Reposted from Facebook, June 18, 2010
This spring, at Cornell, three students leaped to their death from bridges spanning one of the most popular river-formed gorges in the town. The school erected 7-foot high chain link “suicide fences” to keep the students from sailing through the air, and posted staff members on the street to act as spotters for potential jumpers. They insist that the incidents do not warrant the institution being labeled as a “suicide school.”
I believe them.
While the stress of college can be difficult I do not think the University is to blame for the deaths. But I also think the fences are a long way from a solution, and cast an eerie reminder of the tragedies on the otherwise scenic landscape.
The city of Ithaca, and the gorges that surround Cornell, are one of the happiest places on earth for me. I visit nearly every year to hike and swim and visit friends, always returning to my city home feeling refreshed and clear-headed. But this is not true for everyone. I know what it’s like to feel alone in a city, overwhelmed by work and oppressed by the weight of anticipated success. It can be a crippling feeling. It can bring even the strongest student, the strongest human being, to tears. Getting out from under a weight like that can seem impossible, and I can understand how flying into the beautiful, clear water of Fall Creek becomes attractive.
But the truth is that we are all in charge of our own happiness.
Yes. We are.
No class, no grade, no fear of chastisement, and no accomplishment is worth such unhappiness that someone would be willing to sacrifice life. We are all allowed to make decisions. That’s the definition of free will. And at this moment I feel the need to remind everyone that we are allowed to choose to be happy. We are allowed to change, move, alter, collaborate, shift, even miss the mark and need to recover, all in the sake of happiness. It’s the stagnation that lets the weight descend, and the weight that threatens to drag us into the gorge.