Disclaimer: This contains spoilers from the book/movie, Me Before you. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do that and then come back and read this later.
Oh, and by the way, Will dies.
“Push yourself. Don’t settle. Just live.”
We are all suffering.
Yes, I know it’s a rather morbid way to start an essay but it’s true. We, all of us, are trapped in this dreary mortal coil and we are all suffering. Suffering is an inherent part of human nature and it follows us all through our lives, from our beautiful births up to our inevitable deaths. Now, the kind of suffering I’m talking about isn’t limited to physical suffering, I’m talking about the suffering that stems from the fact that most of us do not have what makes us happy, not yet anyway, and that’s why we’re suffering. So put on your striped bumblebee tights and let’s try and look a little bit more into this.
After I read Me Before You and I had successfully cleaned the tears off my bloodshot eyes (I wasn’t crying, there was just something in my eye), I started to wonder what I would do had I been in Will’s position. Can you imagine living like that, though? Imagine all the things you love doing, imagine how much you love them, now imagine all of them being stripped away from you in one fell swoop. Imagine having that body which now doubles as a prison.
You wake up a night, beads of sweat already forming on your forehead. Damn, where were your pills? You stretch your neck forwards, as far as your neck can allow you and you see the plastic cylindrical container seated on the dresser on the far side of the room. The white label stuck on its body practically mocking you. You turn your head sideways and find it’s just midnight, you groan in exasperation. You’re thirsty, though, you reach for the glass of water perched on your wooden nightstand. And then the cold truth settles upon you like it always does. You can never reach for that glass, or anything whatsoever. You lay in your bed and stare at the ceiling, you don’t really have an alternative, though. You’re trapped in your own body, a fate you can never find solace from, unless…
Now, that is suffering but on a different level entirely. Imagine that feeling, that cold knot forming in your chest, imagine having that for a whole lifetime. Suddenly, suicide doesn’t seem black and white anymore, it doesn’t seem as simple. Could you live a life like that, paralysed from the neck down, one where you’d need to depend on another for even the most basic of human needs? Before I read the book, in my head I had already formed my disposition on suicide. But after, I started thinking, would it be so bad to end a life, that wasn’t even much of a life anymore? Could I watch a loved one go through this pain for the rest of their lives? Funny enough, this is how most situations in life are, things are hardly ever one or the other, so what do we then do?
And that, is the dilemma.
I had these thoughts for a while and I just didn’t know what to think, so I brought the issue to my anthropology teacher. He brought to mind something that changed my view on this, and grounded me. He alerted me to the fact that in truth, we are all suffering, though the degrees of which may differ. He reminded me that even though we are suffering, there is still that minute possibility that things could get better. Killing yourself would erase any possibility of your situation alleviating. Sure, you’re suffering now but at least there’s hope, would you rather suffer or be damned? And then, I realised subconsciously, that’s what we’re all doing. If there was no hope, why would we even wake up in the morning? I honestly can’t say whether suicide is the wrong choice or not, but it’s definitely the choice with the less yield.
Suicide is a choice you take when in the life you live; you can’t find much to live for anymore. You feel the sadness gnaw at your soul until it finally wins over, engulfing you. But there are better ways to deal with it. Who knows? Maybe Will would have been happy with Lou and they would have both grown old together. Maybe the happiness we seek isn’t a feeling, but a choice. A choice to cease looking down at the dark bottomless abyss and look up at the brightness and hope that each new day brings.
So yeah, we’re all suffering but how we choose to endure this suffering is ultimately what defines us and paths we each take in life. Maybe that’s what the human experience actually is, a limited, though tumultuous endurance test, where we try our best to endure the unendurable and just push on, unto a new day, till we reach the castle in the sky.