Let's Talk LOST

“CalebisLOST” has always been my social media handle. The tv show played an important part of my life and continues to do so. In my final year of high school, I showed a clip of the character of Jack contemplating jumping from a bridge to the other students in our Psychology class. By this time, I was “quiet quitting” high school. My presentation simply consisted of marking the word DEPRESSION on a white piece of poster board and providing a mental health-related term for each letter.

The bullying was out of control at the K-8th school I attended. At home, I held a gun in my hands debating whether I should end my life. I attended a new high school only to be a victim of more harassment. My doctor placed me on medications as well as a strict Ensure diet because I was starving myself to death.

When season 3 of LOST premiered on October 4, 2006. I found the words of the character of Juliet inspirational: “It doesn’t matter who we were. It only matters who we are.” I instantly changed my “Myspace headline” to that quote which my friend Betina can verify, as she was sitting right beside me, watching as I fell in love with this newly-introduced character and even more in love with the show.

The quote was my mantra! I was more than the old school I left behind. I could be whoever I wanted in high school! But those dreams were crushed, stomped on by peers, teachers, family, and those who watched from the sidelines. It didn’t matter that I changed schools, the bullies found me anyway. I was always going to be too “girly” and the “other” kid from the mountain who found himself in a city school.

There I was, pressing play on the DVD player and inserting the disc. Standing in the library rotunda, giggles and laughter disrupted my presentation. My classmates laughed in my face while the teacher remained silent. When my presentation ended, the only question asked was “Did he jump?”

This fictional character’s well-being was more important than mine. If only they knew how many times I almost drove my car off the side of the mountain traveling to the city each day, hands gripped tightly to the steering wheel never knowing when/if I’d let go. If only they knew how many times I cried on my way to and from school, blasting music to try and drown out all the thoughts of self-harm. If only they knew the seriousness of depression and how close they came to having blood on their hands. If only they cared about the laughs and constant insults hurled my way.

Almost a year later to the very date of the LOST season 3 premiere, my best friend who still attended my previous school passed away. I physically carried her casket, the weight still with me today. The closest I would come to receiving any sort of condolences from my current high school classmates was a girl in Civics class who turned to me and said, “I heard you had a rough weekend.” She was a popular cheerleader who said no more than a few words to me although she sat in the chair directly in front of me.

I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Out of that damn elementary school. Out of that damn middle school. Out of that damn high school. Out of that damn town, that damn city. To hell with all of it!

Just like Juliet, I was stuck in this damn place, feeling more alone than ever. My only source of hope and brightness came from my younger brother. With 12 years between us, he represented the innocence I lost or maybe I was still searching for?

I needed to leave my past behind. After all, Juliet said it wasn’t who we were, but who we are. Who am I? Am I the outcast? Maybe college is full of outcasts who come together. I clawed my way out of that part of the state to get away, yet still used Juliet’s quote for my senior yearbook. You can’t outrun your past – you have to face it. But how could I face so much? Diagnosed with PTSD after my friend’s death, the mental illness lingered (I would later learn it’s here to stay). I struggled in college and engaged in high-risk behaviors such as tobacco use and promiscuity. I was already familiar with an eating disorder.

I remained connected to the character of Juliet – someone desperately wanting to go home and be with their sibling. A person stuck in an impossible situation, struggling with their mental health, and forced to live a lie in a society she didn’t want to belong to. I also wanted to be my true authentic self and to be surrounded by those who love me. I continued to remain stuck, no matter where I went.

Although Juliet’s death scarred me emotionally, her death became a symbol of life, strength, and sacrifice. If someone who suffered so much turmoil in their life could find the power to rise above while broken physically and emotionally, perhaps I could keep going.

Skip to 2017, my wedding day. Proud. Gay. Standing in the spot where Juliet once stood, stuck as an outsider. Except I was no longer an outsider. I was surrounded by love and acceptance for who I am.

Now skip forward to 2019. I’ve written “Harnessing Darkness,” a book of poetry describing my experiences suffering from suicidal ideations, panic attacks, and depression. An inspiring show kept me alive long enough to make my own art, which many have told me has inspired them.

By 2022, I’ve sat with Elizabeth Mitchell discussing my book and our lives, met most of the cast, and attended various panels and conventions over the years. Maybe dreams do come true? Maybe a circle can be completed?

It’s 2023 and Mo Ryan’s book “Burn It Down” is released, revealing the racism and sexism which took place on set and in the writer’s room of the show. I strongly and firmly denounce any racism which occurred during the creation of the show. I am more than disappointed in certain creators and I’m sickened by the racist comments.

After reading the late Mira Furlan’s book about her life experiences, I am even more disturbed by some of the acts which took place on the set of the show. I wish she was still with us to see some of those who hurt her be held accountable. Her story needs to be told, so please read her book “Love Me More Than Anything in the World.” Not only did she live an extraordinary life filled with ups and downs, she discusses her time on LOST in detail.

The tv show LOST saved my life. It’s been difficult realizing so many people were hurt from the art which saved me. My only hope is that Hollywood begins to change. LOST was a diverse show at the time and if the writers’ room doesn’t also reflect that, diverse characters will ultimately be written poorly.

Take gay people for example. Can you find any in LOST? One, you say? Tom? A guy who kidnapped a kid and casually states how he likes to “indulge” himself off-island as a heavily-implied sex worker kisses his cheek? This will be the only same-sex kiss on the show (unless you count Jack resuscitating a few male characters).

This unfortunately falls into a negative category of terrible LGBT representation. It falls right into the hands of people who believe gay people are the same as pedophiles. It falls right into the hands of people who think being gay is “all about sex.” Hell, Tom even pops a grape in his mouth in a hedonistic fashion! Not only was LOST extremely lacking in LGBT representation, it can also fall into harmful territory in which stereotypes run amuck, helping prop up bigotry. Those who do not identify as LGBT may not even recognize this flaw with the show. I also wonder how many members of the LGBT community were part of the writers’ room…

Please research how minorities have been portrayed in the media throughout the years.

The most beautiful piece of art to me is LOST. So much blood, sweat, and tears went into the making of this show. Thousands of people worked on the show and to toss the entirety of the show out is to not recognize the efforts of the creatives who did not participate in bigotry or bullying. While some suffered greatly while working on the show, I hope they know that if they had any part in the making of LOST, they helped save me.

To those who were hurt while working on the show, I am sorry you experienced any harm. To Harold Perrineau, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and any others who were mistreated on set or behind closed doors, I wish you so much success in your future endeavors. To Harold specifically – thank you for being so kind to Luke and I when we met you and thank you for not being afraid to share your experience. We must tell our stories!

LOST will always be ingrained in my soul, despite its many flaws. It ultimately saved my life and one of the most important and meaningful insights of the show is if we can’t Live together, we’re going to Die alone. LOST teaches us so many lessons. I hope those who did harm to others working on the show have learned their lesson, do all they can to help those they hurt, and make changes moving forward.

I firmly believe people can change. Growth can happen. Art can change lives. While the show will always have flaws, it has moments of true depth and love which we can all continue to appreciate.

To all affiliated with LOST who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, I’m truly grateful to know you in any capacity. I’ve made wonderful, countless friendships due to the show. LOSTies are incredible and I know hearing about this horrendous behavior has left many stunned.

I’m thankful for the journalism which brought much of this to light. If you’re truly a fan of the show, you’ll acknowledge EVERY part. The successes. The failures. While LOST may have taught us there isn’t necessarily a “good” or “bad” person, we are all capable of making good or bad choices and treating people poorly.

LOST remains a beautiful piece of art to me, but I will never ignore the flaws portrayed both onscreen and behind-the-camera. To love something is to know it fully, the good and the bad - to accept it, rectify it if you can, and change your behavior moving forward.

As a writer myself, I’m well aware of “The Death of the Author.” This is OUR SHOW we can still love and find meaning in, while at the same time acknowledging the shortcomings. We can still remain LOST.

Sending love to my fellow LOSTies, especially those who have been so kind to me over the years!

Recently I had the chance to speak with other LOSTies to discuss this important issue. You can see the video here.

You can find Mira Furlan’s book here or here. You can find Mo Ryan’s book here. You can find my book here.

Contact your local bookstores as well!