At 22, my life was full, exciting, and busy. I was just graduating college, on my way to becoming a 1st year law student at a prestigious law school, I was in love with a cute guy from a great family, and my only care in the world was being a full-time student, and hanging with my beloved sister friends (all of whom are still good friends to this day). I had taken a year off before law school to work in the New Jersey Legislature as a staff aide, and I met a woman named Christine Todd Whitman, who had just narrowly lost a US Senate Race to former Basketball great Bill Bradley. She would go on to become the first woman governor elected in my home state and my first employer after law school graduation.
Everything was ahead of me at 22. My life was going to be fabulous, historic, amazing. I was going to get married, have four kids, run for Congress (which I did at age 29), stay in Congress for six years, then run for the U.S. Senate, and after that well, maybe become a Supreme Court Justice, or maybe even the first woman Vice President. My ambitions were high. I believed I could do anything. Be anything. And overcome anything. I loved politics. I loved life. I was so blessed to be so young. Everything was ahead of me.
Fast forward 20+ years. Much of what I desired for my life back then did not come to pass. Some of it did. But I had the courage to try. To stand in the arena through some very tough years. Through some shattering losses. Through illness. Through financial stress. Through betrayals. Through disappointments. Through career setbacks. Through family dysfunction. But I never gave up on living. I just kept going.
So, as I look back now as a woman in my late 40’s with likely more life behind me than ahead of me; it breaks my heart to learn that a beautiful young sister took her life last week in such a tragic way. She had everything to live for. She was already changing the world at 22. She was brave. She was focused. She was kind. She was passionate. But something dark was going on inside of Karyn Washington. Something she alluded to in a blog she penned back last October 2013 after her mother died. It was titled, “You Don’t Know How I Feel.”
She wrote: “I felt empty, weak, angry, lost, lonely, sad. I still do. But that night I wanted to die. Honestly, I still do feel that way. . .” There it is.
She started suffering last October and by April 2014, she could take the suffering no more. I read through many of her posts last night as I sat drinking almost an entire bottle of red wine. Tears fell. My heart sank. I could see it so clearly: She was hiding. She was heartbroken. She was lonely. She had siblings and a dad who loved her, but she couldn’t tell them how badly she felt. I know. I have been there. Only as an older woman I was able to ask for and get help. I had a lifetime of living behind me, she was just starting out.
I have been writing a lot lately about “connections”. Because I do not like what I see with our young people, and even people my own age. We are fighting on social media, we unfriend, we block, we delete. We just don’t talk.
I penned an article for Huffington Post Healthy Living just this past Monday, titled, “Why Don’t We Talk Anymore.” CLICK to READ: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sophia-a-nelson/when-did-texting-replace-_b_5105265.html The reality is Karyn was not alone. So many people are suffering in silence. In depression. With heartache. With loss. With grief. And they feel isolated and alone because we have stopped connecting one with another in ways that matter. It’s time we took stock of who we are and where we are as a species. We have become cold, calculating, and cutters of people when they no longer suit us. We will never truly know what drove such a promising 22 year old like Karyn to take her own life. What we do know is that she left us clues. She felt bad about her image as a “dark skinned” black girl. She felt less than. Even though on the outside it all looked right in Karyn’s world. On the inside she was hurting, badly. And she didn’t know how to make it stop.
I wrote a book, “Black Woman Redefined” three years ago this May 2014. I wrote it for girls like Karyn and for women like me, who often feel left out, valueless, and not good enough no matter what we have achieved with our lives. The stereotypical image of “black girls” is still not very positive. It is very negative. And for our darker complexion sisters, it is ten times harder. I wish that I had known Karyn. I wish she had me in her phone contacts. I wish I could have talked to her. Held her hand. Encouraged her. Given her a hug. And told her that she was not alone. That I understood. And that I would be there to help her through.
Her life was valuable and she didn’t know it. I keep asking myself, How could she not know it?
Sisters, gentlemen, all. We must do better. People are lonely. They are hurting. They need connection. They need to feel loved. So be kind. Lend a hand. Call up, visit, talk with, pray with, take care of the people around you. At the end of the day, we are all mortal. We will all die. The question is how will we live? And our living must be best summarized by how we took care of, loved, and helped other people when they were in pain.