DISCLAIMER/TRIGGER WARNING: THIS IS NOT A TAKE PROMOTING SUICIDE. I WATCHED THE SERIES AND A LOT PF THINGS IN IT HIT HOME FOR ME. WHILE I DON’T NECESSARILY AGREE WITH THE ENDING, I CAN SEE HOW SHE GOT THERE. I’M GOING TO SHARE SOME OF MY OWN PERSONAL STORIES , SOME OF WHICH MAY CONTAIN SOME HEAVY TOPICS SUCH AS SELF HARM AND SEXUAL HARASSMENT/ABUSE. PLEASE READ AHEAD AT YOUR OWN RISK.
As I said in the disclaimer, this show definitely hit me in the feels. I had a couple before me tell me that I need to prepare myself for it. I didn’t really take it serious until my best friend watched it before me and called me the night she finished. I’ve known her since 6th grade so she’s been around for most of what you’ll read in a minute. She warned me not to watch it until I was in the right headspace to deal with my 13 year old self. I knew right then and there that 13 Reasons Why was going to trigger the F%$K out of me. And it did. Which brings us to my (not so) 13 reasons. Buckle up.
1. Maximillion Williams and the Cafeteria
I’ll start by saying that between 3rd through 8th grade were some of the worst years of my life. I switched schools in 3rd grade and ended up going to school with the same group of kids from then on until I graduated from 8th grade. The K-4th elementary school and the 5th-8th middle school were literally right next to each other. A gate separated the schoolyards. I was bullied pretty much every day by the kids at school. I was chubby kid with glasses that wanted too much to be accepted. The elementary school moved up to 5th grade when we were in 4th, so some of us stayed there for 5th and some went across to the middle school for 5th. Once I started 6th grade I thought things would get better because there wouldn’t just be the same kids. I’d have a chance to make new friends. And I did. I met my best friend there. But we never ended up in the same classes. I met her on the bus stop. No, I ended up in the class with most of damn kids from my elementary school. Plus a few new faces. Including Max. Max was the new kid. He had no problems making friends though. I had a big crush. So what did I do? What every other 11 year old did. Write our name and draw hearts around it in my notebook. And what did another stupid boy do? Snatch my notebook and show it to Max. They both just laughed. Lunch time came and the way we had to sit in middle school was boys on one side and girls on the other. So imagine my surprise when I see Max walking my way. All the girls start giggling which should’ve been a red flag for me then but I was too busy with heart eyes. He walks up and then proceeds to ask me if I wanted to go out with him. I automatically say yes. Looking back, I cringe with how naïve and eager I was. It makes me so sad. But anyway, that was the beginning of lunch. About 5 minutes before lunch ended, Max comes back over. I’m noticing that the cafeteria is a lot less noisy than usual but again, heart eyes. Our boy Max is smiling at me and then, he asks me for a hug. I’m all nervous and shy, but smile and stand up. I go in for the hug and…he dodges it! Everybody in the cafeteria starts laughing. Including Max. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he then leans in and says “you didn’t actually think I was serious did you?” It was like something out of a movie. I ran out of the cafeteria with a face full of tears.
2. Angelo and the Stairway Rumor
One of the few things that I did like about middle school was our dances. The school started having them for us when I started 7th grade. They were always in our gyms and always fun. Until I danced with Angelo. Angelo was in the 8th grade and 14 years old. I was a bit behind everyone age wise and had just turned 12. I’d gone to the dance like normal and met up with my best friend and my sister. We were laughing and dancing to the sounds of NSYNC and Spice Girls when Angelo walked up and asked if I wanted to dance. After the whole ordeal with Max, I was weary when it came to trusting anyone at that school so I hesitated. He grabbed my hand and pulled me away from my safe zone and onto the dance floor. The song was a faster one and we started out face to face. That didn’t last long. He got behind me and started dancing, occasionally putting his hands on my waist. It was a bit uncomfortable at first, but I’ve always liked to dance so I just went with it. That song ended and a slow one came on. I went to walk away and Mr. Angelo grabbed my arm and asked for another dance. So we slow danced. I’d never talked to Angelo before. I’d seen him in the halls, but that’s it. So I was suspicious, but he seemed like a nice enough guy. He definitely treated me nicer than the boys in my class and grade. So after our slow dance I needed to use the bathroom. The way our gym was set up, there were stairs off to the side of it, kind of hidden almost, that led down to the basement where the cafeteria and bathrooms were. I went to the bathroom. When I came up, Angelo was outside of the gym doors. He smiled. I smiled back. THAT’S IT. I went back inside. The next day I came to school and there was whispering and stares. The rumor: I had sex on that stairway with Angelo. And do you know what Angelo did when I tried to get him to tell people it wasn’t true? Ignore me.
3. John and the Lockers
If you guys haven’t picked up on the pattern here, most of my tormentors throughout my time at this school were boys. They were relentless with it too. It’s like they never got tired of the same old fate jokes and making a mockery of me every day. Funfact: I can’t remember ever being smaller than a D cup bra. It’s like I skipped the whole training bra, I wish I had boobs phase and just woke up with one day. I was around 10 years old. And they just got bigger as I got older. So with that in mind, let’s go back to the bullies. One in particular. His name was John and he was one of the ring leaders. John would draw pictures of me and make airplanes out of them to fly around the class. He’d call me names. He loved an audience. John’s locker was near mine. In the basement by the cafeteria. Fewer lockers were down there, so it cleared out quicker. This particular morning was one of them. John and I were the only two left and he’d walked over to my locker and asked me for a hug. I hesitated because I didn’t know what to think. My mind was screaming at me to run. But I hugged him. And that was it. He walked away and I turned back to my locker. Or so I thought. Not even a moment later I felt hands come up under my arms, grab both of my boobs, and squeeze. I froze. And just like that, they were gone. I turned around and he was laughing. That was the start of a long string of inappropriate and unwanted touching and feeling from the boys in my class during my 8th grade year, with John once again as the ring leader. The worst part? As much as I hated all of that, part of me thought that if I just let them do it, then maybe they would start being nice to me. Pathetic, right?
4. My Best Friend Moved Away
As I said earlier, I met my best friend in middle school. One of the very few good things about the 4 years of hell that I endured. I met her on the bus stop on the way to school one morning along with my sister. We randomly started talking, realized that not only were we headed to the same school, but we lived around the corner from each other! It was pretty much all she wrote after that. Though we went to the same school, we rarely saw much of each other. We never got placed in the same class any of the years we were there. We never even had lunch together. We saw each other before school, sometimes in the halls between class, and after school. She knew about what I was going through as far as being bullied, but I never told her about the locker situation until a few years ago. She heard about the whole cafeteria prank with Max and came to my class to make sure I was ok. She tried to warn me about the Angelo rumors before class, and was there with tissues for my tears after school. She always had my back, and I always had hers. We wrote stories together and obsessed over boy bands and music in general. We even had a singing group with my two sisters. We did everything together. Including graduate from the hellhole that was middle school, and then cry tears of joy because we were finally free. Even though we both had strict parents and we weren’t going to the same high school, the summer after middle school was one of the best. I probably feel that way now because I know what comes next. Summer came and went. We started 9th, me at my all girls’ high school on the other side of the city and her at a school in a different part of the city. Neither of them were near our neighborhood so no more riding to school together anymore. We still hung out after school though. That’s where we were when the bottom fell out from under us. I remember walking around to her house and my sisters and her already being there. Everyone was crying. I asked what was wrong and nobody answered me. My best friend just hugged me. After a few minutes, I asked again. This time she looked at me and said the two words that would break my heart. They were moving. To Florida. The best and really only friend that I had was being taken away from me. And right when we both were entering into new stages in our lives. It wasn’t fair. And it would never be the same.
5. Dr. Gabriel and the Note
I didn’t get into the high school of my choice. My top choice for high school was an engineering and science high school. I got wait listed for that. I accepted the offer to my second choice. A week later, my acceptance letter came from the engineering school. I chalked it up to fate, and got ready to be a member of a prestigious, all girls high school. I was prepared for the curriculum to be challenging, it was a magnet school after all. I’ve never been good at math. I’m just bad with numbers. If I’m not writing the problem down in the wrong order, I’m writing the answer down wrong. Math and I just don’t get along. So when I saw a C as my Algebra for the first marking period, I was ecstatic. My grade was largely due to my Algebra teacher, Mrs. Christianson. She took time to explain things and make sure we actually understood things. So imagine my horror when I transferred out of her class to her another Algebra for reasons that I still to this day don’t know. This new teacher, Ms. Bialon was the polar opposite. She literally wrote on the board, told us to copy it and then assigned homework. Which is why half her class was in summer school that summer. Including me. 10th grade the problem subject was Chemistry. Home life wasn’t that great and it was spilling into my schoolwork and ability to focus. That resulted in me ending up in summer school for the 2nd summer in a row. Both my parents were disappointed in me. My dad just took away the little bit of freedom that I did have, but my mom just knew that I had more in me. So by the time I reached 11th grade, I had a shit ton of pressure on me. And this was the year that I had Algebra’s meaner, uglier, even harder, older meaner brother, Algebra II. Dr. Gabriel was my teacher. He was a squirrelly, older man that had a bad habit of overcomplicating things. By second marking period, I had 2 D’s. I was panicking so I wrote a note. In the note I simply explained the previous years, ending up summer school, how disappointed my mom was, how I wasn’t going to disappoint her again, and I asked what I could do about my grade. I left the note on his desk and left. I remember I had Physics diagonally across the hall after his class. I went to Physics and was literally there for 5 minutes before the phone rang. My Physics teacher answered and then next thing I knew, I was wanted down in the counselor’s office. Turns out our friend Dr. Gabriel had taken the note down to the counselor because he felt like it might be a threat or cry for help. The counselors didn’t want me to hurt anyone or hurt myself. I tried to explain to them that I just wanted to pass the class, but thanks to Dr. Gabriel, they’d made their minds up. The solution? I now had to spend my lunch periods which a school psychologist.
6. Daddy and the Chicago Performance
I grew up as a middle child. I say “grew up as” because the logistics are technical and can get tricky depending on which way you look at it. Don’t worry though, there will be more on my life as a middle child in a later Take. My older sister was daddy’s little girl. They had a special bond and would always do things together with just the two of them. My little sister was the athlete. We all played basketball and volleyball on the same team during my 8th grade year. My little sister was in 5th grade. Once we went to high school, she kept playing and also started softball, which quickly became her favorite. She quit everything else and focused on that, and my dad loved it. He went to all her games and practiced with her. He never came to any of our basketball games, and just one volleyball game. I scored the winning point in the game with a monster serve. But my dad downplayed it. So when I got to high school, I avoided sports altogether. And pretty much any extracurricular activity. Even though my school had so much to offer. By the time I got to 11th grade, I was pretty close to losing my shit. My saving grace? Vocal class. I’d chosen it as an elective sophomore year but it filled it up quick and I didn’t get a spot. I took drama that year instead (which was a pretty decent consolation prize). This year I had made the cut though. I loved going to vocal class. It was probably the best part of my day that year. We warmed up in the beginning of every class with the most creative warm-ups. I’ve included one of my favorites. We learned songs in other languages. My teacher was a musical addict, so we were always doing different songs from popular musicals. Chicago was a class favorite. It started with one song and it ended up being a medley with a dance to accompany. My teacher was over the top about it and had the bright idea to include us in an upcoming music night assembly. We had to get permission to be in it. So of course I asked my parents. They said yes. Then I realized that I actually wanted them to be there. We worked hard on getting everything just right and I was proud. So I asked. First my mom. She had to work late. Next my dad. Since he had to come pick me up anyway, I asked if he would just come watch the performance. He said yes! I was so excited. The night of the performance, I stayed after school with one of the girls who lived closer. We went to her house and got ready. Then it was show time. We had two different sections to do. We came out to part one and I looked for my dad, but I didn’t see him. Part two, still no dad. We did an awesome job. The crowd loved us. Guess what? Everyone else cleared out of that school and my STILL didn’t show. I had to use the custodian’s phone to call my mom, who had to call my dad. When he finally came, he said that he was with my aunt and that he forgot. The whole way home I kept thinking that if I were one of my sisters, he wouldn’t have forgotten.
7. Self-Harm and the Relapse
The first time I self-harmed, I picked up a piece of glass on the playground and wrote “I’m fat” on my arm. I was 12 years old. The next time would be when I was 17 years old. By that time middle school had broken me and high school couldn’t do anything to save me. Suicidal thoughts crossed my mind as normally as thoughts like “what to wear?” and “what to eat?” did. And they had been for years. At that time I was working at Target. I had easy access to box cutters because I worked the backroom stocking shelves, and needed to be able to open boxes quickly. It started as just scratching and evolved from there. What I remember most about doing it back then was how quiet and calm my normally racing mind would be. No thinking about everything all at once. My mind was just white noise. I wasn't doing it every day. Not even every week. But I started to become addicted to the calmness it brought. As with any addiction, the need began to take over. And when I felt that need for it start to build, I forced myself to stop. I got rid of the box cutters and promised myself I wouldn't do it anymore. It was a struggle. The suicidal thoughts increased. But I got through it. And I stayed clean for 11 years. Then 2 years ago I relapsed. Bad. I fell for a guy who broke my heart and left a huge, gaping hole there. All those feelings I thought I had buried from my childhood were left exposed. The only way I knew how to stop this pain was to find some sense of control. And that’s what cutting is for me. Physical pain that I can control. So I broke 11 years of being clean because the alternative was letting the gaping hole swallow me up.
So you've made it to the end of my not so 13 reasons why and you're probably wondering what the point of this was. Like I said in the beginning, while I don't really like how Hannah (main character) ended her story, I can see why she ended up there. She just wanted to be accepted. She just wanted a friend. I get it because I've been there. And yes, I'm aware that it's just a show. But a lot of kids can relate to that show. I gave you 7 scenarios from my life that stick with me. I could've easily given you 13. Hell, I can give you 20. I've come a long way since then, but every now and then I'll have a bad day or experience something where 12 year old Char is triggered. I know what it's like to feel like you have no one. I took a big step outside of my comfort zone with this Take. I don't know how it'll be received. I just know that the world needs more kindness.
No matter how you take it, as always, thanks for reading. See you guys on the threads.