Lesson: There"s always hope
I usually try and bring some humor to this column, which this week celebrates the beginning of its 10th year as a weekly feature in this publication. It"s been my honor and privilege to have this space to tell jokes, rail against the Republicans and make the occasional serious point.
And I"ve always tried to be honest and open with you, the readers. There"s nothing I hate more than a fraud and readers have always been quick to point out when I verge into phoniness.
So I"ll try and be as authentic as possible as I relate the following story of another anniversary in my life. It was 15 years ago this week that I tried to kill myself.
Happily for me, and unhappily, perhaps, for my foes, the attempt was unsuccessful and I still draw breath and walk the face of the earth.
And the only reason I bring it up now is because I"ve recently encountered some people in a lot of pain, people who may be in the same state that I was in 1987. I hope my doing so doesn"t bring additional pain to people I hurt at the time.
Back then, as now, I was a smartass would-be reporter, prone to quoting rap lyrics and Sylvia Plath poems. I was also going through personal hell, and no matter how my friends and family tried, I couldn"t shake a really bad bout of depression.
Why was I depressed? That"s kind of irrelevant to this piece, other than to say I"ve been through a lot of shit in my life. Bad stuff in just about every definable category.
And I think it was probably mostly just the wrong synapses firing in the wrong places.
It wasn"t the first time I tried to take my life, just the most serious of several attempts. If not for quick action on someone"s part, I likely wouldn"t be sitting here typing these words.
Afterward came my own personal version of The Bell Jar or Girl, Interrupted, where outsiders tried to analyze my fucked-up life and make some sense of it.
Fifteen years later, I still can"t make any sense of my life. I have my ups and downs and my good and bad times. But never since have I felt compelled to end it all.
Until I actually do draw my last breath, I will be grateful to my family and friends for supporting me and loving me during that unhappy time.
My point is that there"s never anything so bad that it can"t be overcome. There is never a situation which calls for such drastic action. Nothing one can do is so unforgivable that it merits suicide.
There"s nothing romantic about death. A few months after I went through my drama, a friend of mine actually did kill herself. The pain it caused those of us who loved her was incredible.
Since those unhappy days, I"ve tried to do things to make myself proud. Sometimes I"ve succeeded and sometimes I"ve failed myself. But I"ve been in the ring, throwing at least as many punches as I"ve taken.
And I"ve had one hell of a lot of fun along the way. I"ve met many of my personal heroes. I"ve done some work with which I am pleased. I"ve kissed a few pretty girls. And I"ve laughed so hard that I thought I"d collapse.
Things seemed so dark back then. I couldn"t imagine a future, at least one in which I was a happy, productive member of society. It seemed like life would always suck for me.
And it still does, sometimes. I"ve had runs of bad luck and failures so incredibly massive that they would humble most people. I"m still susceptible to sabotaging myself and the people I love.
But if I"d died back in 1987, I would have missed so many good things. I never would have held my nieces and nephew. I would never have witnessed Bill Clinton on election night 1992. I never would have seen 2pac or Public Enemy or The Slurs in concert.
I would just tell the people out there in pain that there is a chance for a happier future. All you have to do is seek help to get through whatever events are making you unhappy.
There are no guarantees in life. And sometimes, like The Slurs say, it just gets worse. But I"m living proof that miracles can happen, that darkness can become light, that unhappiness can be reversed.
All it takes to make a difference in one"s life is some effort and some courage. When I was at my worst, I thought the world would be better off without me. And that may actually be true.
But I discovered that the world doesn"t actually care whether you"re here or not. All you can do is what everybody else does, which is try and survive and thrive against the odds.
The fact that one specific spermatozoa fertilized one particular egg to create you is a miracle in and of itself. The odds against your even being here in the first place are astronomical.
You"ve already beaten the system just by being alive. You"re already a miracle, whether you know it or not. And, no matter how alone you feel, there is undoubtedly someone who loves you and would be devastated by your death.
I hope I haven"t damaged my career or alienated any readers any more than necessary by this rant. If I have, so be it. If I"ve helped even one person by retelling my story then it would have been worth it.
What I didn"t see in 1987, I see clearly now. There are many more shows to see, many more laughs to be had, so many more pretty girls to kiss. And whatever time I have left on this earth, I"m going to try and take advantage of it.
I would implore anybody who"s hurting so bad that things seem unbearable to try and find a way out. There is a way out.
There always is, if you look hard enough for it.
Thank you to the people who love me and saved me, and thanks to you, the NUVO readers, who"ve been supportive (and critical) of this column over the past nine years.
May God bless you all.