In pondering what to title this post, I just couldn’t think of what to call it. Alas, I guess merely quoting the most repetitive song ever (“The Edge” by Eiffel 65) seems appropriate because well, that’s what this post is all about.
To me, one of the most chilling scenes in any movie is Neil’s suicide scene in the movie Dead Poets Society. Inspired by his English teacher Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) to pursue his passion for acting, Neil (Robert Sean Leonard) auditions for and lands for the role of Puck in a local production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His father (who insists his son become a doctor instead) is outraged, withdraws him from Welton and the play and enrolls him in a military academy. Seeing no path forward, and with no support from his mother, Neil uses his father’s revolver to commit suicide.
Here is that chilling scene, for those who have never seen the movie:
As much as it makes the hair on the back of my own head stand up, it makes it even more so knowing just how close I personally came to having almost the exact same fate. On this day, the three-year anniversary of me getting my first tattoo (a semicolon tattoo on my right wrist), I feel I am finally ready to open up about just how close I came to being another statistic and just how close I was to putting my own family through the pain of losing a loved one to suicide.
Having been rejected from my dream career (on account of my autism diagnosis and the FAA not accepting those with ASDs), forced into less-than-satisfying menial jobs and not being able to stick with one long-term, I saw no other option but to end my misery, and by god that’s what I was going to do come hell or high water. On a hot July 2015 night, drove my (then) piece of shit car to a remote location where nobody would be able to find me and brought along a semi-automatic pistol for the ride. Loaded with a single round of hollow-point (because who needs more than one shot?), I aimed to kill and pulled the trigger without hesitation.
A few seconds go by and I think to myself “I guess I’m dead?” In that split second I feared the worst – that there is in fact and afterlife and now I’m destined for hell. Alas, a few more seconds go by and I realize that I’m still alive. I check in the chamber only find out that the shot had not fired. Puzzled, I ejected the unspent round to examine it and much to my surprise there was the imprint of the firing pin on the primer. Of the 25 rounds in that box of ammo, I had picked the only one that was a dud. Hell, that might have been the only dud in that entire production run. What are the odds that the single dud would have wound up in that specific box AND it just so happens to be the one I randomly picked out of that box? Beating astronomically rare odds, I had cheated death, much to my dismay (at least in that instant).
As I sat there for a moment, angry, frustrated, I couldn’t help but think at how unlucky I was. Here I was, going to relieve myself from my own suffering because I finally had the chance, and that was foiled by some awful luck. Alas, it was in that moment I thought to myself “What the FUCK are you doing?!?!?” I drove home to sleep.
A few days later, I was changing the transmission fluid on my car when I got a call from a long-time friend of mine saying an opportunity had come open at my previous company (which he then also worked for). I interviewed the next day and within a couple of weeks I had a new career in the crane business.
A few months pass and I settle into my new career. Though less than satisfying, at least it meant I had a decent home life and wasn’t wondering where my next meal was going to come from. With the cloud looming over me that my reality shouldn’t be this, is when I started kicking around the unthinkable. Something I always sworn I would never do. I thought about getting a tattoo as an outward symbol of my internal battles.
I kicked the idea around for almost two months, until I decided I might as well just go for it. So, after finding a local artist, I walked into the shop on the cold, rainy evening on January 2nd, 2016 at 6:00 PM. I filled out the paperwork, trembling in fear as I did so.
As I sat down in the chair and the artist began preparing her equipment, she told me something I will never forget. “You know once you get this one you’re going to want more,” and she will tell you this is absolutely true – I looked her square in the eye and said “you’re so full of shit.” I was so scared but I had gotten this far, I figured I had to follow through at this point.
I did, and the sense of pride after I did was like nothing I’d ever felt before. I was high as a kite too. That was quite a rush, and I now had upon me a mark indicative of my battles. At this point I still swore I wouldn’t do that again, but we all know how long that lasted.
Three years and eight additional tattoos later plus adding some celtic knot to my first tattoo (to separate it from the very conservative Christian side of Project Semicolon), well, I guess I never saw myself here three years ago. It’s been a wild ride for sure.
So yes, I’ve been to the edge, and whatever god might exist, god does know if I’ve looked down (which I have). Do I still sometimes struggle with these thoughts? Absolutely. I think it will be a lifetime of struggle. I’m also not going to guarantee that life will never get bad enough for me to finally get pushed over that edge (Amy Bleuel herself later succumbed to suicide). Despite my own personal struggle, I maintain the political view that suicide is a right and the government has no right to try to stop someone from carrying it out. That said, it should not be undertaken without exhausting all other options and without consideration of the effects of those around them.
With that, I want to say thank you to all my friends and followers for reading. Thank you for allowing me to tell my story. Of course, that story is still in progress, because my story isn’t over yet. If you’re still here reading this, neither is yours. Thank you and good night.
Oh, and the referenced song, for those so curious: