A Message For The Children

I’ve been asked to publish a speech I recently gave to 500 high school students in New Jersey on the topic of attempted suicide. Although it is my habit to speak without notes, what follows is my best recollection of the substance of the presentation. Time and space do not here permit me to replicate it in its entirety.

I am a wife and mother of a 14 year old daughter. I am also a former practicing Family Law attorney. Currently, I am a writer and motivational speaker. At age 24 I tried to commit suicide. It is the story of how that came to be and what I have done with my life since that I am here to share with you.

I grew up in an affluent suburb of Philadelphia. My family was financially very well off and as far as material things went, I pretty much had whatever I wanted. To underscore the point, I was given my own car, a Mustang, at age 16 and by age 20 had owned 2 corvettes. In school I was part of the “in crowd” and had lots of friends. My grades were excellent. Outwardly, I seemed happy.

Inwardly, I was living a very different existence.

Despite all of what was seemingly “right” with my life, I was very unhappy. I felt alone in the world. I didn’t feel I really “fit” anywhere or that I understood the game of life. I felt, alternately, not understood at all or at best, misunderstood. While everyone else went about their days with some sense of purpose, or so it seemed to me, I lacked any sense of who I was, what I wanted to do with my life, and most importantly, how to stop the emotional pain.

I went off to college after graduating high school but lasted only 6 weeks. Mostly I cut class and went to the beach. I withdrew mid-first semester (I would have flunked out anyway) and returned home. I them enrolled in a local university but lasted there only one semester before dropping out again. Realizing I had to do something (all my friends were in college) I got a job as a receptionist at a hospital. What followed were a series of receptionist positions until, at age 23, I met a young man at a party whom I married one year later. Eleven months after we married, we separated. We were a bad match…probably the result of how little I knew about myself before getting married. One month after separating, I tried to kill myself by taking an overdose of anti-depressants that had been prescribed for me at the time of separation.

Without belaboring it here, I was miraculously found in my apartment and rushed to the emergency ward, where I had a near death experience. I actually witnessed the doctor and nurses tending to me, pumping out my stomach and trying to keep me from dying. I witnessed it all from some vantage point way up in the air and remember thinking, “Why are they doing all of that to her. Why don’t they just let her go?” Then I felt a sharp “punch” in the middle of my back and “heard a voice” say “You have to go back, Carole. You have work to do.” My perspective immediately shifted from above the scene to being back in my body looking up at the doctor.

I share the details with you solely to impress upon you that I had almost succeeded in dying. It was that experience that I believe changed the direction of my life.  Despite difficulties and challenges that have remained ever since that day, I came away from that experience with a determination to find out who I really was…as opposed to who I thought I should be.

I enrolled in Villanova University at age 24 and graduated at age 28. I worked for a few years, had a meaningful personal relationship, then at age 33 enrolled in law school, graduating at age 38. I began to practice law on my own immediately after passing the Bar Exam and had a successful Family Law practice for 13 years. At age 41, I bought a home and shortly thereafter, met and married my husband. At age 43, we adopted a daughter form China.

Now the important part. What I know from what I have lived.

No two snowflakes are alike. No matter how many there are, each has it’s own unique pattern. You are like a snowflake. No other human being that has ever lived or ever will has your pattern, your unique set of Life gifts and challenges. Because of that, only YOU can live the Life you’ve been given. You are an aspect of Creation. That fact, and your unique nature demands that you too be a Creator of Your Life, not a “regurgitator.” Life does not need you to parrot or mimic the ideas and values of those who came before you…or even those who are here Now. What Life seeks of you is to experience Itself thorough You in ways never before known.

What keeps us stuck, and sometimes paralyzed, is the belief that there is some “right way” to be. Some “right way” to live Life. I can assure you that there are people and organizations everywhere you turn that will tell you they know “the way.” But there is no one way, simply one action that each of us is called upon every minute to partake of and that action is called “choice.” When Life comes knocking, make choices that emanate from your highest Self. For what is right for another may not be right for you. And you can only know what IS right for you experientially. You cannot know it from a book, or movie or even from another person. So to live the Life you were created to live, you must experience it through your unique choices.

Now some of you will think, “If there is no right choice, then anything I want to do is OK. I would answer “yes” if your choices are from your heart and not your mind and if, in choosing, you harm neither yourself or another. You see, there are only two emotions, Love and Fear. Every other emotion is a derivative of one of those. Love feels good. Fear feels bad. If you allow your emotional center, your heart, to be the guiding light that illuminates your choices, then yes, any choice you ever make will be the right one for you as well as the highest good for all concerned.

We all have what I call appointments in life that only we can show up for and if we don’t, no one will. For me, today is one of those appointments. If I had died that day, not only would I never have had all of the rich experiences that followed the attempt, but I would never have been able to keep the appointment with our daughter, which is the reason I am here talking with you today. And if only one of you needs to hear any of this to help you understand how unique, important and priceless you are, then I would go through it all over again. Every moment of it.

People who try to commit suicide don’t want to die. They have simply misplaced hope. They have strayed too far from home, from their inner center, and think they will never be able to find their way back home.

I came here today, and stand before you, as an arrow pointing you in the direction of home and the best part of your life.

Remember Who You Are. Remember Why You Came. Know How Much You Matter. Keep Your Appointments.

And above all, never give up Hope.

P.S. I gave each student a little handout paraphrasing J.R.R.Tolkien:
All that glitters is not gold. All who wander are not lost.”

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