PSA-this post deals with suicide and depression and may not be suitable for everyone.
In light of the two recent celebrity suicides-Kate Spate and now Anthony Bourdain I thought a lot about the past few years and how many celebrities from all artistic genres have committed suicide. These people are our heroes. We look to them for inspiration and want to believe we can be just like them. And it’s this idea-that a great career, talent and passion for something are supposed to sustain everything that gets shattered when we find out one of them has committed suicide.
I myself have struggled with the idea of suicide my whole life for multiple reasons and have attempted it as well. I think once a person allows that thought into their existence as an option it becomes insidious. It affects every aspect of your being and it never really goes away. It hides in the recesses of your mind and you take it down from the shelf when you’re bored, or sad, or think you are just too tired to continue “the fight”.
I am sure I am not alone in this thought. It’s angering and confusing for so many people who have attempted suicide or just thought about it but instead stuck with trying out the whole “living life to the fullest” and trudging through to see other people, these people give up. You hate them because they’re weak, they’re weak for you leaving you (even if you didn’t know them) and they’re weak for not getting help or not trying hard enough because that’s what we always hear-“they just didn’t try hard enough.” But what if they did try hard enough? These famous top of their industry people had every opportunity, everything we are told we need to fix ourselves so what if it just didn’t work? And now you’re scared. Now doubt sets in because you’re trying and you’ve always been told you can’t give up, it’ll get better or in plain terms-you have to struggle through life like everyone else and not be a coward. So now you’re jealous of them. Now you think God, that must be nice to just be able to give up. Sure I’m here trying to spite everyone but that little (or big) piece of me just wants it all to be over and what is the point? If all these famous amazing, inspiring, larger than life artists end up killing themselves…what have you missed…where did you maybe go wrong because none of it adds up.
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. We have all heard this but I think it’s insulting. It’s insulting because mental illness is not a temporary problem for many of us. Mental illness is a lifelong battle and seeing people be defeated by it in whatever stage reminds us of that. I AM IN NO WAY ADVOCATING SUICIDE. And I think that needs to be said but I am also saying that to tell people to just keep going or to ignore a huge part of what they are feeling will do more damage and in the long run may actually lead them to what you’re telling them to avoid. Suicide is so simple and yet so complex. The act is simple but the theory, the why, is something we cannot understand. We can empathize because maybe we feel that way too but how could we understand these legends, these heros if even with all of the doors open to them they decided that only one was worth shutting. We need to not only talk about suicide, about mental illness but we need to listen. We need to hear what people are saying even when they are silent.
“So what are your career goals in five years?”
This question has become something I’ve learned to loathe. I loathe it because it’s confining and I loathe it because I don’t know.
In every job interview, you go on you will hear this question. I understand the purpose of being goal oriented. I am goal oriented. I am hardworking and ambitious but that does not mean I have a clear plan for where I see myself in five years. I don’t even have a clear plan on what career I want in five years. Instead of expecting people to know who they want to be or worse, should be in five years, perhaps we should focus on helping them in this moment, this day figure out how they want to start.
Are you able to make a 180-degree change and go in the opposite direction?
Are you able to say no to certainty and face fear and failure instead?
If the answer is yes, then you can pivot. Learning to the make the necessary adjustments and redefine your direction means you will last and survive. People who get stuck on one track or sink into the comfort of certainty may for a short while find the means to their end but then the end comes.
Be willing to give up on one path and trust that although you can’t see the path you’re turning around for it’s there and it will be solid under your feet if you choose to take the step.
I was talking to a friend today about a situation that I just can’t seem to completely remove myself from or have removed from me. I said I was aware that my actions often backslid myself into the position I didn’t want to be in and I had two choices: 1. do things how I usually do them, which is to make continual, slow and griding process-up the mountain 3 steps forward 4 steps back or to stop walking completely and just sit with it. Sit with it until it’s gone, until it means nothing, until it means everything. She noted that that is obviously, short-term the much harder option but long-term the less exhaustive option. Sitting with it is what we are least likely to do, we will do anything to avoid having to deal with pain, the suffering, the anguish head-on with no distractions. We live in a culture that does not value the time it takes to do this or the willpower and decisiveness. And that is why I think sitting with it is always the answer.
It is easy for us to be upset when our expectations about what we think we want are not meant. However, understanding that if you worked hard, put in 120%-no bullshit, no excuses and it still didn’t turn out in your favor then it was not meant for you. The only way to reconcile this is to continue working and realize you have to have faith that something better is coming.
Fear has become a fascination for me. I’m constantly afraid. Afraid of not fitting in, afraid of fitting in, afraid of never succeeding, afraid of actual success. All this fear keeps me trapped in this tiny cramped bubble of nothing so I’ve started searching for fear. Anything that makes me uncomfortable? Let’s go do it! Let’s talk to the person we’re intimidated by, let’s try something that we know we are going to be judged for (and stick with it for 6-12 months). I don’t choose to look at fear as something negative, it’s really there just trying to keep me safe. It doesn’t realize that we don’t live a thousand years ago and now, staying in is the thing that will kill us not the opposite. I think that’s why so many more people struggle now with fear and change-we have to work against our natural biology to succeed. We no longer live in a world where we have to be physical and go out and the world pushes our boundaries. Our boundaries are here, they live with us in our homes and cars, on our laptops and phones. We don’t have to search any more because we have everything. So now the challenge is, we have to actively search to make ourselves afraid because when we are afraid we’re working, we’re fighting, we’re pushing our boundaries. It’s ironic how things being easier actually makes them harder.
Most people say that regret is a bad thing. I would disagree. Regret is an amazing motivator. If you’ve ever sat with the elderly and asked them what they would have done differently they will give you a list of things they wish they’d spent more time on. Living a regret-free life isn’t just accepting that “it was meant to be” it’s being proactive. That fear of missing out, not taking the chance, not going for what you want should motivate you to want to not look back at sixty, seventy, eighty and say I wish I’d done it differently.
We have one chance to get it right. You can’t get that time back once it’s gone and I can guarantee the fear of failure and the fear of being uncomfortable are so much less than the fear of seeing what could have been.