Everyone’s story ends the same way, fading to black and a long sleep. Death motivates me, death scares me, death gives me reason to continue to try and live the best life. A lot of times it may be out of sight and out of a mind but reminders arise that never hurt less and leave a mark each time. It doesn’t get any easier to deal with the more you experience either.

My reminder is something I actually keep near me at all times, my Black Book. A black book may conjure an image of something completely unrelated to death, the chicktinonary as Will Smith once called it in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but not mine. My BlackBbook is darker, much more intense and filled with something much more important.

A hard cover book that was given out for an art project became a piece of me that I fight every day to never see again. Those blank pages could have been filled with anything; drawings, poems, positive things but mine just became a journal. The pages stopped being blank and as they were filled up allowed me to start to fill up myself from the numbness and dark place I didn’t think I’d ever return from.

A break up, being abandoned by family, realizing the person I had been that had hurt the people I cared about and once held close left me feeling alone and numb. I was empty and no longer sure who I was and unsure how to move forward on a day to day basis. Even sleep, something simple and needed to recover and regenerate, left me. Insomnia filled my life which had nothing else in it and I thought that’s all that was ever going to be left for me. Was there a way back?

Things were dark for me, no longer sure if I could have any of the things back that I once was surrounded with. Love, gone. Friends, pushed away. Drive, motivation, it had all evaporated and all I was left with was trying to get through each day and that struggle was almost too overwhelming every day. “Promise me this. If I lose to myself you won’t mourn a day and you’ll move on to something else.” I had destroyed so much and left myself alone, the bed I made for myself. What was left for me? Who would miss me?

Luckily, I stumbled across this book from high school that I had never written in. It was empty just like I felt and that is what saved me. I had no one to talk to and couldn’t get out of my own head. My Black Book started as journal as I fought each day but as I wrote more and more it became the path out of my own head, the light to follow. The poison and dark clouds that filled me flowed out of the pencil in to that book. I was able to help myself and expunge all the smog that was choking me.

“Neon gravestones try to call for my bones. But they won’t get them.” That was the darkest stretch of my life by far and my Black Book is the reminder. I still have it but have never been strong enough to read it again, never do I want to revisit any of that. So why keep it? That is the point I’m running from, sprinting to always stay away from a potential grave.

The few people I’ve shared it with I’m often asked why I don’t burn it, destroy it, get rid of it and take that power back. I feel like if I keep it close then I will stay as far away from it as I can. No matter how bad things can get; not talking to friends, falling out with family, getting fired,  it isn’t as bad as it can be and there’s nothing I can’t conquer if I was able to beat the darkness that I held within. I pulled myself up and beat back the demons that wanted to pull me down.

I wish I could say this made me stronger, better equipped to deal with death but I just don’t know if that will ever be the case. Just last year our company had a grim reminder of how fragile life can be when a family member of the staff lost her fight. Just like it seems every time, everything seemed fine and it was great and then our world was shaken with a loss that shouldn’t have happened. Then it happened again to another member of our radio family. And it’s just so hard to understand.

Things happen and just in a blink something you knew and never thought about going anywhere is gone. Friday night I talked to a good friend and then I found out Saturday morning he was gone. I didn’t believe it, there’s no way it was real. How could this happen? Why didn’t I say something more, tell him how great a friend he was. Why did it go this way?

On went life and on went the everyday grind, but I wasn’t really apart of it. Mentally I was somewhere else, sleepwalking in a haze I couldn’t shake. Angry, sad, what in the heck can I do. I’m in Utah and my friend was in Illinois. Was…but now had moved off of Earth and left scars. Does time heal all wounds, will I ever be back to my normal self? A piece of my life is gone and will just feel empty while I carry on.

Experiencing what our radio family had, being in radio I felt like I was in a position, had a responsibility to try and show strength. Finally one day I cracked open the mic and just poured my heart out. So much of what McCall and I try to do on air is to be fun and uplift but I felt like I owed it myself and to everyone I connect with to let them know that I wasn’t doing alright and that there are struggles we have to fight through.

I posted it on my friend’s wall to let him know I was thinking about him and always will and then something unexpected happen. His ex-wife listened to it, his sister, his mother they all heard what I said and my words touched them. All of them thanked me for what I said and told me how much it meant to them and wanted to meet me.

All I wanted to do was to vent, to express myself and try and be strong in a moment of pain and sadness and all of a sudden I felt weaker than I ever did. I had provided some light, some joy to so many people dealing with such an unbearable loss. Now to meet them and face them, what could I say. I feel so unprepared and so undeserving as just one of his many friends that have expressed what he meant to them, to all of a sudden have my moment of sharing become such a beacon. What if I don’t say the right thing? What if I don’t do right by Sean? Maybe this will help heal but it just seems to keep the scar so much fresher but I owe it to my friend and just try to help.

Mortality is such a fickle thing and I think you often try and combat it by not thinking about it. No one will ever escape the reminders, all you can do is try to embrace what time you have. “Death inspires me like a dog inspires a rabbit.” So many things can inspire and motivate, but I don’t know that there’s any great push then to live your live and to enjoy as many moments as you can.

When I first got in to radio it was an ego trip, it was a cool career and I got to be on air and listened to by thousands of people. Then the shooting happened on my campus, a day that will never leave me because no one could find my brother right away since he was stuck in class with no phone signal. It was a terror that I want no person to deal with but has sadly become a reality for everyone. That afternoon I went on air to try and keep my community updated, no idea what to say as I was dealing with it myself and still shaken. From that point forward being on air was a great responsibility, not just to my community but to myself to do whatever I can to help people.

So often I think McCall and I are just talking to each other and are unaware what anyone can hear at any given time, what could make them laugh, what could pick them up from a sad moment. I am human too and owe it to anyone who has ever listened to know that I don’t escape the problems of the real world and to feel right there with them, but I am in a position where I can do something with my words to help and so that is what I’ll always try to do.

I have never shied away from talking about going to therapy because it was such a turning point for me. I don’t want applause for it but for anyone to know there’s nothing wrong with finding help when you need it. If I can confess that to thousands of strangers than anyone can find what they need in private, and while I may never know the impact sharing that could have it is a fight I will gladly make to have as much of a positive impact as I can.

Never have I really shared the story of my Black Book but with a few select people. It wasn’t about embarrassment, but more so the strength to do so. Recent events have made me feel like it’s important to share and again it is that fight I will take to once again to hopefully help one, multiple people, anyone. I’ve talked the gun out of someone’s hand right in front of me so there’s always time to fight and try to help.

Know the story of my Black Book but hopefully you never have to know the story of your own black book. But if you do know that you can conquer it just like I did. No one is alone.