Community Gardens, or, Why I Keep Going

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

I’m not going to go in too much detail about my experiences, because this is an internet full of strangers.

Instead, I am going to say why I am alive and why I am glad to be.

Simply put, people make a difference in my life by being there for me. There isn’t some big way they reach out to me; it is the little things, the way a friend would ask me to go for a drive with her, or the time she wanted to go on an adventure, so we walked around campus late at night, at the expense of checking our cell phones for calls from the others at a party who didn’t know where we went. Most of my friends make plans, ask me to do things, actually put in the effort to see me. When I was living in a dorm, I would crash in someone else’s bed while my roommates fought. I got driven around town when I was having panic attacks, and one boy got a ticket so I wouldn’t have to walk home from work at one in the morning. In a more specific sense, I am told I was smart, talented, and deserved better than the way I was treated. When I was really going through it, my family would check in on me daily, and my parents helped me move twice in one week when I decided I’d had enough.

I’m thankful for what I did, too. If I could go back, I would be tempted to make changes. But I like the way I made very specific playlists to get me through the nights, the times I was kind and shouldn’t have been, and the moment I decided, on my own, that I was done self-destructing. I’m proud of how I knew I couldn’t take it anymore, so I asked for help.

I wish more people knew how to ask for help. I wish more college students knew a lot of universities offer free counseling services for them. I wish people were told how much they matter. I wish everyone knew how affected the world would be without them in it. That sounds cliche, but it’s experience. I know how much something similar affected me.

It’s okay to ask for help. I’m not sure what took me so long. I think I was embarrassed. I thought, I have no reason to feel like this. There isn’t always a reason. Sometimes you just hurt.

But it will also stop.

Not right away. You have to do some work. Once you start working, your eyes open, little by little. First, you see the bird that likes to sit on your windowsill. Then, you notice there’s a blackberry attached to a stem the bird brought back for its nest. You wonder, and you go outside, and by the trees at the back of the yard, you find a briar patch and wonder how the bird avoided the thorns. You decide to plant a garden, and every day you weed it a little bit, so it never gets overgrown. The first thing you harvest is a cherry tomato. Just one. But it’s alive, there on its plant, alive because you nurtured it with water and sunlight and love. And you realize–that’s how you came back to life, too, through hard work, weeding out the dead leaves so new ones could grow, and loving yourself a little more each day. You’re a community garden, one in which people poured out their love like water, and therapists sprinkled wildflower seeds that brought in butterflies to keep you growing, growing, growing. It’s good to have a community. But you had to decide to let them in. You had to decide you want to be here.

I am thankful for every person in my life who has told me I am worthy. I am thankful for those who told me I am not, because those words showed me I needed to move my garden plot somewhere sunnier. I love eating strawberries or feeling peach juice run down my arm. Nothing compares to wandering Barnes & Noble with my friends, even if I don’t buy anything. When I do buy a book, I bring it home and put it on my To Be Read shelf, the one hanging honorably above my desk. I get coffee and do homework in the same shop as a friend, because even if we aren’t talking, we are companionably stressed. I write words I think are pretty, even if no one else reads them. I listen to music that’s soft, then loud, just like me. My dogs look at me like I make the sun shine, which is exactly how I look at them, too. There are paintings, books, new foods, and flower petals I haven’t pressed yet.

Here is what I want to do with this life I have. I want to be kind, to help people, to write things that make people cry, not because they’re sad, but because they feel understood. I want to give treats to every dog I meet and love everyone I meet.

I want to get all the time I can to do those things. I hope everyone reading this gets to that point, too.

It’s hard. I know that. But I also know it is so, so worth it.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

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