Strip away the Xanax, the posh Manhattan nightlife, and the international lifestyle and the blog entries from hard-partying 17-year-old Nicole John could be my own.
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Nicole John was the teenaged daughter of Eric John, U.S. diplomat and ambassador to Thailand. She just graduated from high school in Bangkok and was an incoming freshman at Parsons The New School for Design.
On Friday night, after partying at a fancy Manhattan nightclub, Nicole fell 22 stories to her death from a house party in a midtown high-rise on W. 34th Street.
It is believed that the teen slipped from the ledge while intoxicated and trying to take a photograph.
This story is devastating to read. Horrifying. A beautiful young life cut short too soon. The part that really gets me, though, is how much her blog entries sound just like the diary entries of my youth.
The entries on Nicole's blog would probably go unnoticed or unremarked had her angsty party girl lifestyle not ended in such a tragic death.
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Here are a few of her entries about the drinking as quoted in the NY Daily News:
- "Whaaaaaat a f----n' EPIC weekend. Intoxication for about 40 hours straight" she wrote two weeks ago.
- "Vodka/redbulls + long island ice teas + ambiens + xanax = om nom nom (delicious)," she wrote in May.
- "Friday night went to a house party and played beer pong, etc., got shwasted/cross-faded . . ."
- "Saturdayyy went clubbing which was awesome getting VIP treatment, up until the part where I'm trying to hail a cab at 3 am, really really drunk." She describes getting robbed by three people who stole her iPhone and spending the next two hours with cops trying to "figure out where the house was."
And then there was the angst:
"If I had the choice right now, I wouldn't take the next breath," John wrote in May. "The people I care about most find it so easy to leave me ... I'm hurt so deep that I no longer see the purpose."
And the Xanax:
"So I was down in the slumps, in the pits. But now I popped two Xanax's so I'm goooooood to go," she wrote three months ago. "Three cheers for medication!"
And sometimes there was a mix of it all:
"For future reference: Xanax and vodka do not mix," she wrote.
The NY Daily News describes Nicole as a "deep thinker and talented writer." Not just a brain dead party girl, she wrote about her love of art, reading, photography, drawing and film. She quoted poet Sylvia Plath and philosopher Thomas Hobbes. In a frightening foreshadowing of her death, John quoted Kurt Vonnegut:
"I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over," she posted on her blog. "Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center."
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I read these entries and I let out a big sigh -- a big sigh for the twisted turns of my own life -- and then I hold my breath for my own children. The diaries of my late teens and early 20s read much like Nicole's, chronicling the insane drinking, the intense angst, and hours and hours of excruciatingly deep thinking, trying to figure out who I was, why I did the things I did, what got me through.
And I read Nicole's tragic story and I wonder, what did get me through? How did I get so lucky? I may not have crawled out on a ledge, but in between reading and writing, I overdosed on alcohol, drove intoxicated, walked downtown at night barely able to function, and drunk-walked through many risky scenarios. But I did not die. I did not fall from my own proverbial ledge. I went onto drink to excess for many more years and wrote an entire thesis of fiction about drunk girls in graduate school before I finally quit drinking -- when it finally became clear to me that alcohol was causing the angst not relieving it.
Stories like Nicole's hit home for me. Because I relate so closely still to that particular teen experience and because these stories scare the hell out me, having walked a similar path and come out alive.
And now, on the other side -- as a parent of someday teens -- I tear and dig at the memories and the diary entries and I wonder what it is that makes ledge walking so attractive to some kids. Is there something that could have helped me? Is there something different my parents could have given me to fill the hole? Is there something they could have seen in me? Will I be able to see it in my kids? Will I be able to help them even if I do see it? Will they accept my help?
Or are some of us just destined to walk that ledge all alone in the dark of night while the party's going on inside -- and the fact that we fall or we don't fall, out of our hands?
I send my deepest condolences to the John family.
Have you found a way to turn your faulty past into something positive for your kids as a parent?