Suicide gets a bad rap. Many people talk about it as if it were sadder or more tragic than regular old dying, but why? If anything, shouldn’t death be more tragic when it comes to someone who was looking forward to living longer? I see suicide as the ultimate in taking control of your own life. If I’m lucky, it is the way I will go when the time comes.
I understand that many people think that suicides are the result of extreme hopelessness that could have been alleviated if someone had been able to intervene. I’m sure that is the case in some instances. But I feel certain that some hopelessness is rational. And in many cases, suicide may be less a reaction to hopelessness than a rational weighing of the pros and cons of living. It takes a lot of effort to live. A lot of the effort isn’t much fun: trying to make ends meet, working a job that one may not find fulfilling, dealing with problems, not having any time, energy, or money left for the parts of life that are actually fun. At the point that the hassles or pain of life overshadow the fun, especially if you don’t see any way to significantly improve that balance, what’s wrong with letting life go?
I’ve heard a lot of people call suicide a coward’s way out. Is a person supposed to be brave and “stick it out” when they are in pain or unhappy? For who and why? To spare their loved ones the sadness? What about their own sadness? I don’t see suicide as something that is done to anyone but yourself. If the people close to you can’t see your hopelessness building, or see it but choose to do nothing about it, do you have to issue an ultimatum (if you don’t help me, I’m going to kill myself) before you can stop worrying about how your suicide might affect them and do what is best for you?
When I was younger, I could get very frustrated when dealing with stupid or incompetent people, particularly when they had some control over my life. I didn’t want to live that way, and it’s not very realistic to think that you can totally avoid it. When you’re already living on the edge, stretched thin with both time and money, and people put undeserved roadblocks in your way, it can be devastating… like the year we owed an unexpected $8000 in federal income taxes. There were times I would have liked to take my exit, if it hadn’t been for my kids.
My suicidal thoughts were mostly passing feelings. It was rarely a “good time” to end it all. I would rather dispense with any outstanding responsibilities first, and I often did feel–when I thought it through–that I had a chance of turning things around, of arranging my life in a way that included less frustration. In balance to the frustrations I’ve had, I’ve also participated in many fun and exciting projects throughout my life. Knowing you’re devoting your life to important work, working to make a better world, can pull one through the tough times.
I would never have seriously considered suicide as an option when my kids were still living at home. I felt a responsibility to be there for them until they no longer needed me, and you can’t expect young children to recognize the hopelessness and frustration or know what to do about it. Having my kids around also gave me a lot of emotional support that helped immensely, and raising them was the most meaningful and fulfilling project I’ve ever taken on.
But my desire to eventually end my life by suicide has nothing to do with hopelessness or unhappiness. My finances are in a lot better shape now, so when stupid people or government cost me extra money, it still bugs me, but it’s not likely to put me over the edge these days. I think I’m a pretty happy person, but that still doesn’t mean I want to live forever. I don’t have a long “bucket list,” because I’ve been doing the things I wanted to do with my life all along rather than putting them off. If I died tomorrow, I would feel that I had lived a good and full life that I can be proud of.
And that’s how I want to feel when I die. I want to finish my life, wrap it up with a bow, and attach a card that says, “I’m proud of this.” There is no way I would want to live a life that is controlled by medical procedures, taking handfuls of pills every day, spending my time in hospitals, wasting huge amounts of money on healthcare, and putting a huge burden on my loved ones. The idea of living beyond the point that I can fully care for myself—or beyond the point that I can remember the people who have been important in my life, or beyond the point that I am still the person I have spent my life becoming—is something I have no interest in. What would be the point? Certainly, I have no interest in living when my health takes control of my life away, or when the joy of life is not greater than the pain, hassles, and costs of life. If I have enough money to avoid the more distasteful parts of life, I will probably stay around longer than I would otherwise. But even then, I feel sure I will get to a point before I’m very old where, even if I’m still having fun, I think I’ll be ready to go.
Even if I am in reasonably good health and have enough money to live a fairly comfortable life, I still require more to continue on this journey. I’ve had a pretty exciting life, participated in some pretty challenging and fun projects, accomplished things I’m very proud of, and made many dear friends. For me, the key to living a meaningful and fulfilling life is participating in worthwhile projects, where I think I can make a difference in the world. Even if life is relatively pleasant, just hanging around with very little “purpose” seems like a waste of life and money. I’m not comfortable with the idea of “just living,” without a good purpose. Raising my children was the most fulfilling (and the most fun) project I have taken on in my life, and I have found it very difficult to come up with other projects that seem as worth the effort. I haven’t given up on finding some, but I also have experienced a very noticeable drop in energy since passing age 50, making it difficult to get excited about projects that seem like they’ll be too much work. Unfortunately, meaningful and fulfilling projects that have a good chance of making a difference are often the same ones that sound like a lot of work. I don’t want my last years to be boring or unproductive. If that’s the alternative, I’d rather say good-bye sooner.
There’s also the question of costs. Living costs a lot of money. Sure, it could be fun to spend another year hanging out with my friends and family, doing some traveling to interesting places, participating in other activities. But I’ve already spent years doing that. Is it really worth spending another $20,000 to do that for one more year? Personally, I’d rather enjoy the memory of having done that and enjoy knowing that the $20,000 could go to my kids, so they could take a really nice trip.
I am so ready to retire. I want to spend the rest of my life doing mostly the things I enjoy doing. But if I need to have enough money to support myself until I’m 90 or even 100, I have nowhere near enough money to retire now (or any time soon). I would much rather retire sooner and ease my budget a bit now, knowing that I’m willing to give up some years at the end of my life if I run short of money. For me, quality is a lot more important than quantity.
I don’t plan to shock anyone with my suicide. I’ll plan a big party, invite family and friends to come say goodbye and to share my many memories and some laughs before I leave. But it really sounds like the perfect way to go out for me. As strange as it may sound, I’m kind of looking forward to it.