It has been without a doubt the most interesting, frustrating, exhilarating, heart-breaking, exhausting, different and painfully beautiful year of my life. After a fall of rabid mental health issues that led to a strange oscillation between depression and active interest in the world, my life took an unexpected volte face in December just as I was finally becoming myself again. It took another three or four months before I did not feel like the living embodiment of a Pink Floyd lyric. I got through it of course, eventually becoming grateful that I went through some rather nightmarish months. The pain eventually wore down, stung less. Time I suppose does heal all wounds… or at least scars them up a fair amount. This comes across as a bit overly dramatic. Things weren’t that bad, mainly some bad luck, terrible reactions to a few prescription drugs and the end of a lengthy relationship. But, it was the first time that life has leaned over the table and smacked me across the face, knocking me out of my chair and spilling beer all over my shirt. It just took me some time to figure out what had happened and how to get back on my feet.
So now, like I said, I’m grateful. In all likelihood this is not the last crisis I’ll have to get through. People will change interests and leave my life, fights will happen, friends and family will pass on and I know there is a Chevy Cavalier somewhere out there on the roads with my name on it. These things happen, so it’s good that my quarter life crisis hit when I had an incredible system of relationships to support me and even walk me through things. I am a rugged individualist, am convinced that the most interesting things in this world are the products of single minds, but it takes a bit of existential upheaval to realize how dependent we are on others for help. My family was a godsend this fall. No way I’d be writing this without them. My girlfriend of the time was a saint. I probably would have dropped out of grad school had it not been for her and parting ways does not make me less grateful for all she got me through. New friends and old friends stepped up and I had a number of conversations that might have seemed mundane, but really helped me feel better about life, school and everything. I learned the value of therapy and that it is not a weakness to ask for help.
No way I would have figured this out by more success, happy times and the status quo. Sometimes, to quote the late Kurt Vonnegut, ‘the excrement has to hit the air conditioning.’ I’ve always liked that line in Once a Runner about how improvement in the sport is not this steady ascent to new heights of performance, rather it is cyclical with trough periods and upswings. Find a runner who sets a personal best every time she races and you’ve pointed out the next big drug bust. In a similar way, one does not grow in life like the stock market of the 1920s. There are ups and downs… and both make us better.
Of course, this is pretty hackneyed stuff and it’s is very easy to say these things from my position. I really don’t have problems… and you probably don’t either. If you’re reading this, you’re probably upper or middle class, you’ve gone or are going to a fine four year institution of higher learning, you are probably brilliant or creative or entrepreneurial, you have money or your parents have money and thus you will eventually have money too. You probably don’t wake up in the morning wondering whether you should take the bus to work or buy lunch. And it’s pretty likely you’ve never worked at a fast food restaurant and if you did, you probably did not have to.
Maybe crises of the sort I went through this fall are yet another luxury of the landed class. How many people wake up in a cold sweat because of their work in a doctoral program? In all likelihood, not many. So, I guess we have to remind ourselves that even our low points are probably not as bad as we think they are at the time. We may have been laid off or divorced or injured, but we don’t have to carry our drinking water two miles from the nearest clean river. And once we heal and move on, we will be better for it, will have a perspective we lacked before and experience to better shape our decisions.
Again, hackneyed stuff. Ah, well… whatever. See you on the trails.
 Emphasis on ‘probably.’ If you have done these things, you’re a stronger person than I.