In Response to the Charleston Shooting: A letter to People in Their 20's

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Dear People in your 20's,

I think this is a really hard decade. I would know, I'm 26. In one word, I'm struggling. Sure, you can legally drink at 21, but it's kind of all downhill from there, right? At 22, society says you're supposed to know what to do with the rest of your life, which, if we're being honest, is straight-up BS. I mean, people are living to be 100 years old these days but you need to have everything figured out a quarter of the way through? Why?

The pressure to have a career path in your 20's sucks. Not to mention all your friends who "always knew they wanted to be a lawyer." Ugh. How could you possibly always know anything when you've been alive for a tiny blip of time? Walk through a forest. Nearly every tree in it is older than you are. You've basically just arrived on planet earth! But, you're 100% certain of your career path. Not an ounce of doubt.

To all those self-assured people I say this: Good for you, not for me.

Not to mention everyone getting married, having kids, buying houses, and (ugh) posting engagement photos to Facebook. Social media is the worst kind of liar, because it pretends to be something it's not. It pretends to exist to help with human bonding and connection-forming, and instead tells you everyday you're falling behind. You're 26 and not engaged yet? What, do you have leprosy or something?

No one knows exactly what you should do with your life except for you (at least that's what "they" say). And, if we're being honest, you don't know either. I know I don't know what to do with mine.

But, I do know exactly what you (and I) should NOT do. 

I strongly believe with every ounce of my body there's one thing that you should actively avoid doing at all costs. Do not kill people.

First off, let's take an incredibly self-absorbed 20's mindset when approaching the idea of shooting and killing other people. It accomplishes nothing for you. Maybe your life right now is a miserable abyss of questioning and restlessness and depression and addiction. I'm not diminishing those terrible things. That's rough. Maybe you are going through something so terrible that it's impossible to articulate. You are certain you are the first person to feel so much melancholy in so short a time period—and there's no hope for your future, and no one can even begin to understand. First, I'm going to kindly suggest you start reading classic literature. Not modern-day pop-culture vampire dystopian fiction. Read the classics. Steinbeck. Hemingway. Salinger. You might find you're able to surround yourself with a cohort of authors who share in your melancholy, and make it more bearable.

Then, I'm going to ask, if possible, that you adopt a pet—rescue a cat or dog or bird, I don't care. And watch how, even when every single human on the planet is insufferable, your animal relies on you for food, for care. Without question, your pet blindly trusts you—you! The person living in an abyss of misery with no direction and no hope for the future!—for food, for shelter, for love, for everything. 

Then, and only then, if you are still thinking of killing other humans, I'm going to urge you to ask yourself this question: Will killing someone else solve any of your problems? Really think about it. Mull it over. Be honest with yourself. The answer is a resounding no.

Then, of course, if we pull our heads out from our behinds (where our heads generally tend to be in our 20's, it seems), we can start considering the lives of people other than ourselves. The other living, breathing humans, with hopes and fears and doubts and dreams. And maybe even with pets of their own. And a collection of books. And, maybe, with children, who also have hopes and fears and doubts and dreams. When you kill another person, you don't just destroy him or her—you destroy worlds. By ending a person's life, you set off a wave of misery that washes over wives, husbands, friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, co-workers, sons, daughters, pets, and on and on and on.

Is that what you want to be known for? Really think about it. Mull it over. Be honest with yourself. No, it is not. You were not born to set off a wave of misery and despair and heartbreak and sadness. Maybe you weren't born to be a doctor or lawyer, either, but you decidedly weren't born to be a weapon of mass destruction. I'm 100% sure of it. It is not who you are. Look at your core. Your core will not lie to you. Strip away everything else—society's unfair expectations, the harsh opinion's of others, your self-doubt, your addiction, your horrid situation, your self-loathing—strip it away, and look at your core. Your core is beautiful. I am certain of it. You are beautiful. And you have the rest of your life to tap into that core, tap into that beauty. I'm begging you, don't ruin it for yourself in your 20's, and do not ruin it for anyone else, ever. After all, each of us is only here for a tiny blip of time—there's no sense in shortening it. Be kind to others. And be kind to yourself.

Sending my love to Charleston, and to you,



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Powerful, powerful post. Well done and thank you for writing it.