‘If I Don’t Make It By 30’ — Behind The Suicidal Half-Joke Of Generation Y


It is an inside joke with our entire generation, that idea. We say it casually to strangers in bars and with sober honesty to our best friends in bed and even scratch it in pseudo journals when no one else is around.

If I don’t make it by thirty, I’ll kill myself.

The age varies. Sometimes it’s twenty-six, or thirty-five, if you’re really optimistic. But always somewhere in there.

I just can’t, we say. I just can’t.

It’s not that being Now is so truly horrible. It’s that being Now then, in years to come, that idea is. We suffer; we suffer with young hearts and soft skin yet to be wrinkled with unrelenting tragedy. Not that we don’t have tragedy. We do, it just hasn’t been writing itself daily on our faces much longer than a decade.

We have no money and we drink every night. We have clear minds and perfect bodies and we hate ourselves with passion unmatched, so we imagine our minds less clear and our bodies less perfect and we imagine how the hate will only multiply exponentially and by thirty, simply overwhelm.

We don’t know what we mean by “make it.” Ask us. We don’t know.

Maybe just money, for some of us. The business minded ones. The money that brings all the other things.

But for the artists, it’s more than that.

Some of us want to be actors. We want fame and critical acclaim and to belong with all the others with faces plastered on billboards. Some of us want to be musicians. We want to sing and feel heard and belong in the canon and make a goddamn difference. Some of us want to paint or draw or write. We want our work on walls and on the web, we want to ignite fires in hearts and fight clichés like phrases like fires in hearts and be studied in universities.

We want to feel important, we want the attention we deserve, like the way our fantasies paint it for us in bed. We dream of being handed gold statues and thanking our parents (or maybe saying fuck you to them). We worry that all this is impossible. We are young, we can still dream it’s coming. We imagine thirty coming, saying, none of that shit is happening, it’s over, you lost.

We see this as the nail.

So we joke around, we laugh, we say, I can always just kill myself. But the stripped down honesty of it all is that, as with most jokes, there’s real truth behind it. And the truth behind this one is scary.

We hope that it doesn’t come to that; we never imagine it actually coming to that—but nevertheless, we mean it. We mean it when we say, if I don’t make it by thirty, I’m walking off a building.