Symbolism is a concept that has been around for a long time, probably since the beginning of civilization. It constitutes an entire thought process that we develop in our minds in order to find meaning and purpose in the things that surround us, whether they are material or not. The idea behind symbolism is to attribute a specific story or thought to something or someone in order to remind ourselves of who we are, what we believe in, what we do not wish to forget. Take a look around you and focus on your surroundings. Do you wear that bracelet just for the aesthetics? Or does it hold a special place in your heart? What was the story behind that last tattoo you got done? Why do you sometimes tear up when you listen to that particular song, although it is not a sad one? What goes through your mind whenever you stop and think about all those things you wear on your body and your soul like an extra identity piece? Like something that only makes sense to you?
Symbolism allows us to make sense of the experiences we undergo, the emotions we feel inside, and the ideas we want to give life to. By giving life, I am talking about giving form to this idea, a substantial way of understanding it. Having symbols in our lives constitutes an internal compass in order to navigate through this life. One recent symbol I added to my life recently is linked to the two wallpapers on my phone: my lock screen shows the drawing of a wolf howling out in the cold, and my home screen is a picture of Swedish DJ Avicii during a music festival, with the words “Wake Me Up” written at the top of the picture as a reference to one of his greatest hits. As weird as this may appear at first, the two wallpapers are actually connected to the same topic.
Avicii is an artist who took his own life on April 20, 2018. Although his music inspired an entire generation of music lovers, dancers and singers, it is only now that we are able to understand the cry for help that he was sending out in the lyrics of those songs. They just appeared perfectly dressed with entertaining music and written in a subtle way that it was complicated to understand the true meaning behind them. His death came as a shock to the music as he always appeared to be laughing and being full of life, despite having taken a break in the middle of his career in order to take care of himself. Once again, his music inspired and gave hope to millions of people around the world, including me. His music got me through some challenging times and was my best buddy when it came to travelling and encouraging me to create new memories with the people around me. He hid his depression from the cameras so as not to appear weak. Even his family knew nothing about his struggles. You might ask me: If he was hurting so much and was calling for help through his songs, why didn’t he talk to anyone and ask for direct support? This is where the drawing of the wolf comes in.
I have always admired wolves. Gracious animals, they always appeared in a position of strength and wisdom. Whether they found their strength in the pack they were protecting or from the endeavours they had to undergo in order to make it to where they needed to be, a wolf always had to be strong for himself as well as for the ones looking up to them. However, the most amazing relationship I ever witnessed on this Earth is the one a wolf has with the Moon. At night, when no one is looking and the entire pack is asleep, the alpha wolves of each pack would come out at night, to find a spot where their view of the Moon could not be obstructed. At that moment, a series of howls would rise towards that gigantic white ball suspended in the middle of that ink-black sky with snowflakes. Although experts have found no connection between the howling of wolves and the Moon, there is a poetic interpretation of this phenomenon that says the following:
“Maybe the wolf is in love with the moon, and each month, it cries for a love it will never touch.”
November is a particular month of the year when it comes to symbolism. Different months of the year have different interpretations when it comes to social causes. February is known for being Black History Month (which also happens to be Pride History Month), whereas March is known for being Women’s History Month. In the case of November, the month is often associated with mental health awareness for men, more commonly known as Movember. The purpose of this annual event is for men to only grow a mustache to raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s suicide. Although June is the month usually associated with men’s health, November 19 is the date connected with International Men’s Day. A date that does not seem to get the same amount of trendy traffic online than other topics.
We each have a social cause we truly care about. It is part of who we are and it gives us a sense of purpose. Something to fight for. However, it is vital to remember who we are fighting for, rather than what. Understand that this has nothing to do with belittling any social cause out there. They are all equally important relatively to the people who feel concerned about them. The point I am trying to make is connected to the struggles men like Avicii and so many others have to endure in order to “be a man”.
When the suicide rate for men is three times higher than it is for women, when the second leading cause of death for men aged between 10 and 44 in the United States in 2019 is from suicide (the highest age-specific suicide rate concerns men aged between 45 and 64), the rates have increased by , when the average man lives six years less than the average woman, should this not raise an eyebrow? When boys are constantly told that men do not cry, when they are constantly told that they suppress their feelings and not show them, and whenever they do those words are then used against them in future conversations and arguments, should this not worry us?
“I am a man and no less of a man for admitting ‘I’m not okay’ and for openly talking about the constant struggle and battle I face with myself every single day.”
– Joe Plumb
We each have a social cause we deeply care about and fight for. I found mine a long time ago. With no intention of getting paid, I am just doing what is right.
My battle is for mental health and depression. This battle kills me inside and tears me to shreds every night. However, the greater crime is that no one wants to acknowledge it. We have astronomical advances on so many other causes – even if we still have a long way to go – the same cannot be said about mental health and depression. It is okay to ask for help. We are all human beings in the end.
At the end of the day, I want to sing. I want to shout. I want to scream it all out until my voice breaks. I am not fighting for me. I am fighting for all those who struggle to talk. I am fighting for all those who have their voices killed because the society around them does not want to deal with the hard stuff. Because it cannot deal with dark subjects.
If you’re reading this and need to talk, reach out to me. I cannot promise to understand everything you are going through, but I will sit down and listen for as long as you want me to.
Do not let your pride come in the way of you asking for help.
You are still a wolf, and always will be one.
You’re not alone.