Suicide is for the Young

By Brian Sweeney

I think everyone expects to be dead by the time they’re thirty. Maybe not dead dead, but they expect life to just kind of end. When you’re young, even in your late teens and twenties, when you think about life past thirty, it’s a hazy sort of thing that is impossible to really picture. You sort of just assume that your actual great life will happen in your twenties, and then the credits will roll and life will take place elsewhere. You expect that your life will work itself out one way or another.

When you’re young, thirty is an abstract concept. It marks the clear line of young and old. Your twenties are spent being depressed and romanticizing death and pain and restlessness and whatever. That’s why the greatest art comes from people that age. It’s the time when you will go anywhere, do anything and try anything. The world is so open and full of wonder. People move in and out of your life so fast and so slow at the same time. You can still attempt things and screw up. You still have time. You still have until thirty.

Brunching with friends. A benefit of surviving your twenties.

Brunching with friends. A benefit of surviving your twenties.

When you’re thirty, you have to look into stuff like a mortgage. And if a mortgage is right for you. And what the word “mortgage” means. When you’re thirty, you have to have a boxspring or a bed frame or both. A mattress on the floor is no longer the sign of an angry, young man just trying to get by in this cold, wretched world. It’s just ugh. When you’re twenty-three, you could still bring a woman back to your place and have sex on your stained floor mattress that is frayed at the edges. Cigarette butts littered around it like a moat around the king’s castle. Mead notebooks filled with ideas for songs and half finished poems about disquietude. Books are strewn about your room. Books that you bought or stole mostly to display as unearned trophies to your intelligence, so visitors could look at them and think, “Wow, this guy has Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex. He is smart!” The fact that you only read the first four pages (or none) of the books weren’t important. Style over substance. That’s what your twenties are. Your thirties are for audiobooks and Malcolm Gladwell.

When you’re thirty, you’ve calmed down (aka got boring). You don’t really want to date people who you have to constantly worry about or be outside their house at 3 a.m. crying in the rain screaming out their name in hopes they will let you in and give you the chance to explain why they should be with you instead of their new boyfriend. When you’re thirty, you can appreciate a nice breakfast or an inn. You can breathe in the air at a Michigan bed and breakfast on the lake and let out a contented sigh while the latest episode of Radiolab plays from your phone.

When you’re thirty, you can no longer entertain suicidal ideation. I mean, you can, but you can never commit suicide and have it be cool. Twenty-nine is the suicide cut off. When you kill yourself in your twenties, it’s tragic and also super cool. It’s a mythic, ultimate rebel statement. “You can’t fire me because I quit.” Then everyone will say “He was so young!” And your young beautiful picture will be up at your funeral. You will be forever in your twenties. Forever young and beautiful. Frozen in amber. Just begun and already gone. So much promise. 

When you’re thirty and commit suicide, it’s just pathetic. It’s no longer cool. You’re basically like the old guy at the club or the guy in community college who buys beer for high school kids. Twenties suicide is like “That’s so tragic and awesome. It’s hard to imagine the pain he was in.” Thirties suicide is just like gross. 

We romanticize twenties death. We always have. Dying young and leaving a great looking corpse is, in itself, the ultimate achievement. James Dean, Kurt Cobain, Tupac, Jimi Hendrix.

The second you’re born, you start dying. Your time here is very limited. It’s important to take advantage of every moment. You’ll never be as young as you are at this moment. Once you get through your twenties and start appreciating brunch and inns, it’ll be nice. You’ll look back at your twenties with melancholy and a feeling of how you wish you could go back to that time when life seems to be a paradox. Where everything seems possible and impossible. Nights seem to both stretch out forever and end immediately. You are the happiest you have ever been and the saddest you have ever been.

But, while you may wish you could go back to that time, you are also so glad you’re done with it.