Professional suicide

Julian Summerhayes
3 min readOct 10, 2021


“When you win, say nothing, when you lose say less.”
Wayne Gretzky

This isn’t the post I intended to write.

I do want to write about the ‘s’ word — I know it’s going to unsettle a few people — but I still need to gather my thoughts before laying bare my soul.

That said, I do wonder if, for some people, letting go of their professional hopes and dreams or being unceremoniously dumped out the nest isn’t the same thing?

What do I mean?

Well, it does seem for a lot of people that their whole personhood is associated and built around their work/career/job title, and, therefore, it’s no wonder that the day it all crumbles to nought, they lose all hope and disappear into a dark place. Put it another way, they die before they die and suffer a long, painful decline, as one day takes on the same hue as another; it’s not just that the glory days are over, everything is.

Now, of course, like so much of my writing, which is premised on a whole heap of projectionist assumptions, I can’t possibly know if any of this is true (what is these days?), but from my vantage point, namely 40 years of work and counting, it sure seems that we’re still too heavily invested in building our identity around work and/or our job (title). And that means, the best years of our life are invested in doing something which, if we’re not careful, and with the benefit of hindsight, can resemble burnt ash — and foul-smelling to boot if you’ve been associated with a business that’s been part of the climate change catastrophe that’s lapping at our shores. There’s also the issue of why some people smother themselves in extra-curricular activities, so, if nothing else, they have something post-retirement to fill their time; but it’s rarely the case that setting up your painting easel in the back room and knocking out a few landscapes makes up for the loss of your once ‘be all you can be’ job.

What does this mean then for people entering the workplace?

That’s a good question and a tough one to answer.

I think, at the very least, they and whoever is guiding them (if anybody) should ask themselves what the world will look like in 50 years. Will there even exist a habitable planet or one that can still support the many billions of people that will need to keep working, most likely until they drop, to support my generation and theirs in their waning days? The point is that learning a bunch of useless skills, as is the case with the education system in my neck of the woods, might offer a wonderful career path but it sure as hell ain’t going to help you survive the coming apocalypse.

Again, I’m sure I’ve got this all wrong. The dominant narrative will never be toppled. I mean just imagine trying to drive a coach and horses through all the BS about work that gets trotted out by our erstwhile political leaders, less still the teachers and it’s no wonder the kids are still drunk on the idea that when they rise through the ranks of their chosen career, they too can have the sort of lifestyle that my generation has maxed out on for so long.

Dream on!

What am I really trying to say?

Just this. Think long and hard about what you want from your life. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with wanting to find a job you enjoy, be careful that it doesn’t consume you to the point where you no longer remember who or what you are.

Take care.

— Julian



Julian Summerhayes

“If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?” ― Dogen