Under Pressure

GGiving up is the final solution to a temporary problem.

— Gerta Weissman Klein

Checking my voice mail after a trip to Asheville, North Carolina, I retrieved a message from a college buddy. "Hey, friend," it began. "I have some bad news. I hate to leave this on your voice mail, but seeing as how you will be gone for a few days, I feel compelled to tell you this. Roger [a mutual friend] has died of an apparent suicide. Call me as soon as you can." Within a few days, the details crystallized to a more clear picture of Roger's demise. Deluged with personal debt and unable to secure a stable professional foothold, Roger decided that the best solution was to take his own life. Upon arriving back home, I discovered an e-mail from my deceased friend, sent days before he checked out. As it turned out, neither I nor anyone else was able to open the attached file, so I never knew what words he tried to share with me before he took his own life. I can only imagine the pain he must have been going through to commit this act of self-destruction.

It's sad to say, but Roger did not hold a monopoly on this kind of pain. Current statistics suggest that as much as one-third of the American population is on antidepressants. Alcoholism, drug addiction, self-mutilation, and suicide are just some of the more popular ways that people cope with their stress today. Through these tactics, people merely avoid the problems at hand, rather than work to resolve them. For stress to be dealt with effectively, no matter how much pressure is bearing down on us, avoidance is rarely a viable option. In the short term, avoidance might seem like the right thing to do, but in the long term, it causes us to get emotionally stuck. Seeing no immediate way out, we may want to throw in the towel and call it quits, leaving the Hero's Journey unfulfilled. Gerta Weissman Klein thinks otherwise. Gerta is a Nazi concentration camp survivor who shared her story as part of the living testimonies in the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. After describing her terrible ordeal and her escape, she ended her story of triumph with these heroic words of advice, "Giving up is the final solution to a temporary problem."

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