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Before I Leave: Senior Isaac Hou shares a story to inspire and show people that they’re not alone

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When he’s in front of an audience and the music starts playing, senior Isaac Hou’s mind blacks out. As the music plays, the moves come to him—a testament to the hours he’s practiced since his freshman year. He acts out the song, personifying its lyrics and message with his smooth, explosive moves. And when the audience reacts, a subtle smile forms on his face. He feeds off of their energy. For him, this is the best part about dancing: performing. Connecting with the audience. Telling a story.

“When I dance, I like moving the audience,” Hou said. “What I want my dancing to say about me is that I’m a really positive and happy person when I dance. It’s my passion.”

Hou began dancing his freshman year, taking inspiration from dancers he watched on YouTube: Keone Madrid, Chris Martin, Vinh Nguyen, Anthony Lee, Mike Song and more. He then practiced until he was comfortable developing his own style, freestyling and choreographing something of his own to share with other people.

I wanted to be unique and be myself.”

— Isaac Hou

“I never wanted to look like another dancer or be another dancer,” Hou said. “I wanted to be unique and be myself.”

Dancing also became therapeutic for Hou, as it was a way for him to express himself by embodying music through movement.

“Dancing helps me calm my mind a lot,” Hou said. “When I started dancing, the whole purpose of it was to express myself and my emotions because I was never good with words. I like creating stories when I dance.”

Through his dance performances, Hou has told numerous stories. But there’s one more story Hou wants to tell. One he hopes will open minds. Inspire others to be kind. And most importantly, show people that they are not alone. For the past few months, he’s been working on a short dance film inspired by some of his most difficult life experiences — suicidal thoughts, heartbreak, drugs — in hopes of impacting the community and bringing awareness to mental health. The short film is titled “Before I Leave.”

“I understand what it feels like to be lonely,” Hou said. “I understand what it feels like to not feel anything, to want to just feel something. I understand what it feels like to view life as worthless and that you don’t have any time left.” 

Since he was young, Hou felt neglected, alone and misunderstood. He felt as if his parents cared about his grades but not his well being. And when he was nine, his best friend, his biggest inspiration — someone who was like a brother to him — passed away from cancer. At the same time, he was neglected and forced to raise himself, because his mother was in the hospital most of the time.

“I felt like there was nothing for me in life,” Hou said. “I hated everybody. I thought the world was against me. I had a bad temper all the time and lashed out at every single thing. I wasn’t the best person. I felt that there was no love or care in the world.”

In high school, Hou began using drugs at parties to help him forget about the pain. He first began smoking cigarettes and weed, but as he became more depressed, he began using harder drugs.

“I didn’t give a f*ck about my life,” Hou said. “I harmed myself to forget about things. Forget about pain. Forget about loneliness. Forget about stress. Drugs made me more depressed. They made me rely on something. They only temporarily filled the hole inside me.”

Hou knew that when people found out he did drugs, they viewed him differently. From the way people looked at him, he also knew that he was judged for his actions.

“I would hear people say, ‘Oh…he thinks he’s so cool just because he does drugs,’” said Hou. “I didn’t think I was cool. I thought I was a f*cking loser. It was just my way to release stress. It was my way to forget.”

Judgement from others made him feel as if the world was against him. Alone, he faced insecurities about not fitting in. He battled depression and anxiety. He remembers feeling anxious and scared. He remembers panic attacks that made him feel as if his lungs were being crushed. He remembers scratching away at himself just to feel something. But after popping Xanax, he wouldn’t remember anything.

“I used to pop Xanax like crazy,” Hou said. “I have a whole year where my memory is gaps, bits and pieces.”

Before his senior year, Hou woke up in a hospital with IVs attached to his body. He saw his mom crying next to him. He had overdosed on Xanax on purpose. He had almost died.

That moment where I woke up to my mother crying on my bed, changed my life,” Hou said. “I finally realized life was worth living and people truly do care about you.”

That moment where I woke up to my mother crying on my bed, changed my life. I finally realized life was worth living and people truly do care about you.”

— Isaac Hou

Occasionally, Hou still experiences panic attacks, but he’s found friends who understand him and help him through them.

“I take some breaths and slowly calm down,” said Hou. “Slowly coming back to reality, thinking about life, thinking about how this will affect me. And then I slowly become better.”

In creating his short film “Before I Leave,” Hou wants to leave a lasting impact on his audience through his dancing and his story. He believes not many people talk about suicide and mental health seriously, which is why he is stepping out.

“The reason why I am creating this short film is to speak out and be a testament to those who have gone through the same thing as me,” Hou said. “I’m breaking most of society’s rules and going against what the media refuses to speak about.”

For the past four years, he has made his audience laugh and smile through his dancing. But for this short film, he wants them to feel something more.

“For the moment someone watches it, I want them to be touched,” Hou said. “Whenever they feel like they’re going through something, they can watch the video and see what I’ve gone through and how I’ve found a better life through pain and suffering. I hope they can take my experiences and how I dealt with it by making it their own and push forward through life. I also want them to be able to take in the essence of the video and realize it is not meant to push that suicide was okay, but to show how you can change or even save a life. I want you, the reader, to be able to change for the better and bring more positive energy into this world.”

For Hou, working on “Before I Leave” means revisiting his past and memorializing the emotions he felt and the struggles he experienced through dance and music.

“At first, I wasn’t ready to talk about it, but I realized that sharing my story is important,” Hou said. “It took me a long time to climb out of my mind and become more comfortable with myself. In some ways, it’s relieving. It’s like you’re visiting the past for one last time before finally moving on.”

And before he leaves Lynbrook, he wants his story to inspire others and show them that they’re not alone. By coming out and telling his story, he hopes others will do the same. He also wants to inspire and encourage people not to judge others so quickly.

“For those who judge people on what they do, you have to realize this is society. This is the world,” said Hou. “I’ve seen people bash on others for drinking and smoking, then two years later they’re doing the exact same thing. But, you also have to realize for some people it’s a necessity. It’s their way to move on through their day to keep staying alive.”

You’re not alone. Be kind to others. Never judge someone for the position they’re in. Bring positive energy to the world.”

— Isaac Hou

Wanting to start a movement of positive energy at this school, and to be able to inspire and touch people’s hearts, Isaac says,“I just hope that after people read this, they can slowly open up about themselves. Talking and sharing your feelings is the best way to heal the mind. If you’re depressed and you’re going through stuff and you’re keeping it to yourself, definitely, I want you to step up. Message me. My DM’s can be your journal. I’ll always be there for anybody who reads this story.”

Before graduating Lynbrook, Hou has one last message to leave behind.

“You’re not alone,” said Hou. “Be kind to others. Never judge someone for the position they’re in. Bring positive energy to the world.”


Patricia Wei
Isaac Hou (center) performs at the InDesign Fashion Show on 5/18.

Photos used with permission from Isaac Hou.

If you or someone you know is facing struggles with mental health and would like more support, reach out to a trusted teacher, Student Advocate Dawn Bridges (main office), School Psychologist Brittany Stevens (main office) or School Psychologist Jack Neudorf.

You always have someone to talk to. If you are experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts, do not hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or go to

Click here for a pdf of the story.

About the Contributor
Patricia Wei, Web Director

Patricia is a senior and a web director for the Epic. To her, journalism is a way of seeing the world with curiosity and compassion. She believes that...

1 Comment

One Response to “Before I Leave: Senior Isaac Hou shares a story to inspire and show people that they’re not alone”

  1. Liyan Zhao on June 4th, 2018 10:06 am

    I am very touched by this story, thanks Mr. Hou for your brave! I am trying to share this story to more parents to let them have a open mind. I just have one question, where can I view the film: “Before I Leave”?


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Before I Leave: Senior Isaac Hou shares a story to inspire and show people that they’re not alone