By Rhiannon Levengood
Dear Mr. Mellor,
It’s Rhiannon Levengood, but I don’t expect you to remember the quiet girl who got straight A’s in your class and never really gave you a problem. It’s been five years, after all. Even I forget most of the people from my graduating class.
I hope you’re doing well. Or, at least better than the Flyers have been doing. To be honest, I don’t follow them much anymore. A lot can change in just five years. For example, I think I wanted to be a cinematographer in 12th grade… Or had I finally accepted that I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life? Doesn’t matter. I’m a medical assistant now. I work in oncology and I absolutely love it. I want to go back to school for nursing, and my long term goal is to become a nurse practitioner. Long term. Eventually.
Oh, and I write for this online publication now, too.
I’m not writing you to chit-chat, though. This has a purpose. A long-winded, gotta-get-it-off-my-chest purpose. You see, I’m more transparent now, less quiet and more open. A lot can change in five years.
I recently watched 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. It’s fantastic, and while I’m sure you have heard of it, I’ll give you a rundown.
13 Reasons Why is a series comprised of 13 episodes that are loosely based off of the novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. The story is centered around a high school girl named Hannah Baker who commits suicide and leaves behind 7 cassette tapes. Each tape has two stories, two people, two reasons why she killed herself. The tapes are passed along to each person who appears on the tapes; and in the TV series, we are shown those stories through the eyes of Hannah as her friend Clay listens through them.
It’s a really good series, I am obsessed with it. I watched all 13 episodes within a 24-hour period, that is how amazing it is. But, I’m not writing to you to sell you this tv show. I’m writing to you because it made me think of you.
I relate to Hannah Baker. Throughout the series, she is looking for a sign, a reason to keep going, to keep living. It’s like she has a T-chart with her 13 reasons to kill herself on the left and a blank list on the right, and if she can just put one reason on the right, she’ll fight longer. I get that, I feel it.
But that reason never comes. In the very last episode, her very last tape that she made the day she killed herself, she tries one more time to find that sign. She tries to find it at school, from someone who is supposed to recognize when a student is struggling or depressed, or calling out for help. She makes it clear, but he sees right through her. This made me think of you.
You probably can’t put a face to my name, and I don’t blame you. You have so many students every year, and it’s been five years. So, I doubt you remember the day you asked me if I was okay. Despite me being an overall quiet, do-no-wrong student with an occasional witty joke, you noticed a shift in my demeanor. And you asked me if I was okay.
I nodded, put on a happy smile, and said that I was just tired. I lied to you because I wasn’t okay. Just like Hannah Baker, I was looking for a sign and had been for months.
But I’m here. I’m still here. I’m happier now than I was in high school, and more grateful, too.
I’m writing to you, Mr. Mellor, because I want to thank you for noticing and for caring. I want to encourage you to always ask your students if they’re okay, if they need help. If they’re like me and deny that anything is wrong, tell them your door is always open because it’s so important for kids to not feel alone.
I might have busted your ass a few times in class, but I will never forget how kind and thoughtful you are. Teaching is something you are so good at. I am so lucky to have been in your class and I’m so lucky to know you. You’ve made an impact on me that I will never forget.
Sincerely, and with so much gratitude,
As I was writing this, I remembered that we have a picture together. I searched all over Facebook because I was sure there was a picture of you with a group of students (and I’m still convinced that exists), but upon skimming the yearbook, I found this. I think it’s 100 times more fitting.
If you’re feeling depressed, hopeless, or having suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help. It always gets better, I promise.
Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Suicide Prevention Online Chat: http://chat.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx