Don’t Give Up.

UPDATE: For those who knew Jeff, there’s apparently a gathering scheduled for this coming Saturday, July 12th, to celebrate the man, his life, and the ways in which he impacted other people’s lives.

Heard some sad, sad news via the Houston music grapevine (i.e., Facebook) today, and now I feel compelled to at least try to say something, in my own fumbling way. Bear with me, if you could…

Back in May, at the supremely fun Madness on Main Street music festival, I was sitting and watching Sand Dollar Swing play their set at the patio of The Pachinko Hut. The duo segued into a gentle, bluesy waltz and encouraged people to dance, so a handful of folks did; most danced with other people, but one brave soul, a wide-smiling man with a magnificent, Snidely Whiplash-esque mustache, went solo, slow-dancing with an invisible dance partner only he could see. It was simultaneously funny and sweet, and I applauded that guy for getting out there and not caring at all that people might give him weird looks.

His name, it turns out, was Jeff Hunter, and apparently he’s now taken his own life.

I never knew Jeff; I’d seen him at various shows, and remembered him for the mustache and the grin, but we never actually met. He was a DJ for the LocalLiveHouston.com online radio station, and he worked hard to help out a lot of local bands, people who might not have gotten the support elsewhere in our city. From everything I’ve heard about him, he was a genuinely good, kind, caring person, somebody who acted as a mentor for younger folks around him. He did a lot of good for the music scene here and for Houston as a whole, and now he’s gone.

I don’t have any idea what was going through Jeff’s mind that caused him to take this very-final step — I certainly would not presume to know what issues he was struggling with. I do know, however, how it feels to get to that point, and how seemingly little things can build and build and build until they break you down, and you feel like there’s no way out.

I’ve been in those shoes. I was bullied for a far chunk of my childhood; always a little weird, very socially awkward, etc., and a pretty prime target for people who make themselves feel better by picking on others. At multiple points in my life, I’ve come very close — closer than anybody even in my own family realizes, I’d bet — to committing suicide. It seemed like there was no way things would get any better, and just giving up felt like it was really the best option.

Obviously, I didn’t do it. I’d like to be able to claim that I somehow found some reserve of inner strength or something, but that wasn’t it. It was a combination of being scared of what might or might not happen after and a sick feeling when I thought about how my parents would react to what I’d done. Weirdly, the pre-emptive guilt I felt at the thought of my mom crying probably saved my life. But it wasn’t some man-up, be-tough thing, not at all; it was luck and fear, period.

So I don’t have a solution to feeling the way I felt back then, or the way Jeff may have felt before he took his own life. I’m not sure there is a solution to pain and loneliness and despair; it’s part of what makes us human.

All I can say, really, is something that feels trite and stupid but which is ineffably true: things will get better. They really will, if you can hang in there. You can’t know what’s truly around the corner, and if you end your life, you’ll never know, never be able to see what might’ve been.

Looking back to when I considered suicide, my life now is nothing like I thought it would be, good or bad. I never could’ve imagined the twists and turns that have taken me to where I am, with a wonderful wife and two amazing kids, a day job where I get to work with great people and get paid to basically do the things I used to do for fun on my own, lots of adventures in different parts of the world that I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to visit, and the chance to do stuff here at SCR, where I spend my non-fam free time swimming in a giant sea of (mostly) excellent music and then writing about it. My life now definitely isn’t what middle school or high school or even college me expected it would be; it’s better.

Again, I never got to meet Jeff. I wish I had. I wish he’d had somebody who could’ve changed his mind, stopped him from making such a terrible, terrible decision for what were most likely fixable, temporary reasons. My dad used to say that suicide was a permanent solution to a temporary problem; at the time, I rolled my eyes, but the older I get, the more I understand why he said it. I wish I could’ve told Jeff that very thing, and made him get what I meant by it.

Unfortunately, now it’s too late. And hell, maybe even somebody telling Jeff that things would get better wouldn’t have made a difference; I don’t know. I still think it would’ve been worth trying, though, even still.

It’s been pointed out to me by somebody else who’s intimately involved in the Houston music scene (but whose name I’ll leave out of this, in case they don’t want it up here) that this has been happening a lot lately. This past year has been a bad one, with several people committing suicide, and that’s an extremely worrying thing.

So, I’d like to address anybody and everybody out there, just in case they happen to be reading this: if you’re thinking about committing suicide, please, don’t. There are people out here who care about you, believe it or not, even if we may not have ever met you. Talk to someone in your life about it — friends, family, school counselors, your boss — and you’ll see that they care about you, too, and they don’t want you to leave this life we all share.

Because we’re really-and-truly all in this together, alright? I know it might seem bad right now, and you may not see a way out, but trust me when I say that there is one, and that if you hold up your hand, somebody will take it, somehow. Heck, I will; email me (“gaijin” at “spacecityrock dot com”) or comment right here below, and I’ll listen and help out in any way I can. Doesn’t even matter if we’ve never met.

My main point in all this, I guess, is this: don’t give up. Please. Stay with us, and it’ll get better, trust me, although maybe not in any way you could’ve anticipated.

That’s all I’ve got. Apologies for the rambling, and my sincere condolences to the friends and family not only of Jeff Hunter but also of Alice Alsup and of everybody else we’ve lost these past couple of years. Take care, everybody.


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8 Responses to “Don’t Give Up.”

  1. Bruce on July 3rd, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Well said Jeremy….hope your post saves a life or many.

  2. Jason Smith on July 3rd, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Thanks for writing this, Jeremy. It needs to be said again and again.

  3. Sheryl on July 3rd, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    What saved me: irony. I thought, what if tomorrow it got better? Wouldn’t that be my freakin’ luck. So I took it (pardon the cliche) one day at a time. “Tomorrow might be better. Just make it to tomorrow.” It took more tomorrows than I would have liked, but it got better, a lot better, and just as you said, in ways I wouldn’t have expected.

  4. Saying goodbye to a friend and colleague. | Jason Wilson | Bulletins on July 9th, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    […] in our small company and in the larger Houston cycling, arts, and music communities. 1 Because Jeff chose his exit from this world, losing him has affected so many of us profoundly. I loved Jeff dearly, and I know […]

  5. David Schultz on July 11th, 2014 at 9:38 am

    I knew and worked with Jeff for over 16 years, and we’re all devastated about this. What I’ve learned through grief counseling is that we shouldn’t be afraid to openly talk about suicide (the counselor compared the stigma to how AIDS used to be viewed). So thank you for having the courage to write this. And if anyone needs help, call Crisis Intervention of Houston at 713-HOTLINE.

  6. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Jeff Fest + Silver Snakes + Omotai + Clouseaux + The Coathangers + Peter Matthew Bauer + Guess Genes + Sphynx + More on July 25th, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    […] @ Avant Garden (5PM-2AM) Unfortunately, tonight starts on a bit of a tragic note. As we talked about a few weeks back, local radio show host and music scenesters Jeff Hunter committed suicide earlier this month. I […]

  7. Ami on July 28th, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Very touching tribute. I work in the music industry (mainstream country while I lived in Nashville) and the song “Moments,” by Emerson Drive is about suicide. DON’T be scared away by the genre, listen to the words and the story. The tragedy is this, shortly after the song went #1, one of the band members took his own life making its message all the more important and significant for family, friends and fans. You never truly know what might be going on with someone else and ,the advice given above – in the article and the comments, is spot on. It only takes 10 seconds to call a hotline, any hotline — 713-HOTLINE!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQ3-PHktE34

  8. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yes, Indeed! 2014, This Saturday (Rundown, Pt. 1): RIVERS + Keeton Coffman + Belvoir + Megafauna + Ma & God + Sphynx + Sand Dollar Swing + Cassette Tape + A.J. Vincent + England in 1819 on September 12th, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    […] solo, holding an invisible partner in his arms, turned out later on to be a guy named Jeff Hunter, who took his own life a couple of months later, but at the time, everybody was happy, and smiling, and bumping along with the music. Looking back, […]

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