Dear Andrew W.K.,
I guess this isn’t a typical advice question. But I just wanted to let you know that you saved my life.
I’ve been in a very bad frame of mind for the past several years. The negativity had been building for a long time, and it came to a head about a month ago. A lot of my problems blew up in my face all at once, and for the first time I really felt like I was on the brink of losing my sanity forever.
It was the first time I had ever seriously considered ending my life. Things had closed in around me so tightly that I couldn’t breathe. I just couldn’t imagine a way to keep on living like that, let alone find any happiness.
Then one day I stumbled across one of your columns and slowly made my way through every piece of your writing I could find. I watched all your videos and listened to your songs, and for the first time in a long time, I felt a real sense of hope. Not only that, I felt a sense of power and strength that I’d thought I would never feel again.
I also felt like someone else out there understood what I was experiencing. Even though you didn’t know me personally, you were able to put me in touch with parts of myself I didn’t even realize were there, or couldn’t see clearly.
Thanks to you, I have a new outlook on life, and I genuinely believe that I may not have been around much longer if I hadn’t stumbled across your work. Whether it was divine timing or just dumb luck, I wanted you to know that you saved someone out here from a very dark place, and even possibly from death. Thank you, Andrew.
Not Giving Up
Dear Not Giving Up,
Thank you for your letter and for telling me about the good things you felt from my work. I truly appreciate your compliments and can relate a lot to the excitement of finding something in the world that lifts you up when you need it most. I have continued to search for those experiences in life myself, so it is a true privilege to think I was able to help you locate a similar type of power when you were looking for it.
But I want to make something very clear — and I’m not saying this to deflect your generous praise, or in an attempt at unnecessary modesty. I just want you to realize that you saved your own life.
You had a powerful encounter with truth, and truth is not something that I invented or that anyone can take credit for. Truth is an experience that you have in yourself — a type of clarity about your own existence and the miracle of life.
No matter how badly someone else tries to make you feel truth, or explain it to you, or even force it into your mind, it can only be experienced and understood through your own personal and intimate interaction with that part of yourself that is true.
Any inspiration you think you got from my work was actually already inside you all along. My work maybe helped you remember that you already had the key, but it still took your efforts to use that key and unlock your own power.
When we reach out in an attempt to make contact with a power beyond ourselves, that same power simultaneously reaches in and finds itself in us. That which saves us is found when we turn ourselves over to a seemingly distant higher trust in love and truth, but that same distant location is not far off above us in space or in some remote dimension. It’s right in the most familiar parts of our own being.
The only way you could find anything of value in my offerings was because those things were already found in you. You have to have it in order to see it. When you love a song, it’s because the song in you is recognizing itself. When you react strongly to a work of art, it’s because the work of art that is your soul is responding to its own nature. And when someone says or writes something that helps you, it’s because that part of you that is able to help yourself is sparked and brought to the surface.
In this way, for better or worse, no one can ever directly help make anyone’s life better, or solve anyone else’s problems. We may be able to help someone build a house, or give someone money to buy food, but these are only conditional circumstances that can be improved so that the person has the chance to do the real work of improving their life from the inside. The best we can ever do is remind each other that our own inner resources have the power we need to live our life.
The old saying that the truth will set you free is a deceptively simple illustration of the type of experience you’re going through now. The truth of this statement resides in the rather mysterious and indescribable nature of truth itself, which somehow pulls the best parts of a person to the surface and yet dwells out of reach — almost like a carrot being dangled in front of a rabbit, something that keeps us surging ahead.
This dichotomy of the outer and the inner can be puzzling, but it is all part of the mystery of unfolding one’s life. We come out of ourselves and into the world, and the world encloses around itself and comes into us. Each person is part of this process individually, but also in partnership with every other living being.
And that’s the most exciting part of all this: You and I are in this together. We’re cheering each other on as we go through this very intense process called “being alive,” and we can keep reminding each other to be strong, to stay close to joy and to be brave.
So give yourself credit. Give life itself credit. There is no secret solution that I or anyone else can give you. There is no magic feather that you need in order to fly. Everything you’ve ever needed or will need is already in your heart. All that I or anyone else can do is encourage you to believe in this truth. That’s what it means when someone says to “believe in yourself” — believe that you have what you’re looking for, even if you can’t always see it.
I’m proud of you and proud of us, and proud of everyone who somehow finds the strength to keep on going every day. You’re courageous because you opened yourself to your own tremendous and glorious power — a power that you can find reflecting all around you — a power that proves that life is an incredibly intense adventure worth having, even when it’s very, very hard.
Stay strong and you’ll never stop saving your own life every day. That’s what being alive is.
[Editor’s note: Every week, New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party. Need his help? Just ask: AskAWK@villagevoice.com]
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