DISCLAIMER: This editor’s column contains mentions of death and suicide and may be triggering to some readers. Please use caution before reading. 

If you or someone you know needs help, local help is available through campus police (724-738-3333), the counseling center (724-738-2034) and student support (724-738-2121). Other resources include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) and the Crisis Text Line (text “HOME” to 741741).

You never think it’s going to be you; I know I didn’t. You see it on the news and you hear about it from your friends and family, but you still think you’re immune. Foolishly, you think you have nothing to worry about.

Please don’t be like me. Don’t wait until it’s your best friend and you’re left broken and empty inside.

As many know by now, Adam Zook died by suicide on July 28. Few things make me prouder than the fact that he considered me his best friend, but nothing upsets me more than the fact that I was unable to save him from himself.

Foolish? Definitely. Naïve? Of course. Heartbroken? More than anything.

Dwelling on the “what ifs” is dumb, I know that. Thinking that I would have been able to do anything differently than I had done to save you is silly, but sometimes that’s all I’m able to think about late at night when I can’t get your face out of my head.

Adam felt as though he had never met anyone who understood him as well as I did. What is the point of friendship if when life gets harder than anything imaginable, you’re unable to ask them for help?

It truly is a foolish question to ask myself, but I’m not supposed to have to ask myself these questions. I’m supposed to have my best friend still.

At least one time during the countless times we’d stay up until 3:30 a.m., the poetic injustice of it all, and talk about everything under the sun and moon, why couldn’t he have told me how he felt? I will never understand how such a brilliant person could do something so selfish. While it’s not a traditional sense of selfishness, like a brother witholding his toy from a sibling, it’s a heart wrenching kind of pain that has no name. It’s longing and regret. 

In his unfillable absence, all of the memories, hopes, dreams, plans and ideas we ever talked, laughed and cried about will always be there, but it is a drop in the ocean. Nothing will ever replace my best friend.

Coming into my college experience at Slippery Rock, like any naïve and hopeful freshman, I had hoped to find “that” friend. You know, the kind of friend that people go to college to find. When I met Adam on our first day in North Hall, I knew he was the guy I had been hoping to meet.

If someone had told me that the next three years would see our instant bond turn into the greatest friendship I could’ve ever hoped to have, I would have considered sitting next to Adam at our freshman orientation the greatest decision of my life.

If someone would have told me it ended this way, well, I don’t think I would have believed them.

While I do not regret the way I loved Adam, I rue the way I was never able to say goodbye.

I will never get the chance to tell Adam how every day I aspire to be even half the man he was. I will never get the chance to tell him just how much I loved and respected him. But worst of all, I will never be able to thank him for making a naïve freshman boy’s wish come true. Thank you for being the best friend I ever could have asked for.

Like almost everything else, Adam was the first one to know that Nicole and I would end up together. Despite all of our ups and downs, he was our first believer. The constant third, and welcomed, wheel of our relationship. “I called it,” he would have gloated, his enormous grin flashing from beside us at our wedding. “I said it back in the day when neither of you believed it. Look at us all now.”

Thank you for believing in us, Adam. I just wish you could have stayed to see it one day.

A true and constant companion, Adam always believed in me. When he encouraged me to start writing for The Rocket, he was always right there. Especially when I would come to him with problems that seem so irrelevant now.

Our companionship over the past three years, truly, we did not leave each other’s side much in college, is something I will always treasure. Just this summer alone, when we spent the summer in Slippery Rock together—something I will always be so thankful I was able to do—we made so many more lasting memories.

After a day of work, I would always try to stay up until he got home from work, so he could tell me all about his latest experiences with the Titusville Herald while we drank a Rolling Rock or two.

How I wish now that I would have stayed up every single night just to make a few more memories together.

To me, a good sign of measuring the strength and bond of friendship lies in how well you’re able to use silence. In my opinion, great friends are able to maintain a comfortable silence while still enjoying each other’s company. In the case of Adam and me, we truly maximized our silence. We would spend hours in silence, sitting in the living room, my room or wherever as we worked on various things, watched TV or just hung out, but it was never uncomfortable. It felt nice; the silence was comfortable.

But there is going to be a lot of silence now. And I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with it.

I will never understand how Adam thought taking his own life would make anything better for anyone. All it has done is made everything worse for everyone who knew him. Not a single person who knew him has felt his loss the same way, but we are all still feeling the aftershock.

For more than a month, ever since I saw his goodbye letter, I have struggled to understand how I have felt.

Anger, sadness, pain, regret, relief, emptiness, grief. Some mixture of it all? Through it all, I’ve worn a mask. I thought that if I appeared strong and unphased, other people would see me as someone to lean on in their own time of need. I’ve realized now how wrong of me that was.

My idiotic hypocrisy is exactly what I beg everyone who reads this to avoid. In my stupidity, I’ve bottled up my feelings of grief and misery. I’ve ignored those who love and care about me just to give off the facade of being OK. Do not hide your emotions nor feelings. If you take one thing from me, please make it that you know you are never alone.

Unlike Adam, I have never struggled with mental illness or the idealization of suicide. While I cannot stand in Adam’s shoes nor speak for him, I feel as though I knew him well enough to guess that he felt like his burden was his and his alone to shoulder.

I cannot believe the smartest person I knew would feel like he had to suppress his feelings and hide the demons in his head from the people who loved him. And I cannot believe that I allowed myself to shoulder the burden of my sadness alone despite knowing how deeply wrong it was.

If you are struggling with anything, no matter how trivial you might think it is, there is nothing stronger you can do than seeking help and talking about it.

The time for blindly offering the numbers of self-help organizations and tweeting about “checking up on your friends” is over. In order to make a difference, we must actually make a difference in people’s lives. Love and support your friends and family, and when you’ve done that, love some more.

I wish in the worst way that I knew the solution. It breaks my heart that all I’m able to do is offer empty platitudes. But I don’t know what to do. All I can do is use my voice to raise awareness and beg and plead for people to speak out.

In the end, it falls on all of us. Sometimes it might be easier to say, “I’m only one person, I’m just a drop in the ocean,” but that’s so irresponsible. As one, we are very little, but together, we can change the world. I truly mean that.

As Albus Dumbledore said in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, “Help will always be given to those at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.”

That sentiment could not ring truer. Help will always be given in The Rocket office to those who ask for it.

If you’re struggling and need someone to talk to, I beg you with every ounce of my being to ask for help. And if you cannot find help, come to The Rocket office. You will never be alone. While I may not be a therapist, I know what it’s like to suffer through this sort of tragedy, and I will do anything in my power to help.

If by some miracle stroke of luck you’re reading this and have thoughts or urges to take your own life, there is no way for me to express how deeply I believe you should seek help. If you read this and think that nothing will ever get better, you’re wrong. Life will get better, please believe me.

Live for yourself and if you cannot do that then live for your friends, your family, that TV show or YouTuber that you love to watch, your future self and your future family. And if you cannot do that, live for me. I know I can’t ask that, but I’m selfish. Live to see all the love this world has to offer. Believe me, please, it’s out there.  

Live for me even if it’s just to spite me. Live for me to show me how much better your life will get. Please, just live.

Life is so fleeting and unpredictable. Where you are one day can and will be so different from where you are the next day. Live for love, happiness and new experiences.

And, please, don’t make someone who loves you feel this type of pain.

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Karl is a senior sport management major and communication minor entering his fifth semester on The Rocket staff. He will serve as the sports editor after previously serving as the assistant sports editor. During his time with The Rocket, he has covered every sport that SRU has to offer, and with the lack of sports this coming semester, he is looking forward to finding alternative ways to deliver sports news to the SRU community. After graduation, he hopes to work in the sports writing field.


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