Second Chances

Today, I’m going to talk about two teenage girls who have been on very different ends of second chances. Before I begin, I must insert a disclaimer about how I don’t really know either of these people very intimately.

I received news from some friends back home that a student in my school who was in senior year of high school, committed suicide. Now, I didn’t know this girl, and I don’t really know what her problems were but I was rather rankled by all the sanctimonious comments on Facebook about how suicide is wrong. It’s hard enough as is to classify something as complex as the termination of your own life as “wrong” or “right”. More so, if you are the person who has to take the decision, surely you must have arrived at the conclusion after some thought.

She was 17 years old, talented, capable and most people were too blinded by their rosy glasses to find any fault with her life.But clearly, she did and that’s why she did what she had to do.  I am now going to do one of the most unfair things that I have done: attempt to understand her situation. 17 was one of the harder years of my life. I was under dual pressure from the academic standards of two very different countries, attempting to rein in my raging hormones, struggling to find some meaning, some light at the end of this endless vortex of intensity.

For the first time in my life, I scored a 10/50 in a school exam, knowing full well I would have to hand my report card in during college applications. I spent all my time wasting away in the hopeless desire that some entity who barely knew my existence should be obliged to return my passion. I was desperate for social recognition and searching for some sense of worth in the midst of all these rapid changes which were forced on me too fast and too harsh. My self-esteem was eroding and every time I would try to recombine the crumbs, a new onslaught of stress and pressure would reduce me to bits.

There are times when I was so wrapped in my own bubble of demons that I had contemplated what it would be like to not exist. I knew that there were people who would hurt themselves and show their scars proudly, in some pathetic embodiment of bearing all the angst in the world. There was a time when pessimism was cool, and unfortunately there are still people who thrive on cynicism and negativity. But I wasn’t one of them. It annoyed me to no end that these people sought public sympathy by displaying their wounds.

But like the girl who died, there are some wounds that we inflict on ourselves that cannot be seen. Some demons that we decide to grow inside our heads, whom we grow dangerously dependent on. We call them different names. They thrive on different external sources: that low grade, that rejection, that disappointment that our parents tried to hide and so on. I don’t know what hers was. I do know that life wronged her in some way. But, even then, even as she is gone, I am left with the incredibly stupid hope that maybe if she had given life that second chance, she could have still lived for the little things: sunshine, nature, love and a future.

The second person I’m going to talk about is Rebecca Black. No, I’m not trying to trivialize something as serious as suicide by talking about a pop star, but today I watched the video of her new song, Saturday, and I’m actually moved to talk about her.

Granted, Friday wasn’t a song that I liked, but every celebrity makes some awful faults from time to time.  I watched as the masses unleashed their seemingly infinite reserve of cruelty on her. I’m not trying to make a statement here by saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to have negative opinions, but I’m also saying that YouTube video comments appear to showcase a highly caustic section of our society.

But forget all that. Forget what happened two years ago, with an awful song and the notorious ridicule that followed that girl.

Today, I heard the song Saturday, because like the rest of the world, I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Like the horrible biased creature I am, I walked in expecting to be disappointed, expecting something that would disgust me and then I could walk out with the satisfaction of shaking my head and saying, “Nah, I knew this girl had way too much time to waste.”

Here is what surprised me. The song wasn’t bad.

It wasn’t earth-shattering, ground-breaking, miracle-inducing awesome, but clearly Rebecca had matured as an artist and customized her work better to suit her target audience. I don’t know how much effort went into this and I dare not contemplate but when the video ended, and I actually pulled the seek back to re-listen to some of my favorite parts, I wondered what an enormous change it must be. Here she was, a teenager trying to make something of herself, changing one prejudiced person at a time.

What touched me about the song was that she actually mocked her own former work, Friday, in the piece. Hats off to the courage of the girl who can pick up the pieces and start again from some of the most unforgiving audiences in the world, accept that her previous work was not it and mold her creative efforts into making something more palatable. She is so brave that she is willing to try again, even though she knows what the risk of failure on such a large magnitude feels like. I didn’t have too many positive opinions about the video of the song, because as always, it appears that audiences seemed to like parties that are sexualized or alcoholic and so on. But the very fact that she had grown up enough to take charge of her responsibilities and try again actually makes me admire her somewhat.

I know I wouldn’t have been able to do that. I think it’s amazing that she did. I want everyone in the world, everyone who had formerly hated her, or her work or anything, to give this 16 year old a second chance.

Why do I feel so strongly moved to bestow my supposed power to grant her a second chance? I don’t even know her. I’m literally just one more data point in the YouTube count of views. But from one view to another, I very naively want life to be a little more forgiving to this girl than they were to the girl in my school. Because I know that there are times when we come to heavily depend on those second chances and that we never find them when their existence would mean everything.

I understand how illogical it is for me to compare the lives of these two teenagers. Rebecca Black is obviously a celebrity and even though people cringed at her for quite a while, she was still a very popular figure. Nobody probably knew this girl in my school, but then again she never had to face the same magnitude of ridicule that Rebecca did. They’re different people. They lead different lives, yes. So what?  Life was unfair to one of them, and the other is trying to fight the rising tide.

I also watched her own reaction video to Friday. The more the video progressed the more melancholy and awed I felt. This girl has the courage to belittle her own best efforts before an entire audience that made her bow to their nastiest of opinions. She is strong and her tenacity is admirable. There are some responses and claims which say that she did only to make herself more likeable or whatever. Yes, maybe she did. We all want to be liked and appreciated. Is it so wrong for her to ask for some redemption?

Clearly, she loves doing what she does so much that despite the fallout, she is willing to invest so much more of her time, money, emotion and energy into making another work. I don’t know what her driving forces are, and I (probably incorrectly) assume that she faces just as much pressure, if not more from within, than the deceased girl did.

I will end this on a note to my past self. The self that has passed from the same shadows that haunted the poor girl who died. The self who, much to her own surprise, emerged victorious enough to accept an admission to an Ivy League Institution. No matter what our reasons and decisions are, we have eventually reached the points we wanted to be. We all wanted a second chance. We all wanted to give second chances to those we could have, but we missed. Maybe the girl who died really did try, and for reasons that only she could have explained, this seemed to be the only way out. Maybe Rebecca will someday be the idol of many. I certainly know that if it wasn’t for second chances I wouldn’t be the person I am now.


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