Courtesy photo

I remember the cap feeling awkward. I had only worn one like it before, for high school, and hated how bad it ruined my hair. We couldn’t have asked for a better day. The sun, the temperature—it all just felt right. A perfect day for graduation. Decorated with leis and stoles, I walked across that stage feeling immensely proud and accomplished. Looking around, I was surrounded by my best friends and family, and then it hit me. We all started this journey together—college—but we finished it one person short.

I wish I could hop into a time machine and send myself back two years.

I wish I could tell you all the things I’ve learned since you died—some we wish we shared with you, some that you’d be proud of, and some that might have saved your life. Maybe I’d leave you a letter from the future.

Two years.

I didn’t see the signs, or maybe I just wasn’t looking. Maybe I noticed some and heard about others, but hey, we were in college. Isn’t it normal to miss class a few times a quarter? Isn’t it typical of our generation to try a few drugs?

But these were just excuses for me not to get involved. Excuses for me to stay focused on myself—I have my own problems, and I’m not asking anyone else for help. He can do the same. I was busy with my own life—I wanted to get good grades, beef up my med school resume, and focus on my personal development. They’ll understand, I thought, once I become a doctor, it’ll all be worth it. My friends, even those I considered family, were an afterthought.

But when you’re having trouble getting out of bed, feeling hopeless, or have no energy to do anything at all, maybe those things that you are able to do are also a cry for help—for those who care enough to take notice. See me. I am here, and I want to feel that you care about me—that you’ll miss me if I’m gone.

I wish I saw him. I wish it didn’t take losing his life for me to realize this.

How are you doing today? It’s an easy question to ask. We’re so tuned to our canned responses. Good, how are you? It becomes almost a useless phrase. Do we really even care? Why do we ask a question that we already expect to know the answer to? Are we really listening anymore?

Today we have our phones, Facebook, email … you name it. We don’t have an excuse not to stay connected to friends, family, loved ones. It’s quite simple really. Check in with them. See what’s going on. Take that step—because you never know if that one text message could save their life. They may have been waiting for that message. Jesse may have been waiting for that message. But for him, it never arrived.

Dear Jesse,

I see you.

I see how you smile and bring joy to those of us around you, because that’s how you feel useful. That sense of purpose gives you life, while the rest of us dream about big homes and fancy cars, your life has been about us—friends, family, relationships. You wish we saw life the same way you do, but you are patient with us.

You are not alone.

You are not the only one who has trouble sleeping at night, staying asleep, or waking up in time for class. You are not the only one experimenting with marijuana and other drugs. You are not the only one who feels hopeless about the future, unsure of your place in it, or how many more days you think you can make it through.

We get it now. Without you around, we see the value of connecting with each other regularly. We give and we give, taking very little. We go for the assists, put others on our shoulders, and find satisfaction in their success.

If you’re out there, I want you to know that life gets better. Life is worth it.

You have so many of us here who love and care about you. We don’t know everything that’s going on inside your head, but we are here to help. We want to help. Sometimes, we just don’t know how to.

We promise to do better—to be better. We promise to ask you how you’re doing, and really mean it. We promise that someone will listen. It may not be the first person, or the third, or the tenth, but there is somebody. Have faith.

Love always,

The people who care about you

About Brandon:

Fueled by my guilt and regret, I have embarked on a new journey to understand what happened, and how we can prevent a tragedy like this long before it becomes a possibility. I have since realized that our community needs more education.

A form of that education happened a year ago on that same campus, where we held a one-day summit with workshops on Asian-American identity, gender/sexuality, religion/spirituality, intergenerational trauma, and self-care. We shared open, honest, and non-judgmental discussions about our daily struggles. In doing so, we learned that we can support each other simply by listening and sharing. We learned that sharing is healing.

We all need to be prepared—to know how to listen, to recognize signs, and what to do next. And although we can’t expect ourselves to all become experts, the more prepared we are, the greater our chances of being able to recognize when somebody needs us to provide the love, care, and support that’ll help them get back on their feet—or, to refer them to somebody who can.

24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800)-273-8255

24-Hour Crisis Line: 866-4-CRISIS (866-427-4747)

King County 2-1-1: Dial 2-1-1800-621- 4636 (Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.)

WA Recovery Help Line: 866-789- 1511 (24/7)

1-800-SUICIDE: (1-800-784-2433)
or 1-800-273-TALK: (1-800-273-8255)
Or text us: 1-800-799-4889

LGBT Youth: 1-866-4-U-TREVO

For more opinion stories, click here

Previous articleSnapshots in Time: Karen Yoshitomi (right), executive director of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington (JCCCW), spoke about the failure of political leadership that led to the incarceration at King County Council’s 75th anniversary Proclamation of Remembrance for Executive Order 9066. Photo by Lexi Potter, February 21, 2017.
Next articleSnapshots in Time: Henry Chin, a Chinatown cook, shows his room at the Republic Hotel. Photographer and date unknown.