Around the block
Yesterday I killed myself. Today, I wish I hadn’t. I look back on my experiences and realize how much potential I had wasted. There I was, a ball being held out over a cliff and I just got put down instead of being dropped. Wasted. Everyone expects a suicide note when someone kills themselves. Only about one in four people actually leave one. This is my note.
I had always been a mature young man. My family members had a running joke that even as a baby I looked old or that I had an old soul. I was told that I must have been around the block a few times or picked up something that neither of my parents had because I acted differently than most kids. I wasn’t some freak baby; I was just small, wrinkly and reserved. I participated in normal-kid activities; I built forts with my friend Chance, imagining I was an astronaut inside a cardboard box from our new refrigerator and played in the sand at the park. I had a drive to be something more. I don’t remember much of my childhood but I can tell you that my first memory is from when I was four years old. A typical age for the brain to start its storage process. My sister, Sara, and I were playing in our living room. The white front door to our 1900’s victorian style house met with the gray rug that covered most of the entry way. Off to the side was a strip of hardwood floor. As it stretched out a couple feet wide it ran into the couch that faced the middle of our living room. Leap frog was the name of the game, my sister and I weren’t playing for keeps. I don’t remember wanting to win or go fast or beat my sister. I remember taking turns along a wood road that would run out after a few leaps and hops. Somehow the game transformed, maybe a lapse in memory or maybe we were just kids. We started creating tunnels with our legs. A triangle of human legs and floor created an opening for us to emerge out of as creatures. A bear exiting its hibernation. It was my turn to break my long fast and as I passed through the opening, my sister sat down. Her timing was off, a little too early. Her but met the back of my head for the first time, they didn’t shake hands but instead my head submitted to the push of her weight and plummeted into the floor. Something cracked, it was a hollow noise, deeper than a splinter of wood and more vicious than breaking a glow stick. My nose took the brunt of the force and gave way as the floor flexed its solidarity. Blood poured out of my faucet. I had breathing problems from then on. I have various other memories, spattered throughout the years but my identification of age per memory is far less accurate than I would like to admit. For the most part I remember a normal childhood. A life that was well fostered and an environment that encouraged my growth. I wasn’t ever into sports as much as my parents had hoped but life felt normal. I fit in.
Loneliness is a weird thing, you can be surrounded by people and still be lonely or you can be really intimate with someone special and still feel lonely. Standing in fog is a lot like being lonely, you can start to walk forward knowing that the road keeps going or you can let your senses get a hold of you. The notion that beyond the fog is absolutely nothing is what makes it so scary, so unpredictable. A lot of people want to be unpredictable, to be spontaneous and weird but most people do not want to be surprising. We seem to want to be a light fog that creates some mystery but the outlines of major objects can still be captured. Our whole lives gravitate around knowledge, around what we know and what we can learn. Seeking just beyond the fog, the motivation to define the next contour. We live to explore and adapt, to survive and be happy but what keeps us afraid and what kills us is our need to learn. Should I keep going with the fog analogy? We are killed by our lack of knowledge but in turn that means we are killed because of what we know. It feels weird to be lonely, especially when you haven’t even pinned what ‘loneliness’ really is. With no real definition in mind I can only describe it in hopes to convey the emotions attached. I have been alone all of my life, everyone has. We pick people to fill ourselves with to create an illusion of friendship, love, or family but nobody here is here for you. It took me a long time just to understand this and a decade longer to fully accept it. I started to understand that being alone isn’t a bad thing, it is natural. This understanding helps me with my day to day relationships. It helps me avoid feeling down because I am not with someone. Accepting my independence removes the insecurities that are attached with relationships and connection. One way or another, I found a way to win this battle. I am at peace even when I am in solitude. My body feels different, I have a different mind and a different personality, one that I would argue is my true personality. This acceptance has allowed me to make informed decisions, ironically knowledgeable decisions. I chose to conform to the idea of being in a community, to live in a city surrounded by people, to see my family and go to a large university so that I could condition myself into being congenial. Being alone is always great but being sectioned off and living in solitude isn’t always healthy. The ability to condition one’s self is necessary in our world to adapt and in a Darwin sense, survive.
There are a lot of things that can destroy a person, there were a lot of things that destroyed me. Most of them small meaningless issues that wouldn’t bother a horse or a really tight wound librarian but they affected me. Have you ever felt like you were on a hot streak? Everything was going your way and even an immovable object was moveable. The sun seemed to shine a spotlight in front of you and your goals never seemed so clear. Daily problems and obstacles were hurdled with ease while personal problems seemed to work itself out. Fights with your partner didn’t seem possible during these hot streaks, and you’d never burn your mouth on a hot cup of coffee. Your shoes stayed tied, pants fit well, maybe even a little loose, and there was money in your wallet, food in your belly. Everything was groovy. It was not uncommon for me to feel this way, in fact it was quite common. My smile went past my gums, the pronounced canine on the left side of my mouth caught the initial attention of my target but soon the twinkle in my eyes drew them back to what was important. I could talk for hours and social interactions that usually made me uncomfortable were normal and oddly enough interesting and stimulating. I could talk about philosophy and not sound pompous or condescending; I was like a tire salesman who didn’t want your money. Each social interaction felt like a recharge in my batteries instead of a vast use of energy, I could bring up anything but the usual and make it interesting. I never talked to a girl about her major or her exciting career. I got to talk about hypotheticals that Jim Carrey would conjure up. These streaks were the greatest, these streaks kept me alive. I loved hot streaks because I loved life, in fact my response to the casual, “how are you?” was an upbeat, “living the dream!” with a quick flash of my gums before getting embarrassed about my crooked smile. It’s amazing what a human can do when nothing stands in their way. Mentality is a freaky concept that some people have learned to master. Some people have an understanding that gives them a little credibility at the coffee house and some people lack it entirely. After reading about the brain and mixing it in with my basic knowledge from psych 101 I listened to a few TED talks. Most of them were just general concepts about how to reduce traffic or multiply really quickly but one that stuck with me was about the way we can lie to ourselves. If you fake something enough, you will eventually become it. The idea was that if a person faked being confident, successful or outgoing, eventually you would realize, “I actually am confident, successful and outgoing!” I believed in this maxim. With what I thought was a unique understanding of the human brain I started to fake hot streaks, I faked being happy altogether and ultimately I faked my way through developing my own personality. I felt unstoppable and that is why I believed in faking happiness. The concept of telling myself, “I can do anything” seemed to work and more importantly it made me happy…at least temporarily.