Last week, one of my closest friends seriously considered suicide, and for the past week, I have been unable to concentrate on anything else. Sometimes I feel like the writing I do has no impact, so I want to share a bit of what I told them, in the hopes that it makes a difference for someone. I’m sorry if I’m wrong, and I don’t want any praise for being right, because this isn’t about me.
I know that suicide is painful to talk about. It took more than a year after I considered suicide before I was able to admit that I had to another person. A month into this semester, I was talking to my girlfriend on the phone when for some reason I finally asked, “Hey, do you remember the spring of my junior year when my whole life went to shit?” “Of course,” she replied. “Um…I kind of considered suicide for a little while.”
She was pretty fucking pissed about it.
Definitely do not do what I did. Communication is super important. In hindsight, my state of mind could have gotten a lot worse just as easily as it got better, and something tragic could have happened just because I wanted to be all tough and self-sufficient. Like it or not, you and I are connected to a web of people larger than we can possibly imagine. Solitary confinement is a punishment for a reason.
I think that it’s important that I acknowledge the difference between your situation and mine. I was just an angsty teen; you’re a college student at Cornell, with a whole lot more on the line than I had. Regardless, I can still remember how I felt then – how hopeless those moments seemed, how freeing I thought nothingness would be.
What I’ve learned since then is that you are not guaranteed even a moment of happiness in this life. That may seem cynical, but it has enabled me so much contentment since I accepted it. If you don’t agree, think of lives unadorned with privilege. Think of the most severely oppressed, whose life is labor and whose status and position is that of a machine. Think of those whose life is a brief flash of pain, and then over. Pleasure was never a part of the deal.
But here you are! You’re a Cornell student who has had their fair share of pleasures, if the times we have spent together mean to you what they mean to me. A critic would question how you could be given so much and still struggle, but I think I know.
Pleasure isn’t the same thing as happiness, is it? There’s something missing from that equation – an element of satisfaction. When I woke up at 3am on Friday morning to hike ten miles, it wasn’t because that’s what gets me off, it was because that kind of struggle satisfies me. Satisfaction doesn’t require pleasure; for many,it means being the unsung hero, hitting the sacrifice fly, being a sucker for pain.
Satisfaction doesn’t have to be painful either. I remember those nights the music was so loud it blew our brains out, and I remember that quiet hour we spent watching Triphammer Falls together.
What scares me is the hollow joy, the undue peace of mind – when you start living an unsatisfying life because of the pleasure it brings. This is just a village idiot’s opinion, but I feel that suicide grabs us the second that our shallow lives start to lose their shimmer.
I know that description doesn’t fully capture the magnitude of what suicide is, and I know it may miss what makes your situation so singular, but it is the best I can do. Perhaps you haven’t lost your sense of purpose. Perhaps you just lost sight of the finish line for a moment. That’s for you to decide.
This may not be what you want to hear, but if it turns out that the life you’re living isn’t satisfying, then there’s only one thing you can do: kill yourself.
Obviously, I don’t mean it like you think I do, but I’m serious – your life, as it is, may have to end. For me, it meant drastically changing where and from whom I derived my value, as well as realizing that the only person I have a chance of controlling is myself. Unfortunately, the only person who has the answer to your problem is you. I’m just on the outside, looking in.
The good news about this is that you have an infinite number of lives to choose from. Get out there! Put on a new costume every day until you find the one that, even on your worst days, lets you go to sleep satisfied. You may have to give up a part of yourself, but if what my physics teacher taught me is true, then there’s going to be something on the other side of that equation too, something that you might like even more.
Honestly, you’re a better person than me, and if you can’t make sense of this world, well then, I guess I’m fucked.