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May 30, 2024

What do you say to save someone from suicide?

By KATIE BARAT | April 24, 2014

I stumbled upon a quiz some time ago titled “Could You Prevent Someone Jumping from a Cliff?” After diligently filling out the answers, got the result: “No, you couldn’t.”  The result wasn’t even that surprising, considering my overall grim outlook on life.

My friends tell me that all of my conversations always end up coming back to the same topic: death. Boyfriend cheated on you? Well, we’re all going to die anyway. Bad grade on a test? If you are going to do something grand before you die, it doesn’t matter in the end. I must be somewhat of an obnoxious conversationalist, since I always find it necessary to conclude that we’re just a bunch of atoms floating in space on this big ship in one of the zillions of galaxies that exist. It is only the acute awareness of the issue that makes me tolerable: I mention all of the “right” earthly answers, console them, listen to them, before I mention the universe part:

“So, are you a Miranda, Carrie, or Samantha?”

“I am one of the specks of dust on Alexander Petrovsky’s works of art.” But ok, I say, I’m a Charlotte, and here you go, potential suicide case, I’ll tell you what I know.

I’ll tell you that there are tulip fields out there with morning fogs worthy of instagramming, but you probably don’t need them, do you? Tell you there are people to meet, so many so great. People who are so staggeringly different and some that are so suddenly like you. People to gift you thoughts, dreams, perspectives, and little pocket Lindts. Some to make you laugh till it hurts, to make you take up yoga or recreational LSD (kidding, kidding!). People with rainbow hair, or who are too sure of things. People who are stories…But to you, you say, it’s nothing new.

Maybe, I’ll continue, you’re into food? Cuisines you haven’t tried, French bakeries, and the softest marshmallows you have yet to taste. Or are you into art? There’s a Kandinsky exhibition coming to the BMA, do you want to go and strike up a conversation with the guards and find out how the tiny Renoir paintings got stolen 50 years ago?

No? Well, maybe, you want to be something yourself. Do you want to cause jealousy, or inspiration? Do you want to turn into a story, a legend, the best friend anyone could ask for? You can change things on this little planet, you know. Take a chance, do whatever, since you’re ready to die anyway. How about opening up a café with soft colorful cushions and books about existentialism for the miserable and calling it “Just a Rainy Day”?

Where do you want to go? What do you want to see? Venice is drowning, you know, this may be your last chance to visit and tell your grandkids. What about Prague – those bridges are from another world, you’ll see! What about love? You may pretend to be a tourist and chat up the tall ginger only to fall madly in love, you know. It is a possibility. Great love in books and movies, set it on fire, bring it to life. To start a magazine, a proper feminist one, with topics that matter, would be something new. Or write a poem, paint the skyline, get a tattoo, learn to waltz - what goes around comes around.

I’ll go on and on about finding ethnic prints in vintage shops, figuring out unknown science of the brain, things to give and to get, but you’ll probably shake your head no. It’s not enticing enough. Nothing is enticing enough. Nothing matters. Nothing will. And every time you think about something to write or scream, you’ll say, you can only think “Help.” You’ll mention how you can easily cry during any ordinary conversation. How the music you listen to is alright, but if the bands were in the lobby of Charles Commons, you wouldn’t even go down to meet them. You’ll say you want to scream how irrelevant your marketing class is every time someone uses the phrase “projected growth of revenue.” And I’ll understand my mistakes.

Listen, I’ll say, now I know! And there is no way out! And, oh god, you sound so sad, now I want to kill myself, too. The thing is, though, you can’t give up. You need to try, you need to change, you need to take steps. I don’t know what it will be, something minor like shoes or something major like a person, but I can promise you that you’ll feel light again, happy, as if the blobs of sunlight are playing inside and as if your life has a Disney soundtrack. It is even possible that nothing external will change, but all I can really tell you is there are exceptions, places, people, thoughts to bring you back to the right side. Whatever it is, it will feel like all of this, the whole world, is seductive again. It is about you more than it is about anyone or anything else.

Even with all of my reiterations of the inevitably of death, there is life to seek, and, in the words of Saint-Exupery, “to become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence.” Winter inside is a quiet prediction of summer. You just need to try, try, try.


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