I wasn’t supposed to grow old. I was always going to die young of a drug overdose. Or by my own hand. Same thing.
I doubted I would make it to the 27 club, even. By my 23rd birthday I had overdosed a dozen times. After my mom died when I was 24, I held a gun up to my temple, finally done. Instead of pulling the trigger I pushed the plunger down on a heroin-filled syringe. The heroin kept me from killing myself in that moment. In other moments, the heroin was why I wanted to kill myself. But the desire to die predated the drugs. I was 11 for my first half-hearted uninformed suicide attempt.
I progressed through adolescence into adulthood with the knowledge it would all end soon. How liberating to never have to worry about wrinkles, aches and pains, repaying student loans, my credit score, or retirement. I wouldn’t live long enough to face any such grievance.
I lived with abandon, maxing out school loans just to shoot up more heroin and cocaine before dropping out again. Live fast, die young. I never envisioned having a family or settling down. It wasn’t in the cards. I was going to die young, it was fated, predestined. There’s a certain relief in never having to worry about long-term consequences. I vacillated between passive and active suicide strategies, from not wearing my seatbelt while driving erratically to mixing high doses of heroin and klonipin.
Death never came. Instead, I am aging. Looking in the mirror and seeing gray hairs and wrinkles is jarring. I spent 17 of my 31 years craving death. How can I be getting old when I spent most my life wanting to die? I don’t belong in my own life.
The pendulum of give-a-damn has swung hard to the other side, an over-correction. Now I compulsively check my credit score and fret over my millennial inability to purchase a home. I go to the doctor all the time, convinced I couldn’t have escaped those years of injection drug use unscathed. But I did. I spend hours Googling cosmetic procedures that I will never be brave enough to undergo. (Collagen fillers for neck lines, I’m looking at you.) I have tendonitis in my hands that flares up if I do anything laborious. Or type too much in one day. And what about my retirement? Should I open up a Roth IRA? I’m 31, should I have a kid now even though next year I’m…