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Good Charlotte’s "Hold On"
1st Place $50

Author’s name withheld

Every 18 minutes another teen dies from suicide. How do I know this? I was a lucky survivor. The song "Hold On" by Good Charlotte was released almost a year prior to my overdose attempt. People say that something as simple as a song cannot help with problems. Well, it can.

When I was lying in that hospital bed, "Hold On" came on the radio in the nurse’s station. It made me realize that I am not the only one who has problems. Suicide is not the answer. Everyone has problems. No one is alone in this world. No matter how lonely you are, there is someone there for you. Now I have come to see that life changes dramatically as you grow. When you are alone, days seem so long and there are many sleepless nights, but society won’t realize what you are going through unless you let them. You can get fed up with life and not want to go any further. If you stop looking, you’ll never know what’s out there waiting for you. I was lonely, in pain and just simply tired of all of the drama. Every step I took, I wished it could be the end. People were so cold and heartless. People didn’t even realize that I was there. Sometimes I thought I was dead already. I had to bleed just to know I was alive.

Now I am scarred for life with the memories of my bad experiences with razors and pills, which never should have happened. I now feel that I should have been stronger and held on to the good things. I just couldn’t bear the pain. Nobody understood what I was going through. When I got around people who committed the same act that I had, I knew then that I wasn’t alone.

Since that night lying in that hospital bed three months ago, I have not self-mutilated or attempted any type of self-induced pain because of that one song telling people like me to hold on. The lyrics so small have a meaning greater than any. The one line that mainly made me think was when it said that everyone bleeds the same way I do. For me that meant that I am not alone. And when it asked what am I looking for, I realized that my problem was that I had no goals, only negative thoughts. So the next time I feel sad or lonely, I will pop Good Charlotte into my stereo and get reminded that suicide is not the answer, and I am not alone.

Tupac’s "Dear Mama"
2nd Place $30

By Mario Valadez, Aliso HS

If I had to choose a theme song that fits me, it would be "Dear Mama," written by Tupac Shakur, a.k.a. 2Pac. This song relates to my life and the suffering that my sister and I went through with my mother. I connect to this song because it talks about how Tupac and his sister went through a rough life without a dad. Likewise, we also suffered growing up without a dad.

Many things have happened in my life to cause me to relate to this. When I was just 12 years old I liked to hang out with the gangsters from 18th Street. I would get into a lot of trouble just hanging out with them. I got myself in jail just because I listened to the homies. The homies gave me a 22-mm handgun and I took it to school. I got caught and the cops arrested me. I got sentenced to one year in juvenile penitentiary. While I was in jail, my mother came by to visit me and I always hugged her through a barrier of my own making—the "bars of my jail cell."

Tupac’s lyrics affected my life because he rapped about things that were true to me. Tupac doesn’t lie or make up his lyrics like 85 percent of the rappers out there today. Tupac raps, "I reminisced on tha stress I caused, it wuz hell/ hugg’en on my mama from a jail cell/ and who’ed think in elementary, heeey I’d see tha penitentiary." I remember the day that my mom caught me running from the police. She made me go in the house, and as soon as I went in she came to my room. She laid on such a whooping on my backside, you’d have thought I would have learned my lesson. But I guess I’m not the only one because Tupac goes on to rap, "One day running from tha police, that’s right momma catch me—put a whoop’en to my backside."

I still remember the day that my mother and I got into a big argument. I was calling her names that I’m ashamed to say now, "Bi***," and the one that really hurts a mother, "Sl**." I walked angrily out of the house. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t easy for my mom to turn me into a man. Tupac’s song says, "I finally understood for a woman it ain’t easy—trying to raise a man/ ya always wuz committed, a poor single mother on welfare, tell me how you did it."

My mom and my sister always had a bad life and it wasn’t because my mom didn’t care. It was because my mom was struggling to raise two children on her own. Now I know that her life wasn’t easy and sometimes life just isn’t easy for anyone; but excuses were easy. It was hard to learn when I kept getting locked up for doing what I wasn’t supposed to be doing.

As Tupac said to his mother and I will say the same to mine, "There’s no way I can pay you back, but my plan is to show you that I understand, you are appreciated."

"Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor

3rd Place $20

By Tommy H-Edwards, Aliso HS

It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight, rising up to the challenge of our rival." "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor is my theme song. I think this song represents some of the struggles that I have had to go through in the last couple of months. It reminds me that I need to keep going if I want to succeed and make something of myself in the future.

In the last couple of months I have had to pay all the bills—excluding the rent. This is hard when you are still going to school and have to take an hour-long bus ride to and from work. It is also hard because my mom has not gone to work for almost two months and we are getting evicted. This song tells me that I need to keep my head up and keep striving for excellence. If I do that, I will accomplish my goals.

There are two lines in the song that I feel have the most in common with my situation. The first is, "You must fight just to keep them alive." This line I believe is symbolic of my current plight. Since I am paying all the bills and my mom isn’t going to work, I am struggling to keep going and not get burned out on both work and school. If I were to get burned out on school, I would most likely drop out and just work all the time to keep myself from becoming homeless. If I got burned out with work, I would finish school and then just become very lazy and play video games all day at my dad’s house. If both happened, then I would be screwed. I would have to go live with some relatives in Las Vegas.

The line, "Hanging tough, stayin’ hungry" is just another way of saying that I have the hunger/craving to be great at what I do. If I wasn’t hungry for life and what this world has to offer, then I would just roll over and die. The words "hangin’ tough" remind me that I have the determination to go on, even in these trying times. "Just a man and his will to survive" is a line that characterizes me in full. I believe that I have the will to survive whatever life has to throw at me. I believe that I have proven to myself time and time again in the last couple of months that I have what it takes to survive. Though I have done my share of complaining about what has happened, I have never refused to do what is asked of me unless I am unable to do it. Working a part-time job four days a week, barely being able to pay bills, and not having any money for myself is really hard on a teenager. The whole reason most teenagers get jobs is so they can have money to do things with their friends. I don’t think most teenagers would be able to cope with what I have to deal with.

The line, "They stack the odds, still we take to the street," is a reminder to myself that I will go on and continue to live. I will not give up and go gentle into the night. I have "the eye of the tiger."

Readers’ favorite songs

1. "The Way I Am" by Eminem (9)
2. "Dear Mama" by Tupac Shakur (7)
3. "Survivor" by Destiny’s Child (7)
4. "Goodies" by Ciara (5)
5. "Perfect" by Simple Plan (4)
6. "Shadow" by Ashlee Simpson (3)
7. "Numb" by Linkin Park (3)
8. "Hero" by Mariah Carey (3)