I recently turned forty. Not too long ago I was speaking with a friend about milestone birthdays, the ones after we hit twenty-one and which start a new decade of our lives. Some people like to make a big deal about these birthdays. They use turning thirty, forty, or fifty to reflect on where they’ve been in the past ten years and to look ahead at the next decade.
Many individuals like to celebrate these experiences with a large gathering of friends and family, or a big trip. Perhaps they take this opportunity to buy themselves something nice. After all, you only turn forty once!
This is an important milestone for many, but it’s hard for me to approach the declaration of this new decade as any different than others. The reason is simple: I’m a survivor of many attempts to take my life.
But what does that have to do with celebrating birthdays? Quite a bit, actually. There is something about trying to kill myself that caused me to change my outlook on life. Once I was through the darkest years of my psyche, I realized that it was somewhat amazing I was even alive.
When I was in high school I couldn’t imagine going to college. I didn’t see a future for myself. In college I couldn’t see what lay beyond that time. And I couldn’t contemplate that I would be alive at thirty. After my second suicide attempt in 2011 when I was 32, I had to confront the fact that I would be around quite a while. And that meant life had to take on a different meaning.
Over the past eight years that has meant learning to understand what it is I want to do with my life. In my case it means helping those who have gone through similar experiences as mine. We can all use some guidance from those who have undergone times like the ones we’re battling.
From the point of my second suicide attempt onward, I realized that life was going to keep happening. I would continue to get older. I could see the possibility of me living to be eighty or even ninety. Thus, every year I turn older, whether it’s thirty-eight or forty, has been an unexpected surprise. I never thought I’d be here. So certain years don’t have a particular meaning for me. It’s all icing on the cake in a life I never expected to live. But now that I’m here, I’m trying to do my best to make it worthwhile and helpful for others.
We've all made it through tough experiences. Utilizing that time in our lives can give us a sense of purpose and direction as we help others undergoing the same thing. What are your difficult life experiences? How can you use those to aid others who might be going through similar situations?
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This blog is an exploration of the subjects of belonging and loneliness. I also look at mental health issues. I seek to provide content to my readers that is informative and helpful. If you don't want to miss anything, sign up for my email list.