Doldrums

Stressed Out

Not much of a Twenty One Pilots fan, but something about this song stuck. (Most of the album, actually, but let’s not talk about that.) It’s the lyric, the repetitive chorus, “Wish we could turn back time to the good old days/When our momma sang us to sleep, but now we’re stressed out.” The first time I heard it, I swear that vocalist Tyler Joseph sang, “Wish we could turn back time to the good dope days…” and I guess that ages me. And I wonder if that epithet is even used by the band’s target audience. If some twelve-year-old is out there using dope in a sentence. And I wonder what sort of life a twelve-year-old girl leads that a song like “Stressed Out” resonates with her.

And you wonder what business a thirty-five—almost thirty-six—year-old man has conjuring up the thoughts of an adolescent. So I pull out the phone, select the appropriate icon, find the video, and pass it over to you:

Her name is Katelyn Nicole Davis, born February 20, 2004. Last fall, she would have started her first year of high school. May have attended Cedartown High School, home of the Cedartown Bulldogs. Last month, she turned fifteen though she remains, perpetually, twelve.

Replay the video. Once. Twice. So many times, there’s not reason to count. It’s not just this video; there are several from her Musical.ly portfolio that made it onto YouTube. It’s just there’s something about the “Stressed Out” video that keeps ringing home. Maybe it’s the weight of some of the lyrics: “I was told, when I get older, all my fears would shrink/But now I’m insecure, and I care what people think.” Or, maybe, it’s the fact when the chorus plays, I hear Shaun’s voice singing it from the backseat.

On December 30, 2016, Katelyn started streaming on Live.me in her backyard. She takes her audience on a somewhat silent tour of the her surroundings before she settles on a tree. She puts down her phone and steps off screen, leaving the audience with only the sounds of her fiddling with something, the roar of traffic passing by, and the dogs barking in the background. “Damn,” she says returning to her phone. “I need to tie it tighter.” It doesn’t take the audience too long to realize her intention when she climbs the tree and ties the rope around one of its branches. When its secure. When she knows it’ll hold, she turns her attention to the audience. Through tears, her words stream out. And she apologizes. Apologizes for not being good enough. Apologizes for hurting. For not being pretty enough. But what strikes the chord for me, she apologizes for the letting the depression get to her.

I juxtapose it. Her live stream suicide, clocking in at just under forty-three minutes, to her fifteen-second Musical.ly.

Wish we could turn back time to the good old days…

You can’t make sense of it. Death never makes any sense. And it’s less so when the cause is depression. You can rationalize it all you fucking want, and I have and turned up empty each and every time. I poured through the screenshots of her online journals. Read the bits of information that have come to light. The bullying. The catfishing. The all the shit that pave the road for a twelve-year-old girl to commit suicide.

Waylon Jennings wrote a song entitled “Cedartown, Georgia.” And I wonder if Katelyn ever heard it, even if in passing. There’s a lyric at the end of the song that becomes haunting when I think of it now: “Gonna be a lot of kin folks squallin’ and grieving/ Cause that Cedartown girl ain’t breathing.”

Personal

All that may be

Last night’s post is my last “real” post of the year. It’s a better, less raw, version of an earlier-but-now-deleted post.

It’s not a secret how terrible second half of the year has been. From not getting the position I wanted to the devastating loss of three beautiful people. Not that the first half wasn’t terrible, but it pales in comparison. Losing stuff to some punk kids doesn’t hold against some punk kid taking people from my life.

It’s not that I took it well in the months that followed; it’s that I had Shaun living with me to distract me from falling into that black hole of despair. Sometimes I slip into the hypothetical realms not getting that phone call that night because no one survived. And I remember my words to Monica echoing from the past—I can’t lose her. Not like this.

While life goes on, it’s hard to reach a sense of normalcy. Especially when your life changes abruptly. In that sense, old characters started snaking into my mind. When someone started reading my blog, it just so happens it was a Mackie/Anderson post. It seemed almost too coincidental. That the characters that resurfaced would appear again on my notifications. And I wondered what they’d be doing now. 

See, their story never ended. They just weren’t needed anymore. 

Mackie and Anderson will return in 2019. I’ll be reworking my “Letters of Resignation” in 2019. I’ll be Bullet Journaling in 2019. I’ll be keeping a book log to write reviews again. I’ll be quitting Tumblr in 2019. Whittle my distractions in 2019. I’ll be making an attempt to be a more mindful human being, living in the moment and making memories with those I love. It’s an an attempt to be a better person, son, brother, father, worker, friend (boyfriend?). 

What follows between now and then will be fragments, unpublished material saved in my drafts, and excerpts from my personal journal. 

Doldrums

Prelude to a Resignation

It’s 2008 and I’m staring a plastic bag. There are note cards strewn around the floor. Thoughts written on three-by-fives in illegible scrawl. I pick up one of the blank ones and write the words: “When the plastic bag becomes your enemy, your salvation.” I let it fall where it may. There are thoughts of leaving. Thoughts of running. Because, despite the fact we’ve broken up several times in the past, this time feels monumental. My emotional state became a dark alley, our proclamations of love scattered like discarded beer bottles and syringes. And it repeated. When the plastic bag becomes your enemy, your salvation. When the plastic bag becomes your enemy, you salvation. When the plastic bag becomes your enemy, your salvation. When the plastic bag becomes your enemy, your salvation. When. The. Plastic. Bag. Your enemy. Your salvation. It’s 2008 and it’s the year I honestly, openly, wholeheartedly contemplated suicide. Depression is watching the oncoming storm and knowing you should seek shelter, but understand that you can’t move. It’s the impact of a car crash in slow motion. It’s the clock, the wall, a gallon paint at three in the morning. It’s understanding the insanity of walking to your ex-girlfriend’s house at five in the morning, knowing she’s not home because she’s with the other guy, the goddamn guy you knew could be your replacement, and still doing it because you want to understand why. Why is it that she was in love with you one moment ago and not be the next? It’s watching your life, you actions, as the audience and the actor. It’s knowing that every you step you’re farther away from the point where turning back is an option. Depression is going over your every action like a sleuth, trying to see where you went wrong because there’s no way that it isn’t your fault. It’s 2008 and if I can’t be loved by her, what’s the point of going on? Depression is seeing a plastic bag as your enemy, as your salvation.

It seems like another life now. A movie whose title I cannot remember. Shaun’s six now and I can’t imagine wanting to be anywhere but here. Now. She and I created a testament of our love. It might have not lasted the way we both planned, but it lives on within him. A constant reminder of what we endured. Of what I lived through. Of what I continue living for. Depression is knowing your worth more, but not knowing how to get there. It’s understanding you’re in the middle of this show we call life. Depression doesn’t need to be the end game.

Five years ago, I had an idea. I chose to write my resignation letter. Not to a job. I’m not quitting. And not a suicide letter. There’s too much beauty hidden within the ugly of this world that’s worth fighting for. A resignation letter.

I formally and happily resign from the person I was before. I formally and readily resign from depression. I’m ending the relationship I have with the Voice. I resign from the world of ugly that has polluted my thoughts, haunted my dreams. I vow to no longer hold onto the past. But acknowledge there are demons that I must exorcise before I do so. These are my letters of resignation.

Her name is Katelyn Nicole Davis. Born February 20, 2004…