For thirty years I failed repeatedly:
- At trying to get my mom’s approval
- At trying to keep kids in the neighborhood safe, when their parents were smoking crack
- At trying to hold down a full-time job, and
- At trying to build an audience for my music
Failing felt overwhelming and hopeless. I was exhausted. Moments of relief, sometimes washed over me when I dreamt about leaving all my cares behind, but then I found out that suicide was super hard. Wow. I even failed at that!
I wouldn’t give up though, on giving up. After trying out many ways to die, I finally figured out the basics. (Back then you couldn’t just google it). Once I discovered how to succeed at dying, I felt secure enough to face the much more frightening business of living.
The day I dared myself to live, I had an old beat-up guitar on my lap. It took me three years of looking at it before I dared to pick it up. My brother gave it to me as a birthday present. “Just play around with it” he encouraged. “Don’t worry about it”.
The fact that I did worry about it and spent three years circling it, seemed proof for sure, that I was a loser of the highest order. “OK” I said to it. “I’m a loser”. The guitar seemed to smile back at me and I felt a rush of energy. That was the day I learned that I could metaphorically kill myself everyday by accepting the idea that I was a loser instead of trying to fatally defend myself against it. So what if I honestly didn’t want to become a commercially successful artist, a business person, or anything. I simply wanted to live simply, in the moment, and learn to enjoy the art of thinking.
The idea of ignoring my mom next time she pressured me to listen to her complaining, and the idea of ignoring the pitiful children knocking on my door, crying about their parents selling their bikes for crack, was a thrill greater than wanting to kill myself. Saying ‘no’ to everyone demanding my attention, and saying ‘yes’ I’m selfish, I just want to relax, sounds so simple, yet it took most my life to learn. What a joke, that I used to prefer suicide over facing the idea that I was somehow ‘selfish’. And how sad.
“Yes” I say to my friend the guitar every day now, “Life is a sad joke.” And then I keep going, because this perspective, makes me want to live. My truth is that any time I seek to ‘help’ others or get anyone’s approval, I take myself down a path that inevitably leads to death. It really is that dramatic for me, even now, thirty years later. What works is to remember that when I give my time and attention simply because I enjoy it, then I succeed at life on my own terms, no matter what.
I still work a few shitty jobs here and there and of course, meet shitty people everywhere. But I have one good friend, a few good songs, and a great fiancé. That’s all I have, and for me, it’s enough.