What Makes You Come Alive?
by Chad Lemoine
I may have never attempted suicide, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought hard about it and come really close. I can see the pylons under the overpass like they are right in front of me now.
Alone in my car, $1.6 million life insurance policy active, and struggling to find hope while my career teetered on the brink, I tried to design an accidental car crash where I’d be the only casualty.
It was never about making a statement or getting some sort of sick revenge, so a gun or pills or any of the traditional methods never really even crossed my mind. I just wanted to escape the prison I was in.
My family would be taken care of, it would look like an accident so I wouldn’t give them the added trauma of knowing I did it on purpose. I would watch from wherever I ended up as they mourned my death and I would finally have the answers to those questions I had asked myself about whether or not my life meant anything to anyone beyond the superficial in the first place.
I can’t tell you exactly what it is that kept me from following through, but my love for my family and my desire to see my children grow up and to fulfill my dream of growing old and watching sunsets with my wife definitely played a role.
That was almost 15 years ago. I’m not going to lie to you and say that I haven’t had some less serious brushes with the same fate, but I will tell you that I am still here. I’m writing this to tell you why and to tell you what I’ve discovered since.
I’m still here because I found enough of a glimmer of hope that the next day might offer some new opportunity or new experience that I would be happy to have stayed around for. And then the next day, the despair wasn’t quite as intense and I found myself noticing blessings I had not noticed the day before.
But that wasn’t enough to keep those feelings from coming back. I was still stuck in the same rut, going through the same motions, feeling the same lack of fulfillment, and watching time slip away from me at the same rate. I wasn’t getting any younger and my mortality and the disappointment in my accomplishments as I reflected on my adolescent aspirations was becoming a weight I could no longer bear.
When the “great recession” hit, I was really feeling the pressure and it pushed me to the brink yet again.
This time, though, the biggest bargain going on in my head was whether or not to just resign myself to being a zombie consumer with little to no creative responsibility or pressure to really produce. I was finding myself acquiescing to finding a job where I could just punch a clock and serve my time until what was seeming like retirement that would come in my 70s or 80s.
I was ready to give up the freedom to blaze my own trail just so I could rid myself of the pressure that comes with really putting yourself and your talents out there for the world to see. Likes and shares give that dopamine hit, but criticism can send a fragile ego back underground.
Thankfully, my fight or flight instinct kicked in and landed on “fight,” so I kept pushing myself to succeed enough to survive a sales job I largely hated and an economy that had me a week or 2 away from losing even that.
But I was still “safe“ and, while I hadn’t chosen to give in to full on zombie mode, I was definitely infected and needed to find a cure quickly before that same type of circumstance put my back against the wall again.
I was in my 40s and I finally realized that it was time to put up or shut up.
I’ve never really been much for New Year’s resolutions because 1) most people generally don’t even make it through the month of January living up to them and 2) why should I have to wait until January 1 to do something that needs doing? Nonetheless, as 2017 came to a close and we were about to usher in a new year, I found myself resolving to begin taking the risks that I knew I would regret not taking when I eventually pass on from this physical form.
It dawned on me that what had me in such a state of despair, frustration, and disappointment was my own fear of rejection and failure. I was letting that fear of rejection and failure keep me from even trying the things that, if successful, would actually give me the fulfillment and creative outlet I was so desperate for.
Think about how insane and silly that is. I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish, I wouldn’t even try to accomplish it in the first place. It is an absolute fallacy that you can’t fail if you don’t try. Not trying is guaranteed failure.
So when I looked at this in the context of that moment (and the many moments since) where I seriously contemplated suicide, I came to the realization that I was sure as hell not going to tap out of life without doing my damnedest to be everything I thought I could be even if it killed me in the process.
I also felt a responsibility to my children to give them the type of example they needed to not find themselves in the same situation I was in when they hit that “midlife crisis” area.
The imagery was pretty clear in my head as I imagined a continuous cycle of human beings dragging a big bag of garbage through a maze only to hand it off to their children when they get to the other side and then their children drag it as they navigate the maze to the other side to hand it off to *their* children. And the cycle continues in perpetuity with no one opening the bag to realize that it’s full of garbage and it keeps growing and no one questioning why they were doing it in the first place except to answer “this is what my grandparents did and my parents did. It’s what we’ve always done.“
I decided I was going to find a way to escape the maze and bring as many people to freedom as possible. So I started to just put myself out there without fear of rejection or failure. In fact, I planned for failure and rejection because I had become so accustomed to it. And I realized that after failure and rejection I was still alive to try again so why not keep trying?
What happened next was nothing short of mind blowing for me. I just started reaching out to people who shared my perspective and who I wanted to try to bring together for synergistic collaboration.
I have met people who were once heroes, idols, and inspirations of mine. They are still all of those things, but now they are also friends and have credited me with influencing their world view, with introducing them to people and ideas, and best of all, those synergistic collaborations have already begun.
And along the way, I have met so many other people who I didn’t even know existed before 2018 and I honestly can’t tell you what my life would be like and where my head would be if I hadn’t met them. These people have become friends, collaborators, and inspirations of mine as well.
All because I chose to keep my car on the road, to not be afraid to trust myself and the value of my talents, and to take that leap of faith to introduce myself to the opportunities to flourish that had always been there waiting for my introduction.
You see, those opportunities are there for all of us, but we have to get over our fear of failure and our internal dialogue where we tell ourselves that we are too small, too insignificant, and not worthy of the greatness that is within all of us.
Say what you will about Marianne Williamson, but I am convinced that the woman has a heart of pure gold. I will leave you with this quote of hers as a bit of inspiration:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. You are a child of God. You playing small does not serve the world, there is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the Glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we consciously give others permission to do the same. And as we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
And this quote from Howard Thurman:
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Live. And live your life to the fullest. The world needs you alive.