The baseball game blared from a portable television and everything in my apartment reeked of cigarette smoke: courtesy of a roommate for whom I didn’t harbor good feelings. I woke up one day to an iteration of my life that wasn’t pretty. Not much food in the pantry, all of my socks had holes in them, working two part-time jobs in food service with no real future. My misery was a potent cocktail of depression and sarcasm (to hide abandonment issues) with a side of destructive habits topped off with a serious eating disorder. Every day felt gray.
Not having a plan for my life made my poisonous habits all the more attractive as highly available (if pricey) forms of escape. At the time, I didn’t think it could be worse. I also thought it would never get better.
I was just a young, waitress. What power did I have? Who would listen to me? Did my life even matter? Was I only able to sit around and let life happen to me? For a few minutes, a future played out before my eyes.
On the current trajectory, I saw my life as one pointless tragedy after another, misery stacked upon misery. My first thought was to end my life because I hated my life. It was obviously not worth living. At least, not the way I’d seen it.
But as I contemplated this, I began questioning myself. Was there truly nothing I wanted to do or see? Was there anything at all, no matter how farfetched, that I wanted to accomplish? Did I actually want to die? And I realized no, I did not.
I wanted the pain in my heart to end.
At the time, I really didn’t have any solid goals or exciting dreams to work toward. But one thing did come to mind that I wanted:
I had only seen the ocean once and thought it would be cool to live near the beach. I had other half-baked dreams like being a rock star. I couldn’t sing, had stage fright and wrote morose, freestyle poetry. At the root was making more money. I loved writing, but was it enough to keep me going?
I sat at my desk and wrote at the top of the page, What I would do if money were no object. Hopefulness began to stir. Live near the ocean topped the list. I started feeling a lot more optimistic and wrote for another hour. Then I brought it closer to home.
What could I do right now to make my life better? First most pressing issue was getting the freeloader out of my apartment. As I wrote out some daring options, I began feeling a giddy, intoxicating power. I was taking my life back. It would require changes. It was going to take effort. It would require a lot of bravery.
Did I have enough?
I wrote a list of things that I had already accomplished. As I recalled each one, I dug through my memory to “the before.” At the beginning of all of them, I had entertained a lot of doubt. I remembered all that it would take for those things to occur, how I had fretted. But in the end, they had occurred. And now, they formed a list impressive enough for me to believe I could do anything if I put my mind to it. I kicked the freeloader out.
I realized that choices were mine to make. Letting life happen or taking control were choices. It isn’t possible to control every circumstance, but I could take a lot more responsibility. I could create goals, plan actionable steps and envision dreams and outcomes. I could walk away. It would prove to be a turning point and become a very different life. So, I moved 800 miles away. And, I’d do it again, it was that life-changing. And for several years, I lived about 35-minutes from the beach.
What does this mean for you?
We’re amazing beings. When we truly want to find a solution, nothing can stop us. When we’re desperate enough, we can be extremely creative. But for some, it takes those circumstances to break out of complacency. If we can reach a place of quiet resolve we can often reason out better options.
Ending my life would have been a permanent solution to a temporary problem. When you reach the point of wanting to end it all, you’re ready for a radical change. If you can’t think through other possibilities, reach out to a trusted friend. You’ll never regret taking the time and facing them head-on. Start with the most painful or difficult issue first. Once it’s handled, you’ll have the headspace to effectively manage the others.
Think outside the lines. To empower yourself, do the thing that scares you to death!
Switching jobs, changing routes or routines, going to another place to worship, or anything that breaks you out of a rut can get your brain thinking in new ways. Solutions may look very different than we imagine, or be uncomfortable at first. Don’t let your feelings stop you.
Don’t be afraid to try something totally radical. After all, you were just contemplating having no life at all. I had been in a circle of depressed and sarcastic people and believed there were no opportunities for me in that city. Moving to another city can give you a fresh start.
Every minute that passes cannot be retrieved. Are you living the life you always dreamed of? If not, what steps would it take to get you closer to it? Importantly, think through what you can live with is because inevitably, the people directly affected are likely to be unhappy.
This is your life. You get one shot. With whatever breath you have, squeeze as much joy out of this life as you can. Make it count for something. Turn the key and hit the gas.