I was the "Hannah Baker" of school. (My high school experience)
In 2007, Jay Asher published his debut novel, 13 Reasons why. It's about a young teen girl named Hannah Baker who dies by suicide. She leaves behind 13 tapes that incriminate classmates in her school and also help the readers understand the reasoning behind her untimely death. The main character, Clay Jensen is the next person in line to hear the tapes and we go on an arduous journey with him to piece the story together and figure out the truth of Hannah Baker's death.
Netflix recently made an adaptation of the novel and yesterday I finished watching it the whole season. From the first episode to the last, I knew I needed to write a blog post about this because it's an important topic that many people can relate too.
::SPOILERS & TW: THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE::
Before I explain to you my story and why I connect with Hannah Baker, understand that this show (book) is a painful look at the truth about suicide and rape (though I won't go into detail about this because it has not happened to me). I want to make sure people who will be reading this understands the extreme content of this blog post. If you are someone who relates to this in anyway and cannot handle it, please do not read.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255). Your life matters, you are loved.
I know why you must be wondering how I connect with the character Hannah Baker and it's a simple comparison, I trusted a boy that I shouldn't have. For some reason, people believe high school is the time where you find yourself, if anything, it was wear I lost myself. My Freshman and Sophomore years were fine or at least that's how I remember them. I say that because Junior year was the first year I've ever thought about suicide.
I trusted a boy and the story is a typical one. You see, this boy, we will call him A, liked me for quite some time and at first I didn't like him. I was eyeing myself another boy, we will call him B. It's safe to say that I was a boy crazy girl but not the type of girl who I would soon be labeled as. I know a lot of people will see that concept as troublesome and believe that what happened to me was what I deserved. But what happened to me was bullying and abuse and no one deserves that. The guy that liked me never gave up and my friend ( or so I thought) we will call her C, told me I should just give him a try. Since B was in a different school, I decided why not try to give A a chance. He seemed kind, intelligent and respectable.
I wanted to get to know A more so we would go on little dates and when I mean dates they were just like eating lunch together and hanging out for a bit outside my home or school, so not really dates. At times I would find A being extremely clingy and he would always joke around saying he was just playing with me. Of course I believed him because just as fast as he got clingy he would stop. At least he knew it was making me feel a bit uncomfortable.
I'm not sure how many weeks past or even if it was months but A was still in my life. I didn't want to label us but he really wanted the world to know we were a couple. I remember him buying me a ring and saying that I was his fiancè now, as a joke he said. It was a beautiful ring but that idea really freaked me out. Being only 17, I knew I didn't want to be anyone's wife yet. He told me it doesn't have to represent an engagement but a promise to each other and that in his culture it's done this way.
I remember I took the ring off and kept handing it back to him but he never took no for an answer so I just kept the ring but I always put it on my right hand, never my left. I trusted A because he never did anything to make me question it, or so I thought. I wasn't able to see the possessive signs that he was displaying and one wrong move led to another.
I sent A a photo of myself in my underwear. I wasn't naked but still, it was a huge step of trust that I was giving to A and for a while all was well. Something happened along the way, I think I just realized A and I would never be a proper couple; there was a lot he started to do that annoyed me and I'm sure there was stuff I did to annoy him too. We went our separate ways and I noticed my friend C starting to talk to A a lot.
I remember her telling me that she liked A and that she wanted to know if was okay. To me, I didn't see any problem because I was over the fling A and I had. I wanted her to be happy and in honesty, I always thought they would have made a cute couple. I'm sure a lot of you are already seeing the warning signs but I didn't. I appreciated the fact that my friend C was opening her feelings towards him, I admired her for that and I could only wish B would realize my feelings for him too.
It was the start of Summer break and I was walking to the store with another friend of mine to buy some food and that's when it happened. The friend that I was with in the store got a text message and it was the photo of me in my underwear. My world stopped and I cried in aisle 2 for hours. I didn't want to leave the store, I felt naked, like everyone in that store saw the photo too. How could A do this to me, I thought he cared a bout me.
Because it was the start of Summer vacation, the whole school didn't see it. Only kids in a program called "Project Graduation" which is where we worked a Summer job. I cried for days and hated showing my face. Guys in the school were telling me I had a great body but I'm sure they also thought I was easy and the chicks in the school called me whore and slut. They started to make up rumors about my life that were never true. I went up to A at his parents store and asked him how he could do this to me. With pain in his words he told me he tried to stop C from sending the photo around but that she was angry and jealous (not my words btw).
The person that I considered my friend was the first person to backstab me over a guy. I remember never thinking about killing myself before but that's all I thought about that year. Especially because I didn't want my mother to see the photo. She knew I was a smart kid, a kid with a future and I knew that photo would crush her and disappoint her. I never wanted to disappoint her but I knew I did. My mother is my only parent, I don't know my father, so I had to be the perfect child for her. Of course I didn't know that she knew I was far from perfect, as a teen you don't understand that.
The bullying didn't stop and I just wanted everyone to shut up and mind their business. I never bothered anyone, I never bullied anyone. I was practically a nerd, I played an instrument called the Oboe, I didn't have the latest fashion trends and I didn't even wear makeup. I literally was a nobody, someone that should have never been picked on. But these kids, C and her friends found it fun to pick on someone like me and I know I'll never understand why.
Luckily for me, an old friend, we will call her R, saved me from myself. Our friendship was always a rocky one but she always had my back. When I told her of the ways I wanted to die she told me to stand up with my head held high and keep fighting. And that is what I did, I kept fighting until I graduated. Without my friend R, I'm sure I wouldn't be here and it's funny because R had a difficult life but her heart was always so pure. I miss R so much and will always love her and hope the best for her. I never got to truly thank her for saving my life because she did, just those simple words and her kindness of not judging.
I'm not trying to make myself sound like a perfect person because I'm not, I've hurt a lot of people, especially R. I used to judge her a lot but she taught me humility that day and I promised myself that I'd never do that to anyone again, that I'd be the ally anyone needed because I didn't have anyone except her.
Having a mental illness didn't help this situation either, it caused me so much anxiety and I was depressed for such a long time. I started to not trust people and became extremely closed off. I'm here to tell anyone who has gone through this or is experiencing this as I write. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. PLEASE TALK TO SOMEONE. If you can't talk to your friends or family, talk to a stranger, talk to ME. I will listen.
I know it's hard for parents to understand this generation. Our parents didn't have social media, they cannot even fathom the pain social media can cause onto an individual. The bullying doesn't stop at school, it follows that person with them everywhere. When I write this, all I can think about is my little brother. I can only hope that he understands he is loved and important and to always treat others with respect and if ANYONE is bothering him, that he can confide in me. This is why I wanted to talk about my story because situations like Hanna Baker's happen, they aren't just extreme dramatic cases, they are real.
I know because of the trauma that happened to me during that year of high school, I lost out on so many beautiful memories and even some memories of the situation. I know it's so cliché to say but it does get better. What feels like forever has to end soon and it will. Thankfully someone saw my suffering, my pain and knew how to help. Thankfully my mother taught me how to speak up and protect myself. Thankfully I grew from this situation and can now help others. The one thing I want to say before I end this, is that we need to be more understanding of each other. There needs to be more emotional education in high schools. It's another world in those buildings and if the kids are not prepared for the difficulties that they will face, because they will, situations like Hannah Baker's will happen. Teachers and parents need to come together to see the signs, be upfront with their kids, less judgmental, more accepting. It's a new generation where the internet is what can either make or break you. Teach them to be strong and to stand up for themselves but let them know that it's also okay to feel, to feel anything is better than not to feel at all.