During the height of your career as a program manager, you worked with individuals who were unethical, lacked morals, used their power to circumvent processes/procedures, engage in nepotism, bullied workers, and more. However, you were taught to do the right things(s), protect those who can’t/don’t protect themselves, and not become complicit to these actions by being silent. Following this guidance received from family/friends, churches, schools, colleges/universities, organizations, companies, and societies, you’ll do as directed. Yet, you will painfully learn that being ethical and an upstanding person aren’t easy, requires dogged commitment, and will have life-altering consequences.
You repeatedly had to determine whether you would go-along to get-along and adjust your moral compass to maintain a paycheck. However, this isn’t something that you were willing to do. You correctly understood that adjusting your ethical framework (even slightly) would change who you are and who you want to be. These decisions weren’t easy to make because these ethical dilemmas continuously emerged. Nevertheless, you consistently chose to leave well-paying jobs instead of becoming like those who aggressively attacked or didn’t protect you for not agreeing to do the same. You were not willing to be complicit through silence.
As the significant weight of the consequences related to your ethical choices permeate your mind, body, and soul, you’re drained, disgusted, defeated, depressed, and distraught. These ethical battles and the enormous stress caused you to withdraw from living life, drained your savings, led to severe depression, and kept you unemployed for years. As the pressure grows, you can’t imagine withstanding the ongoing debilitating pain and continuous nightmares that seemingly will never end.
These feelings are a distant place from the plentiful life you lived a few years ago. At that time, you had a great job managing multi-million dollar projects, were making a good six-figure salary, and were living the life you worked relentlessly to build. Currently, you can’t pay your bills, you’re embarrassed, you’re broke, and you believe that no one wants anything from you. Furthermore, next week, you’re scheduled to have judgments entered against you in debtors court since you cannot afford to pay any of them.
Today, you’ll begin to succumb to the feelings of despair without any hope that things will get better. In this moment, you finally comprehend and fully understand the expression “I’m worth more dead than alive,” as your personal value is falsely and incorrectly tied to your financial standing and life insurance policy. This unfortunate situation will be your breaking point. Suddenly, your connection to reality and hopes that the future could or would be any better have quickly disappeared.
You can only reflect on the many ethical decisions you made that were supposedly aligned with the things that good people do. Nevertheless, every time you did these things you were attacked, questionably judged, scrutinized, isolated, condemned, ousted, and found yourself repeatedly alone on the outside looking inward. After steadfastly committing to being ethical, doing the right things, and always experiencing negative backlashes to these unbelievable challenges, you’re broke, depressed, emotionally scorned, mentally exhausted, physically debilitated, and wondering… “Why me?!” Then, the thoughts will digress into asking yourself… “Why should I continue to fight anymore?!” and “Why do I want to live in a world that attacks me for doing the things that I was taught and trained to ethically do?!”
Your answer to the last question is… “Life is no longer worth living if there isn’t any good left in the world (at least for me) and things keep getting exponentially worse.” At this moment, you will surrender to your perceived failures, inability to make a positive influence, inability to add any value, and increased desire to die.
Even though you’re beaten, bruised, and battered, you will rebound if you have... a little belief that things can get better (it doesn’t take much), faith that this isn’t the way your life is supposed to end (this could be the beginning of something unexpected and beautiful), commitment to finding ways to do something positive (your experiences can help others), and determination to transform this near-tragedy into an amazing transformation (you can’t participate in the future if you’re not alive to experience it).
Now that you’re starting to think differently… brace yourself, as tomorrow will be the worst moment of your life.
It will start with you not wanting to get out of bed. You won’t be able to focus. You will experience a psychosis, which will make you begin to have suicidal ideations. You will convince yourself that you’re a failure and you don’t have any value or worth. You will prepare for your death.
As you begin to finalize your actions, you’ll call one of your brothers to ensure that your mother will be cared for after you’re dead. Although, you can’t complete the call without getting upset and crying. Your brother will ask questions and you will hastily hang-up the phone. Your brother will call back again and again to try to reach you, but you won’t answer. Then, in a brief moment of sanity, you return your brother’s calls. During the conversation, he will remind you that… “… this is just a moment; you need to get past this moment.”
You will be teetering between life and death, as you hear a rhythmical chant telling you repeatedly to “Do it, do it, do it, …” Fortunately, your brother (who calls for over an hour until he reaches you) will help you begin to reconnect with reality and understand that life could get better if you fight to get through this moment.
Listen to me! I know that you don’t want to die, and you’re in a lot of pain. Please understand that it’s not easy to do the right things and none of us are perfect. However, in fighting against wrongful acts, you’ve changed and grown in immeasurable ways that you don’t understand or realize. Notwithstanding, if you push through this pain and moment, then things will get better. I know it’s hard to believe, but trust me I know it will happen. The work you will do based on your hard-learned life lessons is worthy, valuable, and will help countless individuals in ways that you can’t even imagine.
You won’t feel or believe this today, but years from now you will embrace the challenges that you experienced because it made you stronger and better. These experiences provide unique perspectives that you didn’t have and will allow you to better connect with many individuals and organizations that you will soon provide meaningful services. This might seem unbelievable today, but trust me… you will leverage your painful lived-experiences to help, inspire, and uplift thousands of people (many who you will never meet) through publications, radio shows (including your own), television shows, speaking engagements, and much more.
In the first year after your near-suicide (Read article “Letter to Myself the Day Before My Near-Suicide Written a Year Later”), you will speak with an audience about having belief in yourself, write a book to document the impact of unethical individuals on mental health, begin to publicly share (e.g., radio, printed media, television) your mental health challenges, become a mentor to a high school student, be asked to be a commencement speaker in a school district in which you almost didn’t graduate, be an alumni panelist at a school you took non-degree classes to prove that you belong, and many other things.
Now, let’s look beyond the first year to see the absolutely amazing things that are in your future if you don’t make a horrible choice to end your life tomorrow.
First, you will deliver a commencement address in the same district that directed you to leave high school in the tenth grade. Even better, your mentee will graduate at the same ceremony.
Second, you will start your radio show “Beyond Just Talk with S. L. Young” to discuss meaningful topics to educate, inform, uplift, inspire, and enlighten.
Third, articles you write on The Huffington Post will be published in higher education textbooks.
Fourth, after eight years of trying, you will become a university professor.
Fifth, you will independently develop a university course for incoming freshman to teach them methods and strategies to develop their own foundational strengths.
Sixth, you will receive three distinguished awards for your work teaching over 500 inmates. These are the “Volunteer of the Month” at a local jail, “Martin Luther King, Jr. Innovative Service Award” in conjunction with the White House Initiative for Educational Excellence for African-Americans,” and “Distinguished Service Award” from Leadership Arlington.
Seventh, you will be a featured and keynote speaker at notable conferences.
Eighth, you will be admitted to a doctoral program.
Ninth, you will have countless impacts and connections that will positively affect many lives.
Tenth, you will submit paperwork to be promoted to full professor at a college you left over twenty years ago while on academic probation.
So, based on these upcoming accomplishments, do you really want to give-up on life and a possibility to make meaningful contributions in the world?!
The fight that you will have tomorrow is not just for you! Your fight is also for all those who are waiting for you, your work, and to learn about your story. You can’t stop fighting for your beliefs, as these are the things that others want and can use to sustain their own fight. Remember… each of us has a journey… and although yours is difficult… this is your journey to embrace and not surrender. Understand that your life matters! So tomorrow, during your weakest moments, think about the possibilities for the future and not the challenges of the past. You are already stronger than you ever imagined because you made it to this moment, and you can make it to another day again and again.
You will want to die tomorrow because you lost jobs, money, material things, so-called friends, and much more. These losses made you feel like a failure and worthless. However, you didn’t lose the most important thing that you’ll ever have… which is yourself. In the coming years, you’ll learn that your value isn’t tied to money, possessions, or titles. You will unequivocally know that your worth is directly aligned with your positive beliefs, the contributions you add to the human experience, and those who you inspire to believe in themselves. These individuals will have a direct example based on your accomplishments. They will realize that if you could overcome several severe life challenges, then they can do it, too.
Your story is one of strength and survival that wasn’t built by money and possessions. You rebuilt your life based on a little belief, hope, and a desire to make a difference. Therefore, don’t stop feeling this way, as your greatness is just beginning to be discovered.
I am the future you; I know the things that we can do! These current challenges are just moments in the grand scheme of life. Leverage these experiences and the knowledge gained to navigate from these challenges and work to rebuild a life that you want to live… on your terms.
With this letter, stop looking back, feeling bad about past losses, and begin to purposely move forward based on the knowledge you’ve gained from already overcoming so much. Remember, you are a better man (Read article “Becoming a Better Man”) because of and despite these challenges. Now, maximize these experiences to help yourself and others to be and do better, too.
Your life isn’t wasted or a failure because if you’re still alive then you have ample opportunities to restart, retool, and refocus. Your future is yet to be uncovered and experienced. Therefore, tomorrow, fight to be a part of it, as you are strong, loved, and valued.
Learn about Mr. Young’s work to bring awareness to the importance of mental health: slyoung.com/depression.html
award-winning educator, mental health advocate, social entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, author/writer, program executive, and radio host
Photo Credit: The Humantra on Unsplash
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