Saturday, January 12, 2013

Goodbye Aaron

I heard this morning that Aaron Swartz has committed suicide. He was just twenty six. That's far too young by anyone's measure.


It's unclear how much the pressures of the unreasonably harsh federal prosecution for the JSTOR incident might have weighed on him, because it's been clear that he was depressed for some years. Like many of us that suffer from bouts of depression he had good weeks, and bad weeks. But the legal mess he was in can hardly have been a light weight to bear.

We've had several well known people in the community commit suicide over the last couple of years, and it's jarring. From the outside they look like the best of us, the brightest, sometimes with the most to lose. From the inside it can look much bleaker.

People in our community grew up geeks, many grew up friendless and carry that burden into adulthood. They have real trouble reaching out when they need help; to the friends they're not sure they really have, to the family they often regard as having not been there for them when they were at school. As a result the community is littered with people that suffer depression, that struggle every day with it, and with Impostor Syndrome. No matter how accomplished people look on the outside, and despite past records that should make those accomplishments as evident to them as it is to the rest of us, they suffer. Often in silence. 

I didn't know Aaron well, we had exchanged a few words on a couple of occasions, but I should have had a chance to fix that. He was twenty six and he was at the start of things, not the end.

If you feel like you can't go on, if you feel like it's too much to bear the weight of your life alone. Please, don't do this, please reach out to your friends, your family, to strangers if you must. If you can't face your friends with the news that you hate your life. Because there is always someone that's going to miss you. Always.

Goodbye Aaron.