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2LT Philip White of the 709th Military Police Battalion wrote the top essay for the Suicide Prevention Month Writing Competition, which was sponsored by the Army Substance Abuse Program and the USAG Bavaria Libraries during the month of September.
The competition urged participants to write 500-750 words on the theme of “What helps me cope through life’s difficult moments.” A panel of community members deemed 2LT White’s essay, titled “Taming the Beast,” the best of the best but the competition was close with the top three also including essays written by K.S. Thomas and Tien Young.
Staff at ASAP and the libraries thank everyone who shared their writing talent to address such an important topic.
Scroll down to read the essays below:
Taming the Beast
By 2LT Philip White
There it is again- a recurring feeling of dread and anguish. I just don’t get it. Life is going well and then this flurry of small events or even one massive event comes along and derails what seems like everything. Loneliness creeps in. Is life just a crazy ride of ups and downs? What’s my purpose?
Life is a difficult beast; it is a beast because it is wild and unpredictable, regardless of the amount of time and effort you put into taming it. As any animal lover would know, there are certainly ways to “tame the beast,” and it all depends on the forces involved. Just like giving treats to a pet, there are ways that we can influence our lives and get past the difficult and unpredictable times. If you want to tame the beast, you need to bring a few things with you: your identity, some sidekicks, and a purpose.
Life is never going to be easy, regardless of what background you come from. The poorest people want for more and the richest people want for meaning. The truest and most valuable asset you have in taming the beast is yourself. Life will throw anything and everything your way, but you have the power in how you respond. You can choose to fight for victory or succumb to the forces that be. Fighting for yourself requires a few things: you need to know your values, you need to know your strengths/weaknesses, and you need to know what you stand for. With these tools in your kit, you can continually press on and build your resiliency. Knowing yourself is foundationally important to combating everything that life can throw at you. If you know yourself, you can conquer anything.
Taming a beast is not easy work- in fact, bringing some buddies along with you can make it easier and give you some different perspectives. Believe it or not, most of life’s challenges aren’t too different from one person to another. Everyone needs their alone time, but combating life’s challenges is difficult and a group of people will always stand stronger than one. Find people and make a team, take a chance and trust in others.
The smoking gun, the coup de gras to this whole process: purpose. Life can be long and relentless, but it can be enjoyable and prosperous with a sense of purpose. In the military, most of us find this sense of purpose in serving something larger than ourselves and the satisfaction of a job well done. For each unique person, this sense of purpose is special and different. People pursue certain career paths and engage in certain hobbies because they find their sense of purpose in them. Sometimes, this purpose is helping others or sometimes this purpose is just having fun. Whatever it is, think about what you give your time to and what your sense of purpose is with everything you do.
It won’t be easy, but one of the satisfying things about a challenge is that it will never be easy. Rest assured that you have the power to overcome life’s challenges and all the adversity that comes with it. Life can be tough, but it will never be hopeless. If you haven’t been having success in taming the beast in your own life, try changing up your methods for taming the beast and always know that you can reach out to others for tips and tricks.
By Tien Young
Sometimes, through that haze of darkness in my head, I can see a blindingly taunting smile that haunts my dreams. I know what it embodies – those obstacles in my life that I try to put aside, the ones that tower over me and force me to take several steps back. That smile knows that I falter, that I’m trying to escape reality and it only grows bigger to become a painful reminder that I can’t keep running. It can be hard, and the temptation to give up is always much too strong. The only way to get rid of that mocking grin is to face it head on, to stare at the taunting glimmer until it’s withered away into the wispy shadows of darkness in your mind. I’m only human, and there’s only so much that I can do. But I know, that I have to face that smile, to face my fears, but I have to face them my own way.
We’ve been given one life, but we’re given many opportunities to do things in that life. I’m determined to get through this. I just need to remember why that smile is there, and why it continues to get larger. What am I afraid of? What are those obstacles that I can’t seem to get past? I’m afraid of failing, of letting people down. I struggle with things other people find simple. I can’t do this, and I can’t do that. My mind is a constant whirl and myriad of thoughts and emotions, and I can barely keep up with them. I can’t pinpoint where the origin of this horrifying smile comes from, so I decide to lose myself in the darkness of my head to find it.
I hear a faint beat, a thrumming hum of the drums and bass, so I follow it. I come across a warm, glowing light, and I can hear the music coming from within. Reaching out, I cup the light and it lights up brilliantly, then disappears. Some of the haze begins to clear. Excited, my heart begins to beat faster, and from my peripheral vision, I see that haunting smile falter. I know that glowing light didn’t come from my head, but it came from my heart. It came from the place where I lock up the things that I truly love to do, the things that I can get myself lost in, to momentarily forget about how terrible life can be – the place that I began to neglect when things got rough. It can be scary to look inside of my heart, to see who I truly am. But if it can make me a stronger person, make me who I want to be, then I’ll do whatever it takes.
There’s a soft glimmer up ahead, and the smell of freshly baked bread drifts towards me. I pick up my pace, and soon enough, there’s another glowing orb of light. I reach out, and the orb drifts towards me, lighting up and disappearing. A warm and bubbly feeling begins to fill me up. My ears perk as I hear something – this time, familiar voices calling my name joyously. I know it’s my brother, my mother, my close friends, and I now know that they’ll be by me if I ever feel like I’m faltering. The glowing orbs only get larger every time that I find something else I hold dear to me in my heart. That smile grows less confident with each happy thought and memory I hold as my own smile becomes genuine.
Then, I hear a sudden rumbling and turn just in time to see that huge smile crack, as if a metal baseball bat struck it in the teeth. Spiderwebbing cracks begin for form, running all over, just like when there’s a glass that’s being slowly shattered. Then, that smile slowly begins to fall, dissipating into the darkness. Behind that smile, there are letters, stark and bold that light up the area around me. I slowly begin to realize, it wasn’t the smile that was bright, but it was these letters that the smile was hiding from me, preventing me from seeing that I could be more. The words light up my mind, chasing away the last of the darkness and fill me with a sense of hope, power and happiness.
“Sing it louder just to let the world know. No, we’re not nameless, we’re not faceless, we were born for greatness.” (Papa Roach, Born For Greatness)
What Helps Me Through Life’s Difficult Moments
By K.S. Thomas
Everybody handles their own difficulties in different ways, and that is to be expected because we are all unique. Some methods are healthy, while others may be harmful. There are several go-to’s that I apply in my own life to help me handle hard times. At the top of the list is my faith, and although everyone isn’t religious, a large percentage of us claim spirituality in one form or another. Prayer, attending church or temple, reading scripture, meditation, or whichever form you choose to find peace for your body and mind is a beneficial step.
Another helpful way I cope when I’m down and struggling is to reach out to a family member or friend. I surround myself with people whose love and support I can rely on, and if it’s slim pickings, even a sympathetic ear from one understanding individual can often do the trick. Reaffirming words or actions from someone who represents a safe place for you is paramount when you need to be heard. It’s easy to forget that we aren’t alone in our struggles, especially when we feel isolated or vulnerable. An unwillingness to confide in others because you don’t want to burden or inconvenience them, though masked as an attempt to spare them, could simply be coming from a place of pride or embarrassment on your part. I know this because it’s how I’ve operated in the past. Don’t rob yourself of that human connection; we all hurt, and we all need each other. The individual to whom you reveal your dilemma might be the very person that asks for support from you in the future.
If you have a hobby or some recreational or creative activity that you enjoy, throw yourself into it with vigor! Some suggestions are art, music, reading or writing, baking, sports, working on cars, etc., just to name a few. One of my top hobbies is crafting jewelry. When I’m feeling discouraged by life events, I’ll take out my plethora of supplies and make something while music blares in the background. Sometimes I keep the jewelry for myself, and sometimes I give it away, but I usually feel better knowing that I’ve accomplished something, however small.
Physical fitness is another way I combat stress and anxiety which can arise from the difficulties I encounter. Staying active can produce positive results in many facets of your daily life, not to mention that it is a free mood stabilizer. I personally am not a strong runner, nor am I very athletic, but I enjoy walking and it’s good for me, especially when I need to clear my head by way of a temporary escape.
The final thing I try to do is concentrate on others when I’m in the midst of my own troubles. It sounds cliché, but the fastest way to minimize your own problems is to focus on someone else’s. This isn’t said flippantly, and it isn’t intended to be taken lightly. Pay attention to others, notice their pain and their hardships, and offer your time or help if you can. When you are doing something uplifting for somebody else, you disregard your own worries, even if it’s only fleeting, in favor of performing simple acts of kindness.