very hard NOT to refer to any specific situations and keep it as general as I could. I recognize that I didn’t do the best job at making that clear in the piece, but I’m a 20 year old college student venting on the internet… I can’t be expected to have the accuracy of the New York Times and the wonderful thing about wordpress is it always lets me go back and edit!!! I never expected anyone other than my friends to even read it let alone for it to blow up the way that it did, but I wanted to thank everyone who read it and messaged me today, and also apologize to anyone who may have misread the post or my intentions. There are quite a few people at AB that I love dearly, and I hope they know who they are (apart from those that I’ve already spoken with today). The fact that SO many people connected with this piece and told me that it was exactly how they felt is a huge sign that something is wrong. I hope you can all see this piece as a whole instead of just the little pieces of it that you may not like or agree with.
Probably most importantly: I cannot stress enough how much this is about loss as a WHOLE and not any specific person. I know with the timing, it may seem like it is about the two most recent losses in particular, but it is not in any way about those people or their experiences, as I do not know their situations and would never make assumptions. This was written through my own eyes about my own experiences and those of my friends.
(Before getting started, I urge you to take a look at this post, which is the one I originally wrote two nights ago about AB’s most recent losses. This post is not about those people, but is written through my own eyes about my own experiences and those of my friends.)
I know you’re not supposed to try to place blame in times of loss, it isn’t my first time around ya know.. I don’t think anyone should blame themselves and it isn’t any one individual or group of individuals’ fault, but all of ours. Acton-Boxborough has failed as a community and whether you played a role in that or not, that’s for you to decide. I’m not writing this to call anyone out, but to point out how wronged we have all been by the place that is supposed to be our home. I’m sure I’ve already got some people mad, especially those of you posting about how it’s such a beautiful community and how you’re so thankful to be apart of it, but bear with me because I do have a point to this.
First I’d like to point out that I literally just said “it isn’t my first time around.” I graduated less than three years ago and in that time alone have seen at least eight people in our community die, most of which being just in the past year and not including the (at least) three I saw during my time in high school. These people were my closest friends, my classmates, people I didn’t like and people I never knew, members of what you would call my “community.” In most of these cases, if not all, the cause of these deaths were either some form of overdose or suicide. I know right now I’m just relaying information most of you probably already know but it’s important to remember this. All these people in the same community, most just in the past few months, and all for the same reasons.
Second I’d like to backtrack to those people who are posting about how beautiful of a community Acton is and how it shaped us into who we are and how we should all be so thankful to live in a place that is so warm and welcoming. I will say this: you’re right about one thing. It did shape us into who we are. Unfortunately for a lot of us, instead of shaping us into college-level sports playing superstars it shaped us into suicidal balls of self-hatred who turn to drugs or other forms of self-destruction to cope with how we didn’t turn out as great as the rest of you. Because that is what Acton does to you. It drills into your head that if you’re not academically inclined or some kind of jock, you’re not as important. You’re not as good. You’re not as worthy. We all had different high school experiences, obviously, but if you don’t remember the immense pressure everyone felt junior and senior year to get into a great college and do better on your SATs than the kid who was mean to you in chemistry because you didn’t understand a question, or the girls crying in history class because they got less than a 95% on an exam, or the people that would literally drink during school because they’d just given up so long ago, then you’re lying. Do you remember being called a fat slut every day in junior high and growing up into an anorexic whore? Probably not, but do you remember the girl who did? Probably not, either. I bet you would if she died. Maybe that wasn’t fair. But do you remember going to your counselor and asking for help because your parents wouldn’t listen, and all they would do was call your parents? Do you remember detentions for getting into screaming matches in one of the common areas with someone who did something awful to you? Do you remember the whole main lobby being blocked off frequently and all the ambulances and all the hospitals and all the people who wanted to die? Do you at least remember seeing or hearing about any of this? Probably not.
I’ve said before, it is beautiful how the members of AB come together in times of loss. It’s always nice to see everyone’s kind words, and it’s clear that most of the sadness is genuine. What I can’t understand, though, is where you all were when these people were alive? Why didn’t you have any kind words then? In one case in particular I know no one had heard from or about this person in years, but you all had plenty to say about how great he was once the chance to make a Facebook status popped up. I know most of you people. I know most of you don’t mean it in the way I’m making it sound. I know most of you genuinely care and are deeply saddened by this constant news of death, but that doesn’t change the fact that no one appreciated these people until they were gone. If AB is such a beautiful and warm community, its members should feel welcomed and appreciated while they’re alive. Its members shouldn’t feel like they need to turn to drugs or suicide to feel better. If we had such a strong community, we wouldn’t have lost six members in the last year.
Acton-Boxborough does an excellent job at raising students, but not necessarily humans. It’s great at staying at the top academically but has no problem letting a few kids slip through the cracks. Have any of you noticed, since leaving AB, that other high schools and colleges make it a point to reach out to their students in times of tragedy? All those communities make counseling readily available, while AB stays silent apart from the occasional email to the parents or maybe a Facebook group. Teachers in some schools in the district were specifically instructed not to mention any of the losses from the past few weeks. Kids still in high school have told me that they haven’t had a single teacher say a word about any of it. How are you expected to go into school the next morning after finding out one of your friends killed himself or overdosed on Heroin, and then have everyone act as if nothing happened? How are you supposed to just act like nothing happened? Lucky for you, AB is great at teaching you to shove it all under the rug and keep up with your studies.
I know it’s scary, and parents don’t want to think of their kids as being depressed, and the school has other concerns, too. I know that it’s not a fun topic to discuss and it is different for everyone, but it’s such an easy thing to prevent. It’s so easy to teach people to love themselves if you start right away, if you start in what’s supposed to be their “home.” Obviously not everyone is going to be happy and love themselves, but significantly more people would. High school and college are supposed to be the greatest times of our lives, and there are people who aren’t even living long enough to find out if that’s true. Those of us who are still living are just going day by day and waiting for a text message to see who’s going to be next. People are really scared right now. It’s such a small town and we’ve lost so much, and it seems we only have each other to rely on and most of us don’t even like each other very much. It shouldn’t be that way. Our school and our community should be there as means of support, especially in times like this. Our school and our community should be actively working towards a solution and prevention rather than just brushing it off and moving on with the school year. Finally, I’ll end this incredibly long post filled with run-on sentences and rants and nonsense with this: Those of you who felt at home at AB, I am happy for you. I’m thankful that you’re one less person that feels like these people who have died did, like most of the people I know do. But please remember, a large portion of what you call your community does not feel a part of that community. A large portion of the people you know feel alone, and helpless, and cannot call that place their home. We can’t end depression or suicide, but we certainly can’t do it by ourselves, and Facebook statuses don’t help anyone after they’ve already died. We don’t need to lose anyone else.