Choose an issue of importance to you—the issue could be personal, school related, local, political, or international in scope—and write an essay in which you explain the significance of that issue to yourself, your family, your community, or your generation.

It’s been a while since I curled up in my closet and carefully pried open the lid of my Blue Box: 5 X-Acto knives with 10 interchangeable blades and an array of 5 different handles. A cutter’s dream. Mom would always warn me when I borrowed that Box, for an art project or some school presentation or for cutting out magazine pictures to paste on my bedroom wall – “Be careful, they’re sharp.” A wry smile comes to mind. Proceed to art project/ school presentation/ magazine cut-outs, sitting cross-legged on carpeted bedroom floor and complete art project/ school presentation/ magazine cutouts. Then retreat to closet for some acquaintance time with blade of choice, a continuation of personal art project. You know it goes: the sharp tip my pencil; my forearms the canvas; my heavy, thudding heartbeat the studio music. This issue of self-harm, or self-mutilation as others call it (which brings to my mind gruesome situations like deliberate amputation of a limb, or someone actually taking the initiative to visit the dentist) seems so touchy and uncomfortable in general public discussion (probably because it is). But escape to that almighty, all-knowing haven of infinite knowledge and the like-minded anonymous, the World Wide Web. There you’ll find company, scores of strangers with similar experiences and perspectives, welcoming and all too willing to share. What’s the difference? The general public in “real life” comprises part of the same general population on the internet, with about two billion other human beings. And yet, when conversations in “real life” inadvertently meander towards the subject of self-harm, one or more of the three reactions seem to occur: a lapse into somber, morose stillness, as if there is an unspoken agreement to a moment of silence for our fallen brethren, nobody we know personally; awkward, uncomfortable laughter in which someone clears their throat and tactfully switches the topic; or rude jokes are made – because everybody who cuts is pathetic and on the edge of suicide, right?I know that my generation is one that hurts, in more ways than what is merely etched into our skin, on our hearts, our minds. The stigma and stereotype of those who cut connotes hidden shame and scorn as much as emaciated figures and sunken cheeks. As I see society whispering about their hush-hush secrets, or not revealing them at all, I fight the initial instinct to withdraw as well, hearing that inner voice that tells me I am still that pathetic, on-the-edge-of-suicide girl that I was six years ago. I’m clearly not. Yes, I have scars. Yes, I survived. I have been broken down, deconstructed and haphazardly pieced back together with a certain relief, while others are still out there on their knees, stubbornly and deliberately pushing away their own pieces. I wish mine was the voice to defend the unspoken, those whose painful silence masks shameful secrets. Yet I remain silent. I listen, I make noises of sympathy and support, yet my eyes are full with love and understanding: that great love that gets me by in those awkward moments when a truth so ugly and rampant is revealed: that I am Human, flawed and fallible. Fallen and falling. Perhaps this is the truth that seems to shut everybody up mid-conversation.

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