On September 25, 2000, Kevin Hines jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. He was 19 years old.
The CDC reports that suicide rates in the United States have climbed 35% from 1999 to 2018.
Four seconds. That's how long it took after Kevin's fingers left the railing for him to hit the water.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 34.
Kevin's back broke in three places upon impact. He was still alive and began to drown.
Jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge has a 98% mortality rate.
The water had just about swallowed Kevin when he felt something large and slimy swimming beneath him. It was a sea lion, and it kept him afloat until the Coast Guard arrived. Miraculously, Kevin survived to tell his story.
Kevin said that the second he left the railing, he felt immediate regret. He didn't want to die anymore. Instantaneously, he wanted nothing more than to reach back for the rail, but the rail was gone.
So, why am I telling you about Kevin?
Kevin survived almost certain death, but Kevin is not the only person to survive jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. What I find most significant is that all of the survivors that have been interviewed said that the moment they jumped, they realized the same thing — that jumping was a mistake. Every problem that leads them to the ledge had the potential to be resolved.
You can change situations, relationships, and issues, but death is permanent.
I hope I can convince you that ending your life is a mistake. If you feel like falling, I hope that I can give you a railing to grab on to. I want to share with you some of the many reasons I have found that make life worth living, and how I have learned to choose life, every day.
The good news is that everything you experience is temporary. Sadness, happiness, pain, comfort, rain, sun, winter, summer, night, day, and so on. If you have a bad day, it will end. Light is only significant in contrast to darkness. Without the bad days, the good days wouldn't be quite as sweet. This is because life is not about being sweet all the time. Instead, it is about finding balance in the many flavors of life, because this balance is what helps us appreciate the sweet after the sour, the sun after the storm, and the highs after the lows.
We cannot predict the future. We cannot simply foresee the arrival of our good days, inner peace, soulmate, good luck, or life-changing encounters. The only way to know when that day comes is to experience it. And to experience anything at all, you need to be alive.
The cool thing about living is that we get to see the world change around us. Time is simply a measurement of change. The clocks measure the sun's position in the sky. The days of the year measure how far the earth has traveled around the sun, and our age measures how many of those full rotations we have been alive for. Time stops for no one, and neither does change. This means that while we are alive, change is the only thing we can be sure of. If that is not hope, I don't know what is. If you think your life is not worth living because of the situation you are in, whatever it may be, that very situation will change every day.
With that being said, you can help speed the change along by changing your perspective. In fifth grade, I felt an overwhelming disinterest in life. I thought about life like this: we are born, if we are lucky we go to school, we go to school some more, we get a job and maybe continue to go to school, find a career, maybe get married, have a family, they go to school, we work until we are too old to work, and we die. Maybe we die before one of those "milestones," and maybe we will be missed. Regardless, one day we will die, and eventually, the world will cease to exist and none of this will matter any longer. I was indifferent and numb to the idea of death and saw no point in participating in life as I thought I knew it.
If I had ended my life right then and there, I would never have discovered what I know now.
Flash forward, I'm in college. I have accepted that deep down I believe that nothing matters, but my perspective has shifted. If being alive and not being alive matters equally as much to the universe, then my presence is just as significant as my absence. I realized that life, in itself, is significant. I have one shot at this whole being alive thing, and it would be silly of me to throw it away before my time is up. And if ultimately nothing matters, does that matter? That just means that there are no rules — anything can matter, and I have the freedom to decide what matters to me. I do not believe there is a meaning of life. I believe there are many. And I believe that they are not set in stone, they do not exist already for us to find, they are for us to create.
Once I realized that I cannot find meaning, I stopped looking for it and started inviting it. I began saying yes to things outside of my comfort zone. I started making conversation with strangers. I started doing things that I wanted to do, despite the opinions of the people around me. I started caring about myself. I began to value life, in all forms. I came to realize how strange it is to be alive, in the first place, but how wonderful it is to share this oddity with millions of other living people at the same time.
I now believe that what is meaningful in my life are the connections I have made and the experiences I have shared with others. I value the interactions I have with people. I make more time for my family and friends, and I find ways to add meaning to their lives and show them I care. I give love freely to anyone and everyone, and I allow myself to accept love. I remind myself to use my words kindly, to be gentle with people, to listen, and to say what I feel when I have the chance. I have learned that I much prefer living with "oh well" than "what if." I do what I believe is right and what makes me feel good at that point in time. The only regrets I have are the things I have not done and the opportunities I have not taken. The only thing I want now is to simply live more. I want to squeeze life for every last drop. Life is what you make it, after all.
This is not to say that I am always happy. No one is. I have days where I feel lost, insignificant, tired, stagnant. I do not always feel a sense of purpose. And that is okay. In those times, I just remind myself that no one really knows why we are here. We simply are. Life is so much more than birth and death — they are just the bread on the sandwich. What makes the sandwich worth eating is the tasty bits in between. Each and every day that we wake up, we have to opportunity to laugh, cry, learn, hug someone, make a baby smile, see a rainbow, save a life, and experience the beauty that life has to offer. If you think the world would be a better place without you, you're wrong. Your life is invaluable. There is only one you. There are better days ahead, and so much more to see, feel, and do. There are places to go, people to meet, food to taste, animals to pet, memories to make, and life to live.
I will leave you with these words, written by American author Ursula K. Le Guin:
"When I take you to the Valley, you'll see the blue hills on the left and the blue hills on the right, the rainbow and the vineyards under the rainbow late in the rainy season, and maybe you'll say, "There it is, that's it!" But I'll say. "A little farther." We'll go on, I hope, and you'll see the roofs of the little towns and the hillsides yellow with wild oats, a buzzard soaring and a woman singing by the shadows of a creek in the dry season, and maybe you'll say, "Let's stop here, this is it!" But I'll say, "A little farther yet." We'll go on, and you'll hear the quail calling on the mountain by the springs of the river, and looking back you'll see the river running downward through the wild hills behind, below, and you'll say, "Isn't that the Valley?" And all I will be able to say is "Drink this water of the spring, rest here awhile, we have a long way yet to go and I can't go without you."
I'm not saying choosing to live every day is easy.
I am saying it is worth it.