Fool’s Gold: death, luck, and happiness

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Fool’s Gold: death, luck, and happiness

Matthew Norwood, Staff Reporter

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My best friend lives in California, and after this article I probably won’t want to introduce her to The Red Ledger, much to the chagrin of my editors. She will never know the names of anyone here, and neither will most here know who she is. So today, my best friend won’t keep her name, but shall be known here as Gold.

Gold is happy. She embodies everything I could want in someone close to me: trustworthy, upbeat, willing to listen and help me solve my own issues. I can’t count the number of problems I’ve forced upon her shoulders, nor do I regret bearing any of her own. It’s that trust that makes her so valuable to me, that makes her such a big part of my life.

.   .   .

“Do you want to hear a secret?”

“Yeah, go for it.”

We manage to talk everyday, whether by text, phone call, or other social media. I wouldn’t have expected anything different from this text than any other. I expected a flirty or interesting tidbit about her interests, something I would probably either laugh at or congratulate her on. If anything, she probably would just reply telling me that I’m boring, and that she’s going to sleep now.

“When I was twelve, I tried to kill myself twice.”

Gold… kill… herself? Twelve? Twelve years old? Twice? Kill herself?

She wouldn’t joke about that, would she? No. My best friend could be dead today. Would it matter? Technically, no. If she had died then, I would never have met her. That didn’t seem to cross my mind, as I just sat there, in shock. Gold could be dead, and I never would have known.

Death is funny, in that it’s such a sporadic phenomenon. Like thunderstorms, it seems natural, yet can swell in waves and wreak incalculable damage. The only deaths I’ve known relative to myself were those of distant family members, who happened to be just a little too old and a little too far gone.

Maybe I’m lucky, maybe I should be thankful. It’s just hard to relate to something which you can’t fathom on a personal level. We see death in movies, and we read about it on the news. But do we understand death? Can we comprehend its effects on a personal level, recognizing how much one person’s absence can take away from you?

You know what? Luck. That’s probably it. I must be lucky. Meanwhile Gold seems anything but lucky to me. Gold’s last boyfriend got cancer. Gold’s friend killed himself by jumping in front of a train, after leaving a suicide note threatening to shoot everyone in their school; while the school was in lockdown, he made his way to the tracks.

When I apply perspective, I am almost mad at just how lucky I am. I can see it now… I graduate college, make it into the real world, and…. nothing. Will I know how to face a challenge, to solve adversity? Does teenage privilege equate to a honed work ethic? Can I discover for the first time how to be held accountable or to handle stress on a deep emotional level? From where I stand, I don’t think so. My luck now probably leaves me ill-prepared for the future.

Gold told me she doesn’t think I’m any luckier than she is. I laughed, in a cynical, condescending sort of way, too scared by her own past to reconcile it with my own.

“I love my life,” she said.

Hmm… few statements seem so contradictory.

Going from suicidal thoughts to seemingly unwarranted optimism. I didn’t really understand her, until she spent some time elaborating, helping me understand her. Her time in depression made her stronger, gave her perspective on how good her life was on her own. If her mom hadn’t walked in on her before she got to the vein, she wouldn’t know that now; she wouldn’t even be here now. Gold began to count her blessings, acknowledging how lucky she is. She has parents, and so many people don’t. She has friends, where so many are lonely. She is smart, pretty, charismatic, where so many lack.

Her life, to me, seems so much worse than my own, yet she wakes up the same way I do, ready to follow the same day at school. Thinking how different yet alike our lives are makes it hard to understand how she could have gone through so much more than me.

As it turns out, happiness is subjective. Happiness is a molded design, formed by experience and understood only with a backdrop upon which it can be painted. An appreciation for the good in life is difficult without being able to see just how bad things can be. Gold understands this like few others, as her life has been full of highs and lows.

If the TV show South Park offers any cultural significance, it is just how perfectly they illustrate this moment, a resolute understanding of what makes us happy. A character loses the girl he’s always been in love with, and sits crying to himself. When asked if he wants to leave, he can only reply with how he feels.

“No thanks, I love life.”

As expected, his friends can only question him, pitying him crying on the side of the road.

“I’m sad, but at the same time I’m really happy that something could make me feel that sad. It’s like, it makes me feel alive, you know? It makes me feel human. And the only way I could feel this sad now is if I felt something really good before. So I have to take the bad with the good, so I guess what I’m feeling is like a beautiful sadness.”

.    .    .

It’s wrong to assume everything will always go right, and it’s right to understand there is a reason people ponder suicide. Life can be a challenge, one which seems insurmountable for a person who knows nothing of overcoming challenges.

An acceptance of the many different emotions which makes us human can help us all understand this, and help us. What matters most is our attitude. If you are willing to carry on, then there is nothing to stop you. There may be nothing left, but your own death does nothing positive. There are too many people around you who need you, even if you don’t believe it, and the mere possibility of a life without your best friend should be enough to convince you to never wish the same upon them.

Happiness can be fleeting, based on highs and lows. If you begin to search for it, to accept it as your life, to overwhelm yourself with it and those who emit it, maybe you can find a new way around things. Psychology tells us a sad state of mind only perpetuates sad thoughts. Realize this, and work with it. Everyone knows when they are sad. Being cognizant of what it means, and understanding emotion as being malleable and subject to conscious reinforcement, is what makes the good men great and the sad men happy.

.    .    .

I talk to Gold about it every once in a while, how it happened, why she did it. She never shies away from it, and seems to consider it a part of her. After thinking about it, I’m positive she wouldn’t be this happy if it wasn’t for that experience. A little perspective is a good thing, and maybe with enough understanding of sadness, you can make it… beautiful.


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