Those Who Seem Strongest, Need Us Most: By Jen Oliak

If you’ve read my blog, you know that I belong to a small gym named Beastie 24/7 in Manhattan Beach.  I’ve been a member of the gym since last fall.  Almost every time I attended class, there was this guy there to work out.  Out of respect for his privacy, I will call him Chris.  He always had on a Beastie shirt and was so enthusiastic, people thought he was a Beastie trainer.

He was constantly high-fiving people, telling others in the gym, “good job!,” and making funny comments during class to build camaraderie.  I remember thinking, “Wow, this guys is so positive!”  He exuded an infectious, uplifting energy to all of us at the gym.

Chris took his own life a few weeks ago.

The news shocked everyone.  His family, his mentors, his friends, his Beastie family – none of us had any idea he was struggling to the point of suicide.  Since his passing, Chris has been on my mind.  I didn’t know him well, but we were Facebook and Instagram friends.

I saw he was posting about Faith and his church.

darnellaI saw he was posting about music performances in which he was taking part.


I saw he was posting about our Beastie workouts and how much inspiration he received from the trainers.

darnell f

I saw he was posting inspirational quotes for others.  There was a common theme of “Don’t give up.”

darnell g

So I was confused. What happened? The answer: LIFE. Life happened. It became too much for Chris, and he had a moment of despair which led to the loneliest decision a person can make. Where thoughts of “I don’t matter.  I will never be good enough. I can’t be anything. The world doesn’t need me,” over takes your mind and leads to a darkness you so badly want to escape.

We’ve all been there.  In varying degrees, maybe, but we’ve all felt this bottom so deep, it is hard to see light.

Cedric, one of Beastie 24/7’s two owners, was one of Chris’ mentors.  I sat down with him to talk about Chris. Cedric explained that Chris was a pure and good soul just trying to find his place in the world. Chris had texted Cedric two days before his death saying, “I have a job interview tomorrow. Please say a prayer for me. Thanks big bro. I truly appreciate everything you do for me.”

Chris had a close family, close friends and many mentors.  He was fiercely faithful to his religion and attended church every week.


He was involved in his community and frequently participated in events to help kids.

darnell i

Chris’s dream was to be an entrepreneur and he was working hard at many things to make his dreams come true.  He was working on a t-shirt line, a rap artist career, trying to launch a marketing business and wanted to be a fitness trainer at Beastie.


It was hard for him because these things were not yet taking off, despite his hard work and focus each day.  He held odd jobs to pay the bills and worked on his ventures around the clock outside of work. He lost his most recent job at a warehouse about 7 months ago but was trying to maintain his positivity by making efforts on his goals each day, getting out there, being part of his community.

He always had the attitude of, “My success is around the corner.”


The thing is, it’s hard to know how deep someone is struggling.  Sometimes the ones who seem the strongest need us the most.

We are so caught up in our own lives, it can be difficult to actively look at the world around us.  But we should.  And small ways are often the most important.

What do we do each day?  How many people do we encounter?  Can we look them in the eye and smile?  Can we say, “How are you doing today?”  Can we look past our own problems, our own family, our own friends to take notice of things that we may prefer not to see because they bring us down?  Can we give when we can?

I feel we live in a world where we are becoming more and more emotionally removed each day.  It seems our sense of community is dissipating by the minute.  It is exhibited by all the news around us. The terror, the hate crimes, the guns, the politics.  Many times, the things that tend to get the most attention are things that should be most ignored.  But what about YOUR life Your day to day life that YOU can control?

It happens so easily.  One minute someone is there, and the next, they are gone.  Maybe if someone had given Chris some positive feedback on his latest rap song that day, maybe if he had received a big t-shirt order, maybe if we as members of the gym had encouraged him to get his fitness certification. Or maybe there is nothing anyone could have done to change this outcome. There are so many maybes. And now we will never know.

I remember once after class, Chris came up to me, gave me a high five and said, “Great work today!” I said, “Thank you!”  I had been insecure about my progress and was flattered he noticed my effort.  Why didn’t I say,”You ALWAYs do a great job here, Chris!”  That’s what I was thinking.  But the words didn’t come.  And it turns out, he needed them.  We all do.  I am reminded, life is short.  It can be taken in an instant.  Try not to have regrets.

Rest in Peace, Chris.darnellz

Smile at a stranger. Ask a Question.  Be Kind.  Help when we can. 

Thank you, Cedric Jones, for shedding light on this wonderful man.

Flavor Your Life with an Ounce of Salt. A lifestyle blog by Jen Oliak.