from the back seat of a Prius.

how I’m failing as a millennial and stopped asking strangers for rides home.

home

It’s the third thing I do after deboarding a plane, right after a beeline to the restroom and refilling my water bottle.

I pull out my phone and scroll over to the black app. I pin my location in the pickup zone and wait until the caravan of hybrid sedans matches the one on my screen. My driver helps me load my bags and I confirm the basic facts:

“Are you Emily?”

“Yes.”

“Headed home?”

“Yes.”

“From where?”

The driver automatically gets 5-stars if the conversation stops after the third question. I wish I was the kind of person who could meet you halfway after six hours of travel and a few nights away from my own bed, but at this point my only goal is to make it home with some piece of my soul left, so small talk is out of the question.

I make a point of putting in my headphones to further avoid any attempts at conversation, then I mentally prepare to spend the next 30+ minutes trying not to throw up from the stop-and-go of traffic. The pine sweetened air in the PNW helps me breathe a little easier, but that feeling is short-lived once I slide into the backseat of a Prius. It’s another reminder that I’m not quite there yet when all I want is to be home.  

Coming home is one of the main reasons I love to travel. Travel naturally removes you from routine and reveals things that your body, mind, and heart have been saying that you otherwise would have missed in your daily rhythms. But by the end of my journey after I’ve learned the things or gained the clarity or accomplished the goal, I crave home.

The homecoming I want isn’t further delayed by the unfamiliar. The homecoming I want is reliable. It’s consistent. It’s predictable. It lets me put my feet up on the dashboard. I want to come home to the feeling of being known, of being brought in, and maybe of having a hot coffee waiting for me. The homecoming doesn’t wait another minute for me to get back but instead kicks off it’s sandals and runs toward me to remind me that I’m safe here and I can take my armor off.

The welcome home I want means that I need people. Which goes against my millennial-bend to prove that I’m independent and make my own appointments and pay my own bills and I’m doing fine and I can ~stay humble and hustle hard~ because I have no needs that I cannot meet within my own ability and tools offered to me. It defies the projected image that makes me seem like I can exist all by myself in this big wide world. You can hide it behind filtered pictures of solo travels and endless story streams of who you were surrounded by but at the end of the day we are all terribly, desperately in need of a space where we can take off our uncomfortable pants and not worry if we laughed at the right things at the right times. 

It’s risky, exposing your own need to the watching world. I think we all want to argue that we don’t NEED anybody but that we WANT people. That gives us all the power in any relationship. We don’t want to risk rejection or loosen our white-knuckle grip on controlling our circumstances, even if the outcome makes us more uncomfortable and more in touch with our own alone-ness (different than loneliness, that’s another word for another time).  

Maybe I’ve failed as a millennial. Maybe there’s a part of me that isn’t cut out for the seductive productivity offered by an app. Maybe I don’t want to ask my friends for a ride because I don’t want to let them see my neediness. Or maybe I’m just not privy to being driven around by strangers. But a few trips ago I quit my millennial-independence cold turkey and started asking my friends for a ride to/from the airport. Not via an app, but from actual people who I know and talk to on a regular basis.

Call it beginner’s luck, but every person I’ve asked to drive me to or from the airport in the last year has said, “Yes!”

Who knew? People tend to show up when I stop pretending that I am fine with handling life alone and start admitting that I need a little help. They will literally drive through hell — AKA any airport arrivals platform — to bring me home.

And I think that’s it. That’s the pretty life lesson tied up with a white bow here. That people just need people to take our hands and walk us back Home.

give a damn. save a life.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. I hope you know we need you here.

image-1-e1536609779660.jpg

Humans don’t like to think about death. That word makes us uneasy. It’s the one major problem that literally all of us are faced with that we haven’t quite solved. Because no matter how much you try to put it off – you’re going to die.

Death isn’t the way things should be. You want to know how I can know that this is true? Think of the moments in your life that you wish you could pause, rewind, play on repeat forever and ever. The view from an island trail, running into the ocean, sitting on a front lawn with a ukulele, a good kiss, the perfect pancake. These are the moments that etched eternity right into your heart. You were made to crave forever.

Which is why the news lately has my heart feeling like it was chewed up, spit out, shoved it a blender and served over ice.

This summer the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain and even Mac Miller hit me harder than expected. Celebrity makes it seem like people are untouchable, immortal. Their deaths should be evidence that depression and anxiety and addiction are real diseases that obey no rules of class, income, age, wealth, or status. No matter who it affects, whether you have billions of admirers or it’s just you making it in the world, suicide is painful. Hopelessness is a feeling both so foreign and familiar to almost every person here on earth.

It’s World Suicide Prevention Day and here are the stats: 800,000 people die from suicide globally. That’s 1 person every 40 seconds (see TWLOHA’s stats here). It’s wild to me that in the scientific sense, daily life as we know it has never been more productive, safe, and technologically advanced than years before. We are smarter, faster, stronger and I can order a dozen macarons on Uber Eats and have them delivered right to my door on a lazy Sunday night. What a time to be alive, truly.

And at the same time we’re more isolated than ever. We’re siloed in our own echo-chambers of Twitter feeds and when we see the world as we know it cracked, it leaves us confused and afraid. We keep trying to find true meaning for why we’re on this big, blue marble but instead we’re faced with a trashcan fire of terrible leadership, natural disasters, trauma, loss and no clear end to it all.

I’m not a certified therapist and I don’t have pages of research telling me how to fix the fracture that depression, death, and suicide leave on a life. But I do know that hope is hard fought for and I think that we can learn how to be better about holding the hard things about the right now with the promise of the not yet.

We can give a damn.

We can be the kinds of friends who embrace the hard conversations and aren’t just friends out of convenience. We can be the kinds of people who are willing to put down our black mirrors to see someone and go to them rather than obeying social structures that tell us to keep our distance. We can be the friends who are willing to open up our couches, our wallets, our own lives for the sake of someone else learning that they’re not all alone in this world.

We can be the kinds of friends who value our friends’ lives above our own. That might be called love. I’m going to call it giving a damn.

This isn’t to say that when someone commits suicide that we’ve failed. Far from it. Suicide is no one’s fault. I don’t have answers or a list of “should/shouldn’t do’s” and honestly, that wouldn’t be helpful. Depression is a sickness whose rules constantly change and are hard to define. What works for one person might be harmful for another. At the end of the day, people are still going to make choices and all we can do in the meantime is remind them until we run out of breath, “You’re loved you’re loved you’re loved you’re loved.”

It’s hard enough to say that you need people to remind you of this when you’re healthy. Imagine the mountain you have to climb to reach out and be honest about your pain if you’re struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. The best way to give a damn is to let your people know that you give a damn about them. So ask your people how they’re doing. And not just the happy hour version of this filler question. The How-Are-You-Really version. The kind of honest question that begs an honest answer.

I don’t know a lot of things. I know how to poach an egg, build Ikea furniture without wanting to drink myself to death, and use an Oxford comma. I also know that when Eleven from Stranger Things said, “Friends don’t lie”… I felt that. Friends don’t lie. And friends who give a damn use their words to create a safe space to welcome the truth. Even if it seems too big or too much or too messy or too heavy for just you to hold. Friends who give a damn will hold your arms up and remind you that the weight of the world isn’t just on you to handle alone.

So if you weren’t convinced already, I give a damn about you and I hope you stay.