Warning: this profile discusses sensitive topics including suicidal ideation and mental health. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please call 1-833-456-4566 (French and English) or click here for more resources.
Just because you haven’t graduated from school doesn’t mean you can’t start start fulfilling your dreams, and Bria is the perfect example of this. Even before finishing her education at York, she’s already finding success as a writer for not one, not two but five online magazines! The author of the viral “Suicidal People Don’t Want to Die, They Just Want the Pain to Stop”, Bria takes her life experiences to humanize and destigmatize mental health and other topics. This week, we had the chance to speak with her about everything from how to smile on rough days to theoretical brunch!
Name: Bria Barrows
Major: Professional Writing, Honours Specialized BA
Year of study: 4th
Hometown: Toronto, Canada
Favorite quote: Isaiah 43:2 , “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”
Where can we find your writing?
Thought Catalog: https://thoughtcatalog.com/bria-barrows/
Faze Magazine: http://faze.ca/team/bria-barrows/
Where do you draw inspiration for your articles?
My articles are mostly based on my own life experiences, or I will see what is trending in the media and what others have wrote and will expand on that idea from there. I write based on my own life, however, because I find it is more relatable and authentic. Authenticity usually draws an audience. People want to hear something that they can say, “Yes, I have been through that and I’m not alone.”
What was your favorite article to write?
I had an article picked up by a mental health site called The Mighty, but I originally published it through Thought Catalog, which I am a frequent contributor of. It has since generated over 4,000 shares and has 138,000 likes. I never expected the article to go viral at all. I wrote it during a very scary time in my life, last summer of 2017, when I had a very debilitating depressive episode. I experienced suicidal thoughts for most of this time and I wrote this literally in the throes of it. This is my favourite article because I am discussing something that is so taboo yet experienced by so many people, young and old. A friend tagged me into the post and I just saw loads and loads of people commenting and thanking me because they could relate to what I wrote. As someone who literally thought I would never make it through that time and the other times in my life where I was plagued by depressive thoughts, it makes me happy to know that my pain had a purpose.
It can be read here.
What is your favorite part of writing?
Sharing real, authentic pieces of my life that others can relate to. The internet is full of so much fakeness. It is so great that people can come home after an overwhelming day and see an article that can lift their spirits. I also love the growth that comes with writing. DO NOT BE FOOLED. LOL. I have not been a published writer for long. I literally never knew what a blog was until like 2014 and I spent years doubting if I could even write because this is such a competitive field. Many, many, times I thought that I couldn’t do this. Some days, I still do. I don’t think as a writer that really ever goes away. It comes with the territory. However, finally succeeding a writer means so much to me. I started off with just a little blogspot that no one read, to a WordPress that maybe a couple read, to contributing to Thought Catalog after being found by them. So there is hope! Writing is an amazing tool to just let everything off of your chest and heal through your words.
What do you love most about York?
I honestly wish I could be more involved (working on it) so I can speak on the clubs aspects of university, but I love that York is so down to earth. For the most part, people are friendly. There are also so many places on campus to just chill and eat with your friends or grab a coffee and study. My go-to place right now is Aroma Espresso on the Pond Road. So cute and cozy! The coffee and treats are also amazing.
Who do you look up to the most?
I look up to people who have a dream/goal and make it happen. Like if they say they want to write a book, it’s not just talk, but a dream they make a reality. So many of us are driven by fear. We want the stage, we want to write books, we have dreams, but we never go after it because we are afraid. Afraid of what people will think, afraid we are going to fail, etc etc. We only have ONE life to make our dreams a reality. I am truly marveled by those who take a risk and live their best life.
What makes you smile on difficult days?
As I mentioned before, I have suffered from depression, specifically since I was 18 years old. So I know really sh*tty days; days where life doesn’t seem worth living. Now that I have found happiness, I am inspired by simple things. The taste of fresh coffee, a conversation or hug from my boyfriend, a good meal, time with family and friends, or just a walk through the park away from it all. These are the times where I am reminded of what really matters in this life and that in the grand scheme of things, the things we fuss about are meaningless. So if I can just have just one of these moments on a difficult day, it gives me hope that life will get better.
If you could have brunch with anyone — living or dead, real or fictional — who would it be?
I am inspired by people who have made things happen and succeed against the odds. People who aim to elevate their mindset. I absolutely think having an hour with Oprah Winfrey would change my life. Her journey as a woman — a black one at that — and her views on success, growth and life, are incredible. I would love for her to speak to me about what motivates her, her spiritual views and how she tackles obstacles. She’s incredible.
What can we look forward to in your future?
I have always been a writer, even before I knew it. I failed grade nine math, struggled with tutors and I wasn’t a science kid. But writing has always been my strength. So you will definitely see me writing! I’m going to apply for an internship under Rogers Media when I graduate to I can write for Flare magazine. I just want to write and share my stories with others, as well as interview people for features. The human experience is amazing and I want my writing to show that. I also plan to speak in schools about my experiences with mental health (depression) and I want to write a millennial book that is aimed at 20 somethings. Growing up is tough. It was a very tough transition for me. I want someone out there to have some sort of guide while they go through this stage.
If you could give any advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?
I have so much advice to give!! If I could give any aspiring writer advice, it would be to BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. Study how to start your journey: whether that means learning how to start a blog, studying other writers, researching what blogs are out there, etc. and go from there. If this is something you truly want to do, place it in your heart that no matter how many times you fail, what obstacles have come your way, what people said you can and cannot do and write, you can do anything you put your mind to. In this field, you may not be good at everything and it is very easy to compare and feel defeated. However, there is an arena for everyone. You might not be an editor, but you can be the content creator.
Don’t compare your writing to anyone else’s because what you can do cannot be replicated by anyone else. Your journey is simply unique. Contrary to the belief that this field has “no jobs”, there are plenty and you just have to look. A lot of writers ask me how I got into blogging. I got into it through a friend who is an author and professional writer. She couldn’t believe I didn’t have knowledge of any blog sites. Since then, I have researched so many and am currently trying to get my work into Canadian magazines. If you want to pursue this, you have to hustle and ask for what you want. Pitch your work to editors. If they reject you, keep trying. You might be an amazing writer, but no one is going to offer you a job just like that. You have to seek out resources and work for it. Lastly, in the beginning, you may be a SERIOUS novice. Like no blog, no followers, limited knowledge on the field and you may want to give up. Don’t. It’s a part of the journey. Keep going until you make it.
If you think you’re too young or too inexperienced to start writing or whatever your dreams may be, Bria is the best exemplar of why that’s wrong, for success knows no boundaries nor limits. We can’t wait to see what new articles she writes and what magazines she’ll pop in next!
All photos by Bria Barrows.