This fictional short story will give you, the reader, control over how it ends. The story has two characters. One of whom grows up to be a satisfied and successful adult. They fall in love, keep a lucrative job, and die peacefully in their late 80’s.
The other character tragically takes their own life very shortly after graduating high school.
It will be your job to use analysis and critical thinking to figure out which future belongs to which character. Good luck! ….
Emily was a happy, pale blue eyed girl born at the turn of the century.
When she was very little she loved getting into trouble. Her parents would always find themselves shouting after her as she went tearing across the street, or making off with candy, or drawing things on the walls. They nicknamed her ‘The Little Rebel’ and she made sure to live up to the title. It seemed her free spirit knew no bounds. When Emily started school, things were not much different. She was given detention quite frequently; usually for being disruptive or otherwise disrespectful to her teachers. When questioned she tended to answer defiantly that the faculty member in question ‘was being rude to her first’ and she ‘shouldn't have to be nice to anyone just because they’re older’. Emily's parents tended to side with her but as the number of instances grew they realized they should be teaching her to be more polite.
Early In middle school, as suggested by her counselor, Emily’s parents took her to see a psychiatrist who promptly diagnosed her with an array of dysfunctionalities not the least of which was Major Depressive Disorder. She had never thought of herself as depressed and refused to take the medication at first but gave in after much parental insistence. Her problematic school life continued through 8th grade. By this time, rambunctiousness was much less condoned. So she found herself frequenting the principal's office for one reason or another. Her parents also tried to get her to act more appropriately which only seemed to make her attitude worse.
In high school Emily was still troublesome. She also began showing worsening signs of depression which she expressed in no uncertain terms. Her friend group changed along with her clothes to a stereotypical ‘goth’. She got into fights with other kids, caught using various substances, and turned in suggestive assignments. The latter was particularly troublesome for the school. Emily spent a fair amount of time in the counselor's office after being called down for vaguely suicidal or self harm related content. Combined with her general demeanor and attitude, the staff was in agreement that Emily was trying very hard to reap the benefits of being considered ‘high risk’. As such the school cracked down on Emily's edgy outbursts and vehemently discouraged her from continuing to act out for the sake of letting the staff use their time for more important things.
It worked. It worked wonderfully. Beyond anyone's expectations Emily started to listen. It took time, but over the rest of her freshmen year Emily grew much more respectful. She stopped writing anything provocative. She stopped getting into trouble. She stopped being The Little Rebel. No one around her really understood why, but they were grateful. She focused more on school and drastically improved her grades. The friends she used to hang out with left her alone which didn’t appear to bother her. In fact she lost interest in connecting with friends altogether. The next two years were blissfully uneventful for those who knew her. She didn’t become enjoyable to be around per say, but she no longer cost anyone their time. She took up the space she occupied, and that was it. Because Emily had been such a nuisance in the past, none of the adults in the school felt the desire to initiate a conversation. Even if it was to thank her for changing herself into a role model student. In her senior year no one in the school noticed that she had stopped talking altogether, and no one really cared either.
At the graduation ceremony, when Emily’s name was read, and a pale blue eyed woman walked solemnly across the stage, and the audience clapped politely, they all came to the striking realization that they didn’t have a clue who she was.
Jake was a happy, dark haired boy born at the turn of the century.
From the start Jake was exceptionally well mannered. He did what he was told and never put up a fight. Even as a toddler Jake kept reserved and soft spoken. After his father mentioned this in passing to a doctor it was recommended he get diagnosed with depression and put on medication.
Jake’s parents divorced when he was eight. Neither of the kids wanted to live with their dad, but Jake ultimately chose to take the bullet. That's how Jake was; he took the bullet. It wasn't out of pure kindness or moral high-ground, Jake just didn’t like to get in anyone's way. He never had much in the way of friends, even among his immediate family. He spent all the time he could locked in his room staring at his computer. On his birthday his dad would get him a cake from the supermarket with candles in the shape of his age and tell him to make a wish. His wish was the same every year:’I wish I disappeared’. In school, Jake was quiet and polite. He followed instructions acutely and got in no trouble to speak of. His parents only heard good things from his teachers and saw good grades on his report card. His dad was particularly grateful to have such a well behaved and obedient son.
One evening during the spring of fifth grade Jake attempted suicide. It was a huge shock to everyone who claimed to know him. As far as they knew Jake was a perfectly normal kid in every sense of the word. When asked what led him to want to take his own life he explained that he felt no one liked him and the world would be happier without him in it. He was given a therapist and a different medication.
Some of his teachers in middle school felt sorry for him. He was as respectful and punctual as could be. He silently did his work, ate his lunch, and went home; all with an expression of distant melancholy fixed on his face. He barely talked to anyone. When he did he was barely audible. Then and again an especially extroverted student would try striking up a conversation. Jake responded with lightheartedness and gratitude for the attention. After five minutes or so, said student would reconvene with their large group of boisterous friends feeling proud for the selfless act.
Jake would revisit the psychiatric ward several more times in the years following. He transferred schools just as frequently due to his father's vain attempts to make things different for him. Those who worked with him, both in and out of school, felt what he really needed was to express himself more freely. In the high school where he spent the later year and a half, he started to take the advice. Jake disliked the school intensely, and with his new found friends started to rebel. For the first time in his life Jake was late for classes. He put significantly less effort into his homework and grades. And he started being much more vocal about his feelings. This change in behavior prompted much worry in the school's staff. Jake had always seemed to them like a perfectly normal kid until this sudden change. He also began turning in assignments that had to be reported for troubling content. His counselor pulled him out of class on these occasions to fill out risk review sheets. His replies were stubborn and sarcastic. He was considered high risk and put on suicide watch. The staff of the school came to the conclusion that Jake was being purposefully troublesome to get attention. The principal pulled him aside to tell him to stop acting out but that only made him more rebellious. Jake’s continuing attitude made him strongly disliked by the staff and even some of the students. He didn’t seem to care, he didn’t seem to care about much of anything anymore.
When he finally graduated, and a dark haired man walked scowling across the stage, the audience clapped politely, all of them secretly thinking the same thing ‘I wish he disappeared’.
This is the end of the story. Now is the time for you to make the decision. Which of these characters will live and which will not? Think carefully, and consider what your choice might say about you.