TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY: My Retrospective Thoughts

“Don’t judge a man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.” – Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons

I, like many, binge watched this series over the course of 3 days. That’s all it took. The story is so painfully captivating that it wasn’t a laborious task to allow Netflix to automatically play episode after episode. You’d better believe that it had me biting my nails (figuratively speaking) and on the edge of my seat the entire way through.

I, again like many, vividly recall the book. I read it back when I was a junior in high school. This hauntingly accurate fictional story never failed to escape me. I can’t imagine it ever really left anyone who read this book. It forces you to think long and hard about your own life and examine your own choices; more specifically, how your choices have directly impacted others’ lives.

There’s one problem that I have with 13 Reasons Why (originally precipitating from the book) and it’s the blame game. In the book Walk Two Moons, Sharon Creech writes, “you can’t keep the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair.” We all ultimately have control over our own individual selves and the decisions we make for our lives moving forward.  I’m by no means trivializing people’s feelings, the feelings leading up to someone taking his or her own life, or the people that may have negatively influenced this decision, however, while every action has a reaction, we can choose our reaction! That is the one thing that is within our control. And in the end, what good comes from engaging in the blame game?

Although it is fact that like dissolves like, negativity does not dissolve negativity – it only fuels the flame and amounts to even more negativity causing a synergistic effect.

I’m fully aware that this is the premise – no tapes, no story. I’m also fully aware of the heartache people endure throughout their school years and the emotional baggage that accompanies them on their arduous journeys. For anyone who identifies with this, I empathize with you because I’ve been there myself, as many of us have. I’d be lying if I said that, in some extremely weak moments during high school, I never fantasized about who would make it onto “my tapes,” because I did. But in the end, it’s not our role to place the blame on others with the intent to teach them a lesson of this caliber. It is not on us to accelerate or influence someone else’s karma. Karma will do it’s own thing and life will put it all into action at the exact moment in time when it needs to happen.

I just pray that a lonely, emotionally vulnerable soul does not idolize Hannah Baker’s actions and follow in her footsteps. (I understand that special cases do involve direct blame; on the contrary, blame does not need to be done modeling this format.) I mean, any viewer can visibly see the adverse effect it has on every single person who is affected by her tapes. Ideally I would hope that following all thirteen episodes, viewers gain immense wisdom and learn imperative, behavior-altering lessons. I’ve narrowed it down to my top three.

Lesson 1: No blame game. As I previously wrote, placing blame on others for your own suicide will only create a much larger domino effect sending more negativity into the universe.

Lesson 2: The golden rule.

Lesson 3: Stand up.

So let’s expand more on lesson two, which is actively being conscious of how we’re treating others. In a larger context, empathy.

What I absolutely love about the series is their mastermind depiction of the need for more empathy. This story makes you feel in an unforgiving society that is numb to emotions, compassion, and humanity itself. The one thing that we are sufficiently lacking is catharsis. Cathartic media, cathartic books, cathartic entertainment…everything. Let’s face it, given the current state of worldly affairs we could certainly benefit from more things that enable us to feel. Society needs to dismantle all of the preconceived notions and stereotypes surrounding emotions, empathy, and sensitivity and learn how to feel. It’s okay to feel and in fact, it’s only human nature. Continuing to resist our intrinsic selves by building disingenuous exteriors is working against us in the long run. We will inevitably lose.

For a while now, I’ve believed that schools would greatly benefit from including empathy as a legitimate subject in school curriculum. Creating a class where teachers intensely cover this topic wouldn’t hurt and I firmly suspect this would yield positive results such as an increased number of loving, compassionate, and mindful students. Just a thought to ponder.

Here’s another point phenomenally conveyed by the series: we’re not only numb to emotions, we’re numb to reasonable thought. People tend to empathize with the heavier things, the things that activate waves. When in reality, 13 Reasons Why proves to us that several little things, or ripples, accumulate just as much momentum and strength as a wave. And before you know it, these ripples are fully capable of mimicking the destructive impact of a wave. Now think of these ripples and waves as emotional weight, that’s a hell of a lot for a person to carry. Where did we lose this connection? Why are we incapable of empathizing with the smaller things in life that we all experience and should be able to understand? We trivialize the smaller things without much thought when really, we should be putting ourselves in another person’s shoes and walking around a bit.

And onto lesson three, which is putting any intimidation to the side and standing up for other people who are being bullied. Intercept the attacks whenever and wherever possible.

When I reflect on my high school years, I realize that I really didn’t have it as bad as others. I mean that’s something we should all acknowledge: when you’re having a bad day, someone else is having it worse. I mainly experienced isolation, lack of inclusion, and quite frankly, feeling as though I was the butt of a joke. Through self-exploration, I began to compute and comprehend many of the reasons why my reality was the way it was and I realized that it basically stemmed from myself (well most things). I’m not intending to sound self-deprecating, I just feel I owe it to myself and the world to be brutally honest. I truly didn’t fit in. I was an oddball (still am to this day) and I’ve always gone against the grain. Most days, I would have rather interacted with animals than with people. Not to mention, I’m a deeply emotional and sensitive person, so you do the math…that doesn’t exactly put me in an ideal situation to thrive in school. Since it was pretty clear that I was vastly different, I instantly became vulnerable to intimidation and ridicule from peers and even so-called friends.

Now I’m not saying I didn’t have any friends, because I did, but I was never invited to be part of anyone’s grandiose group. The few I had (and still have) were incredible, loyal friends and then there were some “school friends” too and that was it. And although I wasn’t friendless, it doesn’t mean that it was a walk in the park either. I still encountered daily struggles and “school friends” were about as flaky as Pillsbury biscuits.

With that being said, there are many souls I wish I could have stood up for, but I was always too intimidated because of where I existed socially that I could never seem to croak a word when words and action were being demanded of me. This is something I deeply regret. No one deserves to be picked on and certainly not these souls.

There is one in particular that still lingers with me to this day. We attended school together from elementary to high school. He was introverted in nature and a bit aggressive, but I always saw that as his defense mechanism. One could argue that he purposely isolated himself, but again that’s a defense mechanism and one that I’m all too familiar with. Example: It’s easier to act as though you don’t want to be anyone’s partner for an assignment than it is to eagerly look for one and have no one want to be your partner. We were in the same calc class senior year and as close as we were to graduation, the boys and some girls just couldn’t give it a break and would relentlessly pick on him. I was so close so many times, but just didn’t feel strong enough to speak and honestly, I was floored that no one else would speak up or stop the behavior, teachers included.

Whenever I was in a place where I did feel I could help or make someone feel included, I did so with all of my might. Because I never wanted anyone to experience this pain or any pain for that matter.

Here’s where I think we can all learn and grow from: even if you feel uncomfortable yourself, do what you can to help another person who’s suffering. Who knows, you could be the one to save their life.

And let’s revisit conformity for my final word here. Individualism is a beautiful concept. Lack of conformity is a beautiful concept. And I wish more people embraced it. For years, the pain that blurred my vision also blurred my perception. I perceived my inability to conform as an enormous weakness. And you know what? I’ve learned the invaluable lesson that I should never perceive it as a weakness; I should be celebrating it as an immaculate strength.

Until next time {xo},


You can stream 13 Reasons Why on Netflix.


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