“Suicidal thoughts: we all get them sometimes, no?”
He said it with such assurance, so matter-of-factly that it scared me a bit.
But just a bit:
“I guess that’s true… Although I probably get them more often than most.”
“…especially when stuck in a place I don’t want to be. And so why we travel…”
Then, we began telling each other stories: How we went from suicidal thoughts to life thoughts…
Basically, how travel changed our lives forever.
You’ve read mine: let’s see how he overcame suicidal thoughts. Take it…
It was the summer of 2006. I was fresh out of high school and my family decided a just reward would be…A cruise through the Caribbean. Yet, I was just depressed, tired, and pretty f***ing hopeless.
To get away from the fake smiles of the employees and disco inferno on the party deck, I went to our cabin, then out on our private balcony to look at the stars. As I was standing there, I began to lean over the edge.
First just my head, then my chest and, before I knew it, I was up on the rail: my hip on the bar a mere 20 degrees from losing the center of gravity, keeping me on this rusty bucket…
As I do this pre-fad planking I began to realize that the fear was NOT of accidentally falling, but rather, of actually letting go. I mean f*ck, I am in the middle of the Caribbean, no other boat travelling at least 20 knots in sight.
Basically, no shot in hell of these people hearing me scream over the diesel engines — let alone circling back fast enough to pick me up in time.
My heart was beating at the pace of a championship race; my eyes were tearing up. I mean f***ing hell, my life has been terrible: I trained 6 hours A DAY in a sport that most people in my town called GAY. My dad is never around, my mom is always drunk — all while my sister is on another planet. No friends, no money to my name…
Just a cold swimsuit, a shitty Mazda, and a broken pair of glasses.
I leaned a couple inches more: now my feet are way off and the only things stopping me from falling into the deep blue abyss are two sweaty palms on a beautifully-waxed wooden railing. Then — among all the suicidal thoughts — a glimmer of a strange, yet familiar thought came flying out of the corner of my head:
Do you really want to DIE here?
Think about it: you trained your ass off for a REALLY long time to go to college and here, right before the liquor, the ladies and, most importantly, the freedom away from that God-forsaken town you want to throw it all away; exchange it for a horribly-ironic newspaper headline, going something like this: “Record-holding Swimmer Drowns”?
Nah, man: NOT TODAY. Because today, I am getting ready.
Finally, I started to slide away from the railing. When my feet hit the ground, my hands were shaking with such force I didn’t realize how long they were truly holding me back. I sat down and looked back at the railing.
I stared at the railing for 3 days straight, trying to figure out what held me back.
Then, I realized that giving it all up after the f*** ton of sh** I had already gone through was, in all honesty, not worth it. So yeah…F*** THAT; I gotta at least try to go to college.
And so, I returned from that trip a changed man.
I realized: must try one more day, somewhere else, before giving up.
Fast-forward to fall 2006 and I am in college in sunny Florida…yet? Everything is tough — again. So, when I least expected it, the demon would come out, trying to take out all the wind from my sails and have me just let it all go. So after about a month of him (a.k.a. suicidal thoughts) showing up again, I said:
“Alright demon you want me to die? Want me in hell? Well then: time to FACE it!”
I found a friend of mine in Texas who worked at a shitty skydiving shop in the middle of nowhere and told him to pack a chute this winter. For Christmas.
We drove up, past a shooting range, up a dirt road to a little place where a man was yelling at my buddy not to kill the customers — as he was drinking a beer & blaring southern rock himself. My mother, who insisted on coming, was naturally losing her mind. I told her not to worry (while secretly having my own crusade).
That demon was surly smiling and man was I ready to face him.
I walked in, put all my savings on the table, signed a form and, before I could say howdy, I was in a tiny kite climbing in altitude — strapped to an old man who seemed to have had about the same attitude as I did that day.
And suddenly, as I lay on my stomach, the door flies open next to me…
…and the demon slowly gets quiet.
What!? What’s the matter demon, didn’t you want this? You had no problem in high school f***ing with me, no problem with swimming practice, while I am asleep, while I’m running to attack me. YET, when I all of sudden charge out the trenches, teeth snarling to face you, you’re shutting the f**k up huh? Well, it’s too late now!
…and foosh: the sound, as I see the plane slowly flying away from me.
What the…where is the strap?! S**t, no strap. Ok OK where is the rope that has me attached to something? Where the f**k is the DISNEY SAFETY (I really did think this) and nope nope and nope it’s all gone.
What’s left? Stranger on my back (supposedly knowing what to do) & my mind.
As I stared at the ground, realizing that death could be here and I wouldn’t feel a thing, I felt this calm come over me. And right then, immediately after suicidal thoughts dissipated, I realized I didn’t want to die. Because of that calmness that came with adrenaline, with the challenge…
I realized that death was not what I wanted. I simply missed feeling alive.
Sure, if it all went cocks up and I died there that day, I could have been cool with that. BUT if I had 1 more day to play one hour of video games, ride a motorcycle or have some money… that would be awesome, too.
I realized in that brief moment — between life and death, adrenaline and calmness — that the demon was just fear, and if I charged that fear instead of running away from it, I could actually make it to 40. Or 80.
The suicidal thoughts don’t follow me now; rather, a stench of motivation to at least try and get into a little bit more trouble before I — or must I say, somebody else — decides I have to go.Sure, I still got my bad days (who doesn’t?), but all I have to do is remind myself of the reason why I did not end it all back in high school. Back in the Caribbean Sea. As I fell down the skies:
The experience of going somewhere new. How it feels to be truly alive.
I want to travel. I want to get out there and experience weird s**t. I want to be terrified — but because I’m drinking with a bunch of men with AK-47s. I want to ride a motorcycle on dangerous roads.
Now I know what you might be thinking: WHAT THE F**K IS THIS GUY ON AND WHERE IS HIS DEALER. But trust me: I’m sober, except for the high that suicidal thoughts and the fear of taking my own life brought me.
Now if fate has decided that a cancer the size of a ceiling fan wanted to pop on my left ventricle and take me out of the game: so be it. But simply knowing that I still have a choice, a chance, the gift to walk on the earth one more day…
Then I’m really going to try get some really cool s**t done.
Any step counts — and I do mean any step forward.
I don’t care if it’s just a baby step or if I’m just fu***ng hop scotching: I’m going to look forward instead of backwards and actually achieve s**t that no one thought could be done! That’s what makes me — could make YOU — feel alive and finally see that life is a gift not to be wasted.
It’s been 4 years since that fateful day — hanging from a cruise balcony rail, over the Caribbean Sea — and I am on my way. I have found an amazing business partner, an amazing woman, and even more amazing experiences. I am less than 4 years away from traveling the world indefinitely, with a steady passive income coming my way, plus a motorcycle — just the possibilities get me stoked every morning I I’m lucky enough to wake up and see the sunshine again.
If it were easy EVERYONE would do it. So don’t choose the ‘less exciting’ way.
I don’t know if my story will help someone out there, but please remember: you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT. The key is to NOT expect anyone to like it or back you up to do it. What’s crazy is that, most of the time…?
They are just jealous of what they never had the balls to accomplish.
If you travel already, good. If you don’t yet, good, too. It does not matter what path you choose in life, the point is to choose one — and the one that YOU want, for that matter. Because in the end, only YOU will have to come to terms with YOUR own decisions.
Yes, you’ll fuck up. Yes, you’ll go down paths that are less than pleasant at times. Just remember to dwell on the excitement of the unknown instead of listening to the coward demons that want you to take the boring way out.
Personally, I’ve gotten to experience many incredible moments and, if I live a little longer, I can go even bigger. I didn’t know this back when I was tormented by suicidal thoughts every second; back when I was about to jump off that cruise’s balcony. BUT…
I’m glad some Angel did know, pulled me back, and pushed me forward.
Make a 5-year goal, yearly goal, monthly goal, weekly goal, daily goal. Adapt and always, and I do mean ALWAYS, move forward. Celebrate any step (or baby hop) in that direction because man, every inch is a mile in this game of life.