The Names Have Changed But The Deaths Are All The Same
This morning I’m not in mood to vent or make jokes about graphic design and how clients, family, friends, strangers make it harder by making stupid comments or ask stupid questions. Today I need to make a plea to my younger readers to stop and think about themselves and how important they are to us and how they are the future of not only our culture and future of our industry and the rest of the world.
Mid-January is always hard for me; not only because it’s the start of the new year with either a new college semester and/or new projects but around this time of year I’m haunted by the mysterious suicide of a friend that I virtually grew up with. Jeremy Green was the bright center of our world; he always had a smile and was always doing well. He never ceased to make us laugh or make us look at the world differently which is what made his death in 1987 so senseless. I was left with the sense of shock and pain; if he couldn’t make it an endure the hardships of adolescents and growing up than how could any of us.
At the time I was in serious pain thanks to the degenerate pedophile, animal and child abuser that was living with my family at the time and those who turned a blind eye to what happened. I had no means of escape because I was too different, too contrarian, and too much like my father whom my mother hated with the passion of 10,000 burning suns… whom we hadn’t seen since I was four. I was called a “faggot,” a “pussy” and a “retard”… not only from my mother’s boyfriend but by some of my own teachers and peers – people who were supposed to be looking out for me.
The only thing that kept me going were my fellow artists and a special teacher who genuinely cared about his students… and the one occasion when two extended family members asked me if I was OK. Just that ONE specific moment when someone asked me if I was OK most likely saved my life.
All these raw emotions are churned up again after reading the news item about another young man attending the same school killed himself. He’s not the first young man to kill himself since January of 1987 – I can think of five other young people w who lived in the same region and have done the same thing –taken their lives because they were hurting so much. What’s genially sad is that I look at this kid’s Facebook profile and pictures and I see a kid who was included in his peer group. On the outside he had everything I didn’t, all the things I wanted and thought would make my life better and less painful.
It’s time we get real and ask ourselves some genuine questions. We keep asking the same wrong answers and will not ask the questions that really count and won’t get to the heart of what’s really wrong; as a society we need to start looking at ourselves. Let’s stop with the nonsense and stop blaming the usual suspects; it’s not the guns, it’s not the video games, it’s not heavy metal music, and it sure isn’t the additives nor preservatives. It’s time to get brave and bold and ask the real question.
We need to ask ourselves – in this specific community – what are we doing that’s so horrible that makes our youth want to kill themselves? How are we treating our kids so poorly that they lose their wills to live and how are we encouraging them to take their own lives.
Colby Donovan is dead because of us. Colby Donovan took his own life because we refused to learn the lessons from the past and we broke the promises we made when this happened before. We made a decision to ignore the warming signs and instead focused on our superficial wants and needs.
He can not be blamed for what he did; not only because he’s not with us any longer but because he’s genuinely not at fault – somewhere out there there is a person or group of people who did a number on his confidence and sense of self worth. He was made to believe that he wasn’t one of “us” or that he was excluded to the point where he felt the need to take his last breath.
I say this as someone who was there and felt the same way when I was that young – as parents you and we reap what you sow. If you treat your child half as bad as I was or you treat your classmate horribly they will either take their own lives too. If they live long enough they will run away from you as fast and as far as they possible can the moment the opportunity they find. Or kids who are in that position do far worse to others before doing onto themselves.
That blood is on our hands because we choose to ignore, ridicule or shame our youths into doing what they do. It’s not the gun, it’s not the knives, the drugs they overdose or the poison they take – it’s us and how we treat or mistreat our youth or peers.
My aunt Gina and Uncle Bob got on the phone, dialed the number for my house only to ask if everything was alright on my end is the reason why I’m alive today and as the result my wife and I have the family we’re raising today. Think about that for a second – a simple phone call changed the future. Reading posts left on the Facebook page of a young man who just killed himself. Maybe if they made those posts before he died he would still be with us today.
Our teachers, or principals and school administrators need to be embarrassed about what happened, especially since this happens time and again in the same places. The peers who may have bullied this kid and bullied those like him need to be shamed into look at their own inhumane, animalistic behavior and then be forced to see the blood on our hands. Since it takes a village to raise a child, then that village has to be held responsible for when they allow something horrible to happen to one of our offspring.
For my fellow graphic designers and artists; we need to stand together, especially those of us who aren’t considered ‘normal’ by our peers. We need to occasionally reach out to our fellow artists, designers, and musicians and remind them that they count. They are important to us even though they are our competition or professional rivals. We uplift each other and remind ourselves that we count, we matter. When you succeed we share in your success because you make our industry better. When you fail, we mourn you loss and it’s up to us to see you through your short comings and help you improve. I don’t even know many of you who read this blog – but know this – you are important to me. You are my brother and sister in graphic design and commercial art.
I’m here! I’m not going away and it’s up to you to make sure you do the same.