Getting Happy... when you wish you were dead

It was a long night.

Walking is not a fast way to travel, and I didn’t get far out of town before night fell. I decided not to hitchhike. If somebody stopped, okay, but I wasn’t interested in having to talk to anyone.

It was cold. November in northern Illinois is not a good time to be outdoors through the night. The wind had picked up, and I was feeling tired. It had passed eleven.

A farm came up on my right, and I decided to see if there was somewhere to sleep for the night. Only one light was on in an upstairs window. It was small like a bathroom window, so I decided not to knock on the door.

There were a couple of transport trailers and two barns in the yard. The trailers and one barn were shut tight. The other barn stood wide open.

It had metal walls and an open concrete floor. There was no place to sleep. But I did find a garbage bin filled with paper sacks. They were the big, forty pound type of sack. I gathered up half a dozen and headed out to the side yard where I had seen a blue spruce.

Sleeping under a tree isn't any warmer than being out in the open, but spruces give a lot of cover from rain and snow. I put down a pad of sacks to lie on, then I crawled in with my head toward the trunk. My backpack had the laptop and files in it. That became my pillow. The two remaining sacks became my blanket.

It wasn't even close to comfortable. I managed less than two hours of fitful sleeping before I decided to give up. I crawled out from under the tree leaving the sacks behind. What to do next?

I thought about a suicide attempt that landed me in the hospital for several days.


It was in January, and I was in high school. I had taken up cross country running, and decided to put it to good use. It was snowing and after dark when I decided to go for a run.

I ran for about seven miles (far enough to be tired), then headed for Birch Court. A friend from high school lived on that street. My thought was that someone who knew me would find me in the morning.

It made sense to fall and roll a couple of times before getting to my friend's house. In my mind, that would show anyone who looked that I had run too far and worn myself out. When I got to my friend's house, I fell down and lay in the snow covered street until I fell asleep.

Hypothermia and dehydration kept me in the hospital for three days.


It was thirty-two years later, and you could argue I had more reason for suicide now than I did then. But my mind was focused on getting through the night so a solution could be found. It's amazing how much is determined by our attitude at any given moment.

I had passed a horse barn on the way out of town. It was almost an hour's walk back, but I figured that might offer better options for sleeping.

Luck was with me when I got there because the door to the barn was unlocked. Unfortunately, there was no straw or hay in the loft, and every stall was occupied. The best I could do was a plastic lawn chair and a tarp. It kept me warm enough that I was able to get some broken sleep until just after five in the morning. Then I figured it would be better to leave than push my luck by being found in the barn.

I head back into town with a sudden, brilliant idea. Yea, real brilliant.

My new plan is to rent a car, drive as far south as I can, then cross the border into Mexico and wander in the barrens until I die or get a better idea. Isn't that a fantastic plan?

It didn't work out quite the way I had envisioned it. I got the car okay, even though it was the day before Thanksgiving. And I managed to drive all the way to Loredo, Texas.

There were a lot of stops along the way.

My usual routine is to drive straight through. Stops are based on needing gas. So gas, food, washroom, and stretching are normally worked into a single stop every six to eight hours. This time, there were stops before some bridges, after other bridges. You see, part of my plan was to just drive into a bridge. Most of them have those yellow barrels around the columns, but not all, and you don't have to drive straight into the columns to get the job done.

That's why there were extra stops. I'd see a bridge and start speeding up, then I'd think about what it means to give up. Giving up and killing myself means all the people who called me worthless get to be right. It means there's no chance to set the record straight, or prove anybody wrong. It certainly means the pain stops, but it also means the game is over. Do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars.

Every time I stopped I got out and walked around. I yelled, screamed, swore, cursed, ranted at God, complained about how unfair everything was, and even pounded the hood of the car. Lucky for me I didn't dent the thing. Basically I had two days of temper tantrums while driving to Loredo. Not my best moments.

It did, however, get better when I got to Loredo.

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