Saturday, August 27, 2011

This Was A Mistake

I was stumbling through the Web when I landed on a blog on Tumbler. It was an interesting blog written by a 17-year-old entitled “The Frustrations of Being A Writer”. It had some astute observations, coming from such a young source, although I had to smile at the phrase “during the first couple years of my career”. Still, I enjoyed reading the blog, so I started exploring other blogs on Tumbler and came across this:

I landed on a blog that had only one post: “This was a mistake.” As a writer, I recognized the power of those four words. Dozens of potential stories popped into my mind, all beginning with those four words:

“This was a mistake,” he thought, as he pushed the red button, launching the missiles. “It had to be a mistake.” But his orders had been clear. Thinking was outside his pay grade.

“This was a mistake.” She stared at the gun in her hand and watched the blood envelop her shoe.

“This was a mistake,” she said, gathering her discarded clothes.

“This was a mistake,” the renowned scientist said, but it was too late to turn back. The experiment had begun.

“This was a mistake.” He looked down at her and wished he could take back the last 10 minutes of his life.

And so it goes. That’s how we writers think. So, I saw the lone blog post and my eyes drifted to the “About” box. “Just a 15-year-old kid that thought maybe he could meet some other teens and make a few net friends.” Fair enough. So how to explain his “This was a mistake” post?

My first explanation was frustration. Maybe he tried to set up a blog and couldn’t get it up and running, and just gave up. Or maybe he had had a blog but deleted all the posts because he didn’t get any followers or, as he phrased it, net friends.”

Then, it occurred to me he might have revealed too much personal information in his blog. “This was a mistake.” Maybe something embarrassing or that should have remained private was posted in an unthinking moment, and that information had now gone viral among his circle of friends and classmates. I thought back to my high school days and tried to imagine how dreadful it would be to be forced to sit in a classroom surrounded by classmates who had read excerpts from my diary the night before. Had he let slip the name of a secret crush or doubts about sexuality, or some admission of a past misdeed?

The writer inside me imagined more scenarios. “This was a mistake.” Had I just read an online suicide note? Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers. There are about 11 teen suicides every day. My instinct was to reach out to him, but then I paused. Was I reading too much into his words, attributing a finality to them he never intended? Should I, an adult, even contact a teenager online? Would that be viewed as improper or even creepy? Would I later be saying of my well-meaning intentions, “This was a mistake?” Then, I realized the post was three days old. If it was an online suicide note, it was probably too late.

I checked back a few weeks later. There were no new posts. I hope he just gave up on his blog, and not on his life.

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