Suicide of the Self

Filed in Your Purpose as a Writer by on May 2, 2011 • views: 477

When I was growing up, I loved to listen to Barry Manilow. Call me square. I probably was. One of my favorites was one of Barry’s greatest hits, “Copacabana.” It was the beat that first attracted me, but as I grew older, the story came to life in my imagination, and I found myself wondering about Lola, the bright showgirl in the beginning of the song who falls in love with Tony, but then loses him to a jealous rival named Rico. This one event in Lola’s life changes her forever, as the lyrics tell:

Her name is Lola, she was a showgirl
But that was 30 years ago, when they used to have a show
Now it’s a disco, but not for Lola
Still in the dress she used to wear, faded feathers in her hair
She sits there so refined, and drinks herself half-blind
She lost her youth and she lost her Tony
Now she’s lost her mind!

It’s a tragic story, but one that isn’t necessarily unfamiliar. I suspect a lot of us know someone who gave up on their dreams early in life, then somewhere along the way made the decision to grow old bitter, grouchy, and unfulfilled, blaming a past tragedy, the government, a spouse, a lost opportunity, or any other number of sources for their misery. It’s tragic in more ways than one, for not only does the individual give up on the chance of ever finding happiness, but she robs the rest of us of whatever gifts she may have given had she chosen instead to continue pursuing her dreams.

I read a blog recently by communications professor Shawn Threadgill, where he goes so far as to say that giving up on one’s dreams is essentially committing suicide to a part of oneself. The idea really made me think, as I don’t believe most of us take it that seriously. We want to follow our dreams, but it seems we think of doing so as a luxury in life, something to be attended to only after the bills are paid, the house cleaned, the car fixed, and the kids bundled off to college. For the most part we are a very dutiful, hardworking nation, and most of us take our responsibilities seriously. Somewhere along the way, we end up separating our dreams from everything else in our lives, until they take up only a very small corner of our existence.

In doing so, are we slowly starving ourselves to death? For what are we without our dreams? What are we without the hope that we will one day fulfill that longing inside us, or actually live the life we envision? I think we become what I see around me as I walk through town or visit with my colleagues at work—something akin to drones just going through the motions, lacking that spark that was once there when all things seemed possible. We may be content enough, with the roofs over our heads and the loved ones nearby, but is that enough?

If you learned you were going to die in a month, would you be happy with what you’ve done? Or would you scramble to make a bunch of changes to finally live the life you always wanted to live?

I think Mr. Threadgill may be right. Lola may be only a fictional character, but she’s a terrific example of how giving up can kill us. Maybe not physically—at least, right away—but spiritually, until we are nothing but shells of who we once were.

When we look at it this way, we can see that dreams are hugely important. When you take steps to follow them, you’re not being self-indulgent—you’re saving your life.

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