December 3, 2017.
"You're an interesting species. An interesting mix. You're capable of such beautiful dreams and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone. In all our searching, the only thing we've found that makes the emptiness bearable, is each other." -Carl Sagan, Contact
Who are you?
What are you afraid of?
Who do you love?
This is a story of me and the Wolves and how I came to find myself lost in the deep woods of Existence. It’s a story of despair. It’s also a story of the most dangerous thing in the world: hope.
1 : ICE AGE
“Them Bones” by Alice in Chains on Dirt
I believe them bones are me. Some say we're born into the grave. I feel so alone Gonna end up a big ol' pile of them bones.
From the earliest memories I had a profound, unshakeable feeling of being alone and separated from everyone else.
I was a pretty small kid. Very skinny. Very very quiet. I found it difficult to make new friends, and I had an enduring, pervasive sense of shame in me at all times which colored everything I did in my life: how I behaved, what I said, what I didn’t say.
I just felt like my skin was a soaking wet, ice-cold suit that I couldn’t take off, ever.
When asked when they knew they were gay, some people will pinpoint a crush in adolescence or young adulthood as the moment when they realized who they were. Lots of people will also say that they “always knew”, way before feelings for anybody else developed. I’m in this second camp.
I didn’t experience crushes until I was maybe 10, 11 years old, but I just knew from day one that I wasn’t the same as most everyone else. At that age it wasn’t even in terms of sexuality. It showed up most in my character. I didn’t relate very much to what other boys my age did. I wasn’t good at sports, altho I did very much want to be. I didn’t like to roughhouse; mostly I perceived myself as weak and physically clumsy. I was deeply self-conscious from the jump. Early on I retreated into my imagination. I read all the damn time, anything I could: about space, about aliens, about the future, about things that could never exist in real life. It brought me a lot of comfort.
I daydreamed, to the point where I felt sick if I couldn’t for a while each day. That ostracization from the others around me was the engine for my immense imagination and my deep sense of empathy; I didn’t want to be in my own shoes, so I spent a lot of time stepping into the shoes of others, imagining what it would be like to be other kinds of people. I could be someone strong. Someone funny. Someone special and cool and charismatic, someone who was loved. I could be someone who wasn’t me, which I thought was the root of the problem; as long as I was me, nothing would be ok.
I worked hard academically. My teachers, I’ll say immodestly, adored me. I was quiet and kind and smart. A perfect student I guess. I was sensitive, compassionate, tender. I was always very easily hurt; I internalized everything. Someone would say something bad to me, and my first instinct was to wonder how I could have done better. None of these qualities won me any friends with the guys at school; I never felt welcome, and even when I was allowed to be a part of a game of dodgeball or sit at the lunch table, I never felt like I belonged. With the girls I didn’t feel like I belonged either; I’d sometimes connect deeply and profoundly with them, which was something which honestly never happened with the boys, but sometimes they would make fun of me for hanging out with them. Even tho I found some good friends amongst them, I couldn’t look to any of them for that deep socialization of who a young boy was. Chauvinistic as it probably sounds, I had no one to look to for guidance on what a young boy becoming a man should do.
I fled farther and farther into myself with each passing day. Soon I was someone who didn’t even exist; probably the boys and girls no longer took notice of my presence. I never spoke. I never interacted. I might as well not have even been there.
At seven, eight, nine years old, I was already deeply ashamed of myself. I edited and policed myself all the time. I said to myself, “that’s too gay, don’t do that.” “That’s not what boys your age are supposed to think or feel.” “Don’t.” “Stop.” “Hide.” “Pretend.” “Don’t feel.” I didn’t know what self-hatred was yet, but looking backwards that’s what I was already feeling. I avoided looking at myself in the mirror. I didn’t like taking pictures. I didn’t like looking at myself. What I felt towards myself was revulsion.
It’s amazing just how much connection and companionship a person needs, especially a young kid just growing up, and how much devastation and desolation the deprivation of that produces.
I guess I was a kid who thought a lot. Way way too much. I’d divorced myself from my body and spent all my time in my mind. I felt like an alien amongst people, bodysnatching, pretending to be one of them, all the while knowing I wasn’t.
What I wanted was acceptance, love, friendship. I didn’t want to be alone. I felt that being who I was would mean that I’d always be alone.
When I was barely ten years old I remember an afternoon of deepest sadness; years later I think on it as a precursor to the depression I’ve experienced since. We were at a family function: aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmas, toddlers. Hispanic families are big.
I remember looking around and thinking, with a pang of misery that nearly made me burst into tears then and there, “I’m never going to have any of this.” I thought I was always going to be alone. That thought filled me with such an indescribable kind of terror and despair. It was a traumatizing thing to consider; I had a gigantic imagination, and my sense of belief was kilometers deep. So, I imagined the future. It was one where I never came out of the closet, never said anything to anyone. In this possible reality, I would live completely divorced from myself. And I would never experience what I pictured as “normal” life: having girlfriends, going to prom, being a dad, having a house, seeing my kids graduate from college. None of this was going to happen. I was always going to be on my own.
I’d already swallowed how wrong a person I was by this age, you see. Whatever I was, queer, skinny, physically unremarkable, gentle and shy, all of this was wrong. This wasn’t the way a young man was supposed to be. I think the life of a young gay kid is pretty different from the life of a straight kid. The big feelings in our youth are not primarily about learning sports, or finding first girlfriends or boyfriends; in general, I think they are about fear, and rejection (both from others and from self), and about a kind of loneliness that is difficult to wrap your head around. A kind of loneliness that is felt deep in your bones, felt as a constant pain deep in your chest. Despite all the changes that have occurred in our society, being someone who isn’t straight is still a deeply alienating and isolating thing, especially in the first years of our lives when we are just beginning to formulate who we are.
These thoughts became a kind of god to me as the years went by. I believed, DEEPLY, that I wasn’t supposed to be born. I felt like I had taken someone else’s spot in the world; someone stronger, worthier, and better had had their rightful spot stolen, and in their place was me, an inherently broken, inherently superfluous, stupid, worthless person. I felt like I was a fraud and a liar and an impostor.
These years are…difficult to describe. A child on his own, with no one to show him what to do, how to be, what was real and what wasn’t. I was alone with myself, and who I was was my own Enemy. I was not on my own side. I was totally against myself.
So I began to think, I could disappear and it wouldn’t even make a difference.
Dust rise right on over my time. Empty fossil of the new scene. I feel so alone Gonna end up a big ol' pile of them bones.
Over the years I built up a facade to wear around others so no one would see the depth of turmoil within me. I survived my childhood by retreating and becoming invisible. In my adolescence, I ached for friendship and companionship, so I became a fraud. I used my empathy and imagination to try to pinpoint what others wanted from me, and I did my best to enact it. I was an actor. I auditioned for the love of others.
I can’t really pinpoint a moment when I was ever really myself. This was true even when I was totally alone, away from anyone else’s observation or judgement. I had learned and mastered the art of scrutinizing and analyzing myself 24/7 and I would rain down judgement for my thoughts and feelings. Didn’t matter what they were; they could be about a boy. About a girl. About something that happened at recess with a friend. About grades. About not being able to play basketball very well. About the upcoming years when I would have to go on dates and navigate the social climate of high school. I thought about that a lot when I was younger, and it weighed against my mind like a two-ton rock.
Whatever it was, I was always wrong and I had done it wrong and nothing I did would ever be right, because I was inherently wrong. I judged with the crushing weight of a god. I was a kid-god of despair and loneliness.
I had zero clue who I was. I kept all my thoughts and emotions 50 feet away from me at all times, like they were toxic and poisonous, which I believed they were. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t feel. I was numb. I felt as dazed as if I’d been hit over my head with a hammer for all my living days and I’d been left bruised, dizzy, and throbbing with pain. The piercing feelings that come with puberty were tranquilized and blunted, like I was living in the world and growing up in a cocoon of medical gauze, wrapped so tightly my ribs were on the verge of breaking. I guess I was massively depressed already and was so dislocated from myself that I couldn’t feel much “love”. I was a fourteen-year-old on autopilot, just going through the motions: get good grades, make small-talk with friends, be the big brother, be the eldest son. I felt light-years apart from everyone and everything, like I was floating in the vast interstellar spaces between galaxies where there are no stars, only emptiness.
The isolation is hard to put into words, how alone I felt, even in the middle of class, even in the middle of my own family. Amongst the few friends I had made. With my dad, with my mom. I was just, alone as fuck.
I was a silent, bland, traumatized shell of a person. I’ve never been to war and I don’t know what post-traumatic stress is like, but a war was raging within me, and I felt traumatized. I developed a stutter, which exacerbated the anxiety I felt in social situations because I felt so much more stupid and worthless trying to speak and not being able to. There was so much anxiety that I couldn’t keep control of my jaw; I would bite down hard in the night as I slept, so hard I woke up bleeding once because I’d bit my tongue. Insomnia burned through me; I hardly slept, and I was always fried. I don’t think I remember having a truly good, decent night’s rest since I was probably eleven or twelve. When most people are beginning to learn a sport, or join a band, or experiment with drugs, when they are trying to understand their bodies and their place amongst others, I was alone in my head, afraid to be seen and afraid to be hurt.
In the bullying I received during middle and high school (which I think a big portion of people have to endure, you don’t have to be gay to experience that, altho I do think most gay young people bear a very unique brand of it), I tried to have a thick skin. It didn’t work. All I ever really did was hide how hurt I was. In hindsight, I don’t think I was very visibly queer, meaning that I “passed” well enough for being straight (the idea of “straight-passing” is kind of a gross one). The paranoia and terror that someone would find me out and force me out of my closet during those years was very real and harrowing as fuck, tho. Homophobia was sporadically aimed at me directly; mostly, I heard and felt it obliquely, when people were referring to others. I was privileged that I didn’t have to confront it directly very often.
But it was still all around me, and I was a sponge that soaked it all up. There’s a memory of me overhearing my grandma watching the news in the living room, shouting in fury at the TV. I’m not sure what year it was. I think civil unions had been approved in Mexico or another central American country. The rage she shouted at the TV with still reverberates in my mind all these years later: in Spanish she shouted, over and over again, “They aren’t real men! They aren’t real men!” Apart from that, there were all the constant casual remarks by uncles, cousins, by friends of my parents, by my friends, all the people around me. My uncle once joked casually with my dad about how his favorite soccer team would lose because they had a guy on the team who looked like a “fag”.
The connection was clear: to be queer was to be worthless and weak and stupid and worthy of ridicule and violence. I swallowed everything. I never questioned any of it. No one was there to show me that those ideas were wrong; no one at all. I just swallowed all of it.
The hatred was terrible. I was a sensitive kid. I felt it deeply when someone at school was picked on. I also knew that if I was just slightly visible the same would happen to me. What was more terrible than the hatred was the casual homophobia, the kind that was not bullying or hateful, just humiliating. It came in jokes. It came in conversation. Middle school was a fucking hellhole of it. It was everywhere in everything everyone said. Every moment of every day I was taught how unwanted and hated people like me were. I felt all of it.
But even more devastating than the hatred, casual or not, was the indifference.
The apathy that was shown, especially by loved ones, when things like that were said. My dad was silent on all of this. My mom was too. Don’t get me wrong; they loved me deeply. But they had no idea who I was; as I’ve said, I was not visible. The apathy that people showed in combating all this cemented in me another belief: I wasn’t going to have anyone on my side if I ever did come out. I was going to be met with “who cares?” That’s an infuriating and demoralizing response when there has been this level of pain to contend with for years. “Who cares?”
I swallowed all of this humiliation and dehumanization; I didn’t turn it outwards tho. I inflicted it inwards. That’s what I was always best at, inflicting it inwards.
Why did this happen?
Selfishly, I wished it had had happened to someone else; I hadn’t signed up for this. I hadn’t signed up for anything! Life had simply been something I’d been thrown into! What the fuck! How come I had to endure all this, swallow all this, while the others, my friends, my parents, my cousins, they all got to LIVE? Live a life of dignity, of value, one that wasn’t constantly questioned, devalued, ridiculed, undermined, invalidated, erased?
Why did this happen to me?
Self-pity was a raging wildfire in those dislocated years. In the day, amongst others, I was numb and blunted. In the night, alone in bed with only myself for company, I was on fire. There was no rest. No reprieve. My soul was on fire. The inferno ate through me. I was ashes, about to be blown away by the slightest breeze.
I’m not sure if I thought about suicide during those years, but I do remember having thoughts of wanting to go to sleep and not wake up again. Dust rise right on over my time. This was an Ice Age. This was an era of complete emptiness.
1C. The Crash
In 2007 I was 15 going on 16. I was entering my junior year of high school. Also, my dad was going to be deployed to the Middle East. I think all sons have an ambivalent relationship with their fathers, by which I mean there are complex, often contradictory feelings involved. It may be that being an LGBT son adds another layer of complication to that relationship. Particular, a son who is LGBT to a Latin military father.
I remember my dad being a warm, gentle, playful dad in my deep youth, when I was seven, eight. As we grew older he grew harder; I think that my father was struggling to know how to provide for us, what to do in order to ensure our success in life. He and my mom wanted to provide all the opportunities they had not had growing up in Central America. From an early age they emphasized how vital it was to go to college.
High school began. I was fraudulent and made friends and went on dates, always everything with deep anxiety that I had learned to hide deep within. Now came the time to choose where to go to college.
I was confronted with a question I’d been too preoccupied to really pay much attention to before: what did I want to do with my life?
I had already internalized the belief that I was an evil and poisonous person who was impossible to love and could not truly love others. What kind of life lay up ahead for me?
I once again thought of growing up, without a family, utterly alone.
It’s very confusing choosing what you’re gonna do with your life at ages 16, 17, 18. Add to that a global self-loathing and self-stigma and…what do you do?
Dad left for the Middle East. He’d been in the military for years by then; he’d gone to basic training in 1999 in Virginia, and I remember the 6 months he was gone as being very difficult. I was overjoyed when he came back. Now in 2007, he sprang the news on us just a few months before he left. He’d leave again, but not for somewhere in America.
Dad left as I entered my junior year. Things changed in Dad’s absence. My mom had to shoulder a superhuman amount of responsibility to take care of us; driving us to school, cooking, going to work. She had zero rest for a year. It was back-breaking, and she faced the loss of her husband at the same time. During that year I sensed her sadness and loneliness, and it broke my fucking heart.
I was the eldest son. Now, in some ways, I was thrown into being the man of the house. I ached to relieve my mom of at least some of the stress she felt, so I tried to shoulder as much responsibility as I could for her. I couldn’t drive yet, but I could try to take care of my younger siblings, and to try to provide a shadow of what dad had for them.
I had no idea what I was doing. The entire time I felt like I was just crawling along blindly, about to fall off a cliff into an abyss. I couldn’t measure up to Dad in being a big brother. I couldn’t measure up to him to mom in being a sort-of companion for a year. I couldn’t measure up. I was worthless.
That winter I panicked about my college applications. None of the schools I applied for were really where I wanted to go; nothing felt right. My cat died the week I sent them in. I cried sporadically for days. I was burned out. I was confused. I felt I was signing up for a life I didn’t really want. I wanted to fulfill what mom and dad had always said about college, at the cost of my own happiness.
In the spring after the college applications were sent in things got a little better. Dad would be back in the summer. Altho things were hard, we had found some kind of way to make things work. There was a little bit of equilibrium. Things were going to get better.
That’s what I genuinely thought the day Dad came back. It was a golden mid-June afternoon. We were all overjoyed to see him again. I honestly thought things would go back to the way they had been before; dad would be gentle and playful and loving again, and he and mom would resume the love that they had so fervently felt before.
I was wrong.
In the years that followed dad’s return, things fell completely apart.
Dad returned a different person than he had left. Warfare will do that to a person; I now understand that, tho to a desperately lonely and confused teenager, none of it made any sense. Dad returned hollow, broken, silent, massively depressed, suicidal. He attempted to get aid from the VA, the agency in place to assist veterans in adjusting back into normal civilian life after their return. But the VA was full of shit, and did nothing to help him, as they did to so many other returning veterans. My dad tried for ages to get some help, but nothing was there for him. A nation that had sent off its men and women to fight a pointless war gave less than an iota of a shit about them when they returned.
In these same years, 2009, 2010, 2011, my parents’ marriage fell apart. There were moments when I thought, heartbroken, that it’d be better for them to get divorced than to stay together. So much hurt was inflicted on both to the other. My dad was a different person. His relationship with my mom was strained to the breaking point. I felt all of the conflict and tension in the house; much of the time it wasn’t even active fighting, just quiet seething resentment and pain.
I felt all of it.
Dad decided later on to live for months on end up in northern California near the military base where he was headquartered. I was infuriated at what I perceived to be his abandonment of our family. I thought it would have been less insulting for him to just separate from mom and live somewhere else permanently than to do the half-year with us, half-year away thing that he was doing. In these years I felt a complete reversal of my love for my dad that I had felt before; I felt so much hatred and resentment and disappointment. I despised my father and I despised myself.
Throughout this time I had gone to community college, then transferred to a four year college studying art. The school I attended was notorious as a boot camp of sorts for those in the creative field: animators, car designers, op-ed illustrators. It was an illustrious school full of wildly talented people. I met a lot of great people here. I had a lot of great experiences. I learned a lot.
It was here that the worst of my despair was born. With everything happening at home and all the internal turmoil I’d felt for years, I was a war-zone. I doubt many people suspected; I kept it hidden and compartmentalized very well. That is, until I couldn’t anymore.
One February day in 2012, I came out to my family.
It was a bitterly cold overcast day. February was always a brutal month for me; the depths of winter coupled with the loneliness that was always reignited by Valentine’s Day made it the rock bottom of the year for me. This February was very particular in how terrible it was. In tears, I called my mom to come home. I told her, barely keeping my voice steady, that I had something really horrible to tell her and that dad should be there too because I didn’t think I had the strength to repeat it later on for him. That morning I sat in my car in my driveway, sobbing, because I honestly thought I was about to lose my family.
I had no idea how they would react. I had no plan in place in case they rejected and disowned me. But I had reached a moment where I could no longer keep things to myself. When I came out it was an urgent, desperate thing I did. It was not a celebratory moment. It wasn’t a heartwarming thing. I felt no triumph, no pride. I only really came out because if I didn’t I would have destroyed myself.
My siblings and my mom were deeply accepting from the get-go. My dad was confused. He thought that it had been some failure on his or mom’s part that had led to this. He believed that mom had babied us and had subconsciously encouraged this, which drove a deeper wedge between the two of them. He honestly wondered how I could know for sure: I hadn’t had a ton of relationships with girls, tho there had been some. So how could I know for sure? Maybe I was just confused? Maybe this was all just a bad dream?
I hated him my dad so deeply then. I absolutely loathed him. Looking back on things, of course it took time for him to accept this massive change. It would take time even for the most accepting person to acclimate to a new reality. But what I needed at that moment was love, not questioning, not doubt. I, who was already questioning myself, was being questioned. And I despised the ones who asked the questions.
My friends were a mixed bag, just like my family, and I felt similarly about the ones who didn’t give me what I needed. In all my pain, I had grown deeply selfish and self-centered. I was on fire inside and out. I was being cored out like an apple; my insides were running soft and bleeding out of every orifice.
I dreamt of wolves and death and blood. Nothing made any sense. Nothing seemed real anymore. The future was black.
My mental health plummeted after coming out. In the media coming out is often portrayed as the final triumphant step in the story of a young LGBT person’s life, the ultimate embrace of who they are.
In real life, perhaps coming out is at times very triumphant. But it’s a complex system of despair, homophobia and the closet. The psychological trauma that being divorced from yourself for even a small amount of time inflicts is global and enduring; imagine not being yourself for 20 years. I opened the floodgates to all the things I had held so deep inside for so long when I came out. My demons were legion, and hell had finally come to pay. The day of reckoning had arrived; for so long, I had lived in fraud and cowardice, avoidance, invisibility.
Now, the truth was here. There was no hiding from the truth. There was no mercy.
It was 2012 and the end of the world really had arrived.
My grades plummeted in school. I burned bridge after bridge with friends I alienated. I was filled with rage and despair. In time, I dropped out of school. The old maxim that my parents had tattooed onto me on the value of completing college was left in the dust. There was no more learning and no more future. There was no more making friends, no more waking up overjoyed to see blue skies and sunlight. There was nothing. There was just, nothing.
I had failed in every possible way.
Everything was broken.
Everything was broken.
Everything was broken.
I wandered into the wilderness, more or less friendless, splintered from my own family, a total failure, without a sense of self, crushed beneath a world’s worth of self-hatred and shame. And everything was broken.
Toll due, bad dreams come true. I lie dead gone under red skies. I feel so alone. Gonna end up a big ol' pile I feel so alone Gonna end up a big ol' pile I feel so alone Gonna end up a big ol' pile of them bones.
I think that’s when I began to seriously think about killing myself.
2 : THE CEDARS OF SUICIDE
“Atmosphere” by Joy Division on Licht und Blindheit
Suicide is a really strange thing. For billions of years life evolved for one purpose and one purpose only : to continue existing. From the first single-celled organisms, to life in the oceans, to reptiles and dinosaurs and rodents and dogs and cats and primates and human beings, the impulse is to LIVE.
How then can someone not want to continue living? How can that most basic impulse be broken? Why does someone choose to end their own life?
Suicide is a universe of bizarre-ness. It’s kind of like being right next to a black hole in space; the normal laws of the universe break down. Gravity doesn’t work the same way, time is deformed and mutilated, even light is sucked in.
The same thing is true during a suicidal episode: nothing works the way it’s supposed to. Nothing makes any sense. Love doesn’t work. Hope doesn’t work. Faith doesn’t work. Meaning, purpose, having a job, making money, having future goals, having dreams. Nothing works. There is only the Wolf God of Suicide to confront, the Wolf God which is you yourself, soaked in blood, with dead eyes, forever screaming in your ears: “just do it already, you worthless piece of shit.”
In suicidality, a haunting, über-intense kind of rationale takes over. The mind begins to rationalize it.
The Wolf God speaks. What he says is: “you’re such a burden on everyone you love. All your friends, all your family, they just gotta keep putting up with your toxic ass. Make no mistake, you ARE toxic. You harm everyone, hurt everyone around you with your despair and confusion. You infect them with it, you undermine everyone you love. The kind of questioning that you do, you make them do it too. Just by existing, just by being in their lives you weigh them down, imprison them, enslave them. How long are you gonna keep inflicting yourself on them? To set them free, to stop hurting them, all you have to do is get rid of yourself…”
You think in suicidality that it’s the only option that frees those around you from your bullshit. You think that, because you love them and you don’t want them to suffer through your despair anymore, it would be the greatest mercy to them for you to gtfo.
It’s a thought that enraptures you. Here at the end of the world, on the fringes of human life and experience, instantly your life has meaning again. It’s a kind of inverted meaning tho, the evolutionary impulse to keep living gutted and turned inside out. You have a mission, a reason to be: to die. To die for a cause, the cause being the liberation of the people you love and the cessation of your own vile existence.
This is the most dangerous place to be in. With a cause, anyone can do anything, endure anything. Now you can endure the isolation and despair, because now you are working and planning on your own annihilation.
This is the space where suicides occur. Suicidal thoughts are horrifying, but they are not plans for action. When there is a plan, a life hangs in the balance.
In community college the suidical thoughts existed. They were always in the back of my mind like a glowing exit sign.
In the years following my dad’s return from deployment they existed too. The deep alienation and trauma he brought with him, the disconnection and roller-coaster of rage, silence, resentment, failure that he and my mom experienced afterwards. It was there throughout all of that too.
It was there when I was crying in my car on the morning I came out to my family, wondering if I would still have a home by evening’s end.
It was there when I tossed away friendship after friendship as I neared the end of my time at school. It was there the day I just stopped going. It almost seems like it’s always been there.
Was I born to do this, contemplate suicide? Sometimes I think that that’s what my reason for being on earth is…
I attempted it once. It was impulsive, not planned out. Half-hearted. As soon as I began it, I felt my enthusiasm for it evaporate. I’d had an extraordinarily terrible day, after what seemed to me like decades of extraordinarily bad days, and I was tired of being alive and being myself. I wanted out. I won’t go into depth about what happened, but I wanted to do something that made me suffer. The self-hatred demanded that if I was to bow out, I would bow out broken.
I failed at that too. I was too stupid and weak to be able to live, and too stupid and weak to be able to die.
These were cancerous years.
There is nothing so alienating and isolating as mental illness.
Like cancer, its a room with only your name on it. No one else can really be there with you, try as they might.
It’s on you to negotiate the depths of that kind of despair. The choice is yours: to wish and plan for death, or to find a way up from the bottom of life. That choice can only be made by you.
Each day during the Ice Age was 25 years long. Each night, 50.
It was a long dark night of the soul, long long long as life, merciless and brutal as life.
3 : EXISTENCE
“In Time” by Robbie Robb and Marcus Wright on Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
No fear, no loss, no tears The time is almost here Our dreams will all come true, I promise you Cause I can see for miles and miles
In this closed world, the future seems like an abyss of blinding light. It feels like a cave full of wolves ready to tear into flesh and disembowel.
In this closed world, is life worth living? Is hope real? Is love real? AM I REAL? Does God exist? If they do, how could they allow something like this to happen?
“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether or not life is worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that.” -Albert Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus”
It’s here at the very bedrock of your life that you come to understand a very fundamental truth: everything exists, only because you choose for it to be so.
In time we'll be dancing in the streets all night All night, all night In time, yes, everything will be all right All right, all right
You are a life in the world. You are a way for the universe to know and observe itself. If you choose to end that life, then that very personal and particular perception and understanding of the universe ends too. No one can see things, or feel things, or think about things, exactly the way you do. That vision ends with you.
The world ends with you.
There are many worlds. There are as many earths, as many Americas and NFLs and Donald Trumps and Game of Thrones series finales as there are people to perceive them.
The universe literally sees itself through us.
You find yourself in a world of absolute freedom. Nothing exists as you thought it did. You have broken through everything. You have seen past the veil of the known world to THE TRUTH.
The Truth is there is no particular reason to get out of bed in the morning. The Truth is, there may be a deeper meaning and a deeper purpose to our lives, there may be an order to the universe, things really might happen for a reason after all, but we can never know for sure. The Truth is, our lives are finite and one day we’ll be forgotten. Hell, sometimes we live such small and furtive lives, as I have done, that we’re not even remembered while we’re here on earth. We’re just invisible.
These are brutal truths. The truth is, no one has to like you or even love you. The truth is, all of us are ultimately alone in some measure; we can attempt to bridge the gap that separates us and sometimes we get very close to conquering that distance, but we are always ultimately alone.
Life is still worth living. That is, if you choose to believe that.
Our lives are built on beliefs, on faiths. We don’t ever think about it, but it’s an act of faith to believe that who we see sitting across from us at the table is really there at all. This could all be a dream, couldn’t it? We could be in a big-ass computer simulation. Vision is just lightwaves bouncing off of objects in space; how can I know for sure that that’s really what my mom, or my friend, or I look like? These are all acts of faith.
And we can choose what we put our faith in. It could be God. It could be people. It could be ourselves. It could be the idea that there is no one and nothing worthy of that faith. These are all ways of infusing something with faith. Faith will allow us to leave our beds in the morning. Hope will get us through the day.
Hope is a sibling of faith. Hope is what happens when you’re in such deep shit that within the parameters of the situation you must find a new way of proceeding forward.
Hope only exists where despair is; if there was nothing to feel despair about, there would be no point to the existence of hope.
Depression, existential crises, identity crises, suicide: these are all things that undermine and erode our hope and faith. But, if we can for a split second understand how much power we have to CHOOSE hope and faith again, it can stall the engine of despair.
Choice is fundamental. When we feel we cannot choose, we feel trapped and powerless. It’s in this region that life loses meaning and value and that we are racked with thoughts of suicide.
For all my life I have wondered why I am the way I am. Shy, quiet, queer. Sensitive, smart, unable to ever feel like I belong anywhere. I felt powerlessness in my youth and adolescence and young adulthood because I never had a choice in any of these things; I was just this way from the beginning. That powerlessness led to rage and despair. I felt anger and hatred at God for making me this way, at the world, at the human race for failing in so many ways. All that rage was inflicted inwards, and that putrefied into self-hatred. I hated myself for being the way I was, and being unable to change any of it, I thought it would be better to not exist at all. There is a thread of feeling trapped throughout my entire life.
When there is a problem, you can find a solution. But if what you’re perceiving as a problem feels like it has no solution, then there is nowhere to go. You are in limbo. And the Wolf God of Suicide is born in your mind, because that seems to be the only way of having any say at all in an intolerable situation you never asked for and cannot accept.
But you can always change your perspective. The universe is infinite. We as human beings are infinite. We are able to change and adapt, to regress and grow and regress again. We can always change. Even if our circumstances cannot change, WE can.
“I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is, just like a fish is. I have a right to be this way…I can’t apologize for that, nor can I change it, nor do I want to… we will never have to be other than who we are in order to be successful…we realize that we are as ourselves unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to recognize this, if they choose.” -Alice Walker, “The Color Purple”
We choose to remain alive every day. Despite the crushing emptiness and meaninglessness of the universe, despite the vicious cruelty and callousness of the world we live in where genocide, fraud, prejudice, disconnection, and alienation are the norm. But we just keep on living. We only continue to find reasons to keep living and sources of beauty in this cold universe.
There is no “eureka” moment when all of sudden it becomes apparent why life is worth living. There is no waking up one morning and suddenly everything is beautiful and valuable again, and you look in the mirror, and all of a sudden you really like the person looking back at you.
You visit these thoughts over and over again for aeons.
You always come back here, to the world of freedom, just like you always journey through the woods of despair where suicide and self harm hide behind every corner. You always resurface, take a breath, then get dragged down again. Resurface, breathe, sink down again. Up, down, up, down. Always. Forever and ever.
It takes a long time for this idea about choice to sink in: maybe I cannot choose to be straight, even tho I have wanted that badly for a long time, because it wouldn’t come with all this despair and questioning and self-hatred and loneliness. Maybe I cannot just will away my depression and anxiety, cannot just “snap out of it”. I think it will most likely be something I will have to contend with all my life. Maybe I cannot choose to be someone who is suddenly very good-looking and charming and whom everyone adores all the time.
There are some things that cannot ever be changed, ever.
But there are also some things that can be changed. Maybe I can change how I look at something. Maybe there is a value in being queer. Maybe it provides a perspective or an experience that is not possible otherwise. Maybe there is a value in being an outsider. Maybe there is value in being shy, or quiet, or very deep-feeling and deep-thinking. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not about it all being “destined” to be that way.
Maybe it’s about the way I look at it.
Maybe there may be something I can provide to others, that only I can provide. After all, I believe that every person is a universe unto themselves, utterly unique, unlike anyone else. Why wouldn’t the same be true of me?
Maybe life is worth living after all.
It'll take time but we're going far You and me, yes I know we are In time we'll be dancing in the streets all night
I speak like I have figured it all out. Like I’ve successfully voyaged out of the depths of that despair. But like I have stated, there is no permanent state of having “conquered” this despair.
That is not possible. But there can be a way to meet it head-on, and to wrestle with all your might with the Wolf that looks exactly like you who screams at you how worthless you are, and there can be a little reprieve after every wrestling match.
Some matches you may come very close to losing. That’s ok. You don’t have to win; you just gotta keep wrestling.
Like King Sisyphus, who was sentenced to live out eternity pushing a boulder up a hill each day in the morning only for it to roll down again at night. The next day he would have to do the same thing all over again. There is no time when that boulder won’t roll down again.
But you can always choose to do it again, despite the fact that it will fall again. For the people you love. Your friends, your family. Maybe one day, for yourself, whom hopefully you will learned to love too. You do it for the people you love.
That’s love, right? Making hard, sometimes nearly inhumanly impossible sacrifices.
In time we'll be dancing in the streets all night All night, all night In time, yes, everything will be all right All right, all right It'll take time but we're going far You and me, yes I know we are In time we'll be dancing in the streets all night
I honestly don’t have any answers. But this still from one of the greatest movies I have ever seen, Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke, might give us a clue as to what the next step might be:
4 : THE HOPE THAT PEOPLE WILL ONE DAY BE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER
“The Revenant” by Let Em Riot on SlashWave EP
I dreamt it all... I dreamt it all... I dreamt it all...
“But still you find reasons to keep living.”
So I look at myself now. Really look at myself. I want to see with eyes unclouded by hate, as Prince Ashitaka does in Hayao Miyazaki’s epic masterpiece “Princess Mononoke”.
I want to love and be in love. I want to ease the suffering of others, erase the things that hurt them. I want to destroy everything that undermines and erodes who we are, everything that alienates us from one another.
Self hatred and shame have been two “angels” on my shoulders for as long as I can remember. They are so inescapable and omnipresent that they feel as innate to me as my curly hair or my acne; it’s in my genes to be ashamed. It’s my nature to deeply loathe myself. The idea of loving myself, accepting myself, finding things of value within me feels as laughable as the thought of telling you to accept that you have purple eyes when all your life you’ve had brown eyes: the absurdity of what I am asking you to believe about yourself is hilarious.
But EMPATHY is something innate to me too.
Saying it’s “second nature” for me to empathize would be an understatement. It’s automatic as breathing or blinking; I am in the life of another, in their shoes. What is it like to be a soldier? A mother? A trans woman? A football player? A stoic, emotionally distant young man or woman? Someone addicted to drugs? An immigrant who cannot speak the language? I think this has something to do with my imagination. I think empathy and imagination go hand in hand; how can you place yourself in another person’s perspective if you cannot imagine it first?
So a huge imagination is innate to me too.
I think I care. Like, a lot. Caring is kind of my thing. When I am not cold and ashamed of myself and cut off from my own feelings, when I am not selfish and irritable and liable to lash out, I care.
I’m not perfect. I’m very far from perfect. But I know for sure, genuinely, I care. That’s something that I know is true about me.
I’m constructing my own identity. After decades of shame, maybe I can empathize with myself too. Maybe I can see who I am.
I am a seed that has just been planted in the ground after an Ice Age. In time, I will grow, a skinny sapling at first but bursting at the seams with the will to be a huge strong cedar tree someday.
I am a town getting to its feet after a tsunami and an earthquake has swept through. There has been a lot of loss. Much too much loss. The grief is palpable in the air. But there is a future still, a way to remember who and what has been lost and to continue on.
I am the human race after a war, or after an asteroid impact. Decimated. A fraction of what it once was. But, one day, maybe it can be greater than it was. Maybe there is a way to heal from such a cataclysmic event.
One day I can be new, maybe.
Maybe one day I can be a new homie.
The Revenant returns to remind me how Slowly breathing in and out. Strange, how this place make no sound And how you and I are someone else. I dreamt it all…
I want, more than anything, to understand.
Why do people do what they do? Why do anything at all? And I feel a deep love coupled with that attempt to understand. How can you try to understand and not come away with some degree of affection or admiration for that person?
I dreamt it all. I dreamt it all. I dreamt it all.
My dreams are huge. Too huge to fit into my head or into my heart.
I have the hope that one day we can understand each other.
I believe that we can perservere and withstand, that we can endure the brutal onslaught that is aimed at us and find the resilience and strength to adapt and to grow.
When I feel hope, it is so unbelievably vast. It’s such an overwhelming emotion, and it erases everything else to the last molecule. Self-loathing, shame, emptiness. Everything dries up in the presence of hope and empathy.
Of course, the Wolves come to hunt again. In time I will crash and I will feel despair again.
But also, in time, the Wolves will be thrown away into the far corners of the universe. For a moment, everything will make sense again. There will be a reason to be here on earth again.
I live for the moments in my life when I have felt deep love and deep hope. They make life worth living; the people who I shared those moments with make life worth living. Everything is worth it, everything is possible, because of them.
“Love is life. Everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it alone.” -Leo Tolstoy
5 : TO SEE WITH EYES UNCLOUDED BY HATE
Could there be a day in my life when I could love myself? When I could say, I would choose, REALLY CHOOSE, this life?
Who will I be on that day?
Maybe I could be anyone. I could be anything.
“Firmament + Lights” by Wolfgun on LIGHTS
There's a story of a wolf Who knew no enemy too fair He always minded to himself And never crossed the path of care But the world became his plight And that wolf put up a fight But now he's gone And no one can say No one can say to where
I could be an astronaut.
I could be an artist.
I could be a surfer, a skater, a lover, a father, a brother, a son. I could be myself.
Long ago, there was only darkness And in the darkness There was no light But the darkness could not remain forever Because there is no darkness Without light So you shall fear not Now is but a dream And in this dream The dreamer said Let there be light
I journey for a moment back through the years to the child who was alone and who needed a friend who could understand him, love him.
Maybe that didn’t happen then. But I could imagine myself, the entire history of me, all the different Javis who have existed.
And I could give myself what I needed. And I can give that to others too. I am intimately familiar with the deprivation of love. And I know what it does to people. I don’t ever want that to happen again. That should never happen.
No one should ever feel that alone.
No one should ever feel like there is no home for them anywhere in the universe.
I must do something to change this.
In the future, I will continue to confront myself. I will continue to fall down. I will hurt myself. I will have dark Ice Age days.
I must choose life on these days, even tho everything screams to choose the other option.
Where is home?
Someday I want to be home. It’s a beautiful dream. A place to be free, to be safe, to be loved.
On the black days, I can choose to go home.
وطن المرء ليس مكان ولادته و لكنه المكان الذي تنتهي فيه كل محاولاته للهروب / HOME IS NOT WHERE YOU WERE BORN; HOME IS WHERE ALL YOUR ATTEMPTS TO ESCAPE CEASE. -Naguib Mahfouz
Maybe one day I could love myself.
As Shinji in Neon Genesis Evangelion discovers at the very end:
“I hate myself. But maybe, maybe I could love myself. Maybe my life can have a greater value! I’m no more or less than myself. I’m me! I want to be myself! I want to continue existing in this world! My life is worth living here!”
Maybe one day I could see with eyes unclouded by hate.
Maybe one day all of us could do that.
Life and death. Eternity and identity. Empathy and apathy. The world, the universe, God, you.
Who are you?
What are you afraid of?
Who do you love?