What do you say to a person who has come to the conclusion that there is absolutely no reason for them to exist anymore, that they actually serve no purpose, have no meaning and think they should cease to "be"?
And I was saddened to see someone I know, someone in the public eye, respond by tweeting that he didn't know, as he was in the same boat. I felt I should say something, so I wrote that circumstances always change and that the future held amazing experiences that are unfathomable now.
I am absolutely certain of this because of all the extraordinary things that happened after I left a PhD program 15 years ago, my entire life (I thought) in ruins. It is not a stretch to say I wished I was dead, those hours I was in my brother's Montreal cellar. In fact, I embraced the possibility in literary form: putting fingers to keys and answering a not-so-distant-then what if.
What if (in 1998 or so) my coach had not forgotten (or, now that I think about it, "forgotten") my boxing license, and I had got into the ring with that woman who looked like a Ms. Olympia champion? Perhaps I would have been killed, and what then? Valhalla, surprisingly, which meant interesting new challenges and an end to all earthly responsibilities.
My sanity was saved by Valhalla--through the workings of the Holy Spirit (how's that for syncretism?)--giving me a respite from crippling, painful depression for at least an hour a day. And then amazing things happened. I finished the novel--the first time I had ever finished a novel. I sent out the MS for my first book again and again. I was given a column in the newspaper that had published my book reviews and the occasional op. ed. I went to Scotland and fell in love. I got married, moved to Scotland and began a new life in a Georgian mansion (okay, its attic). My first publisher-published book came out. Eventually the Polish translation rights were sold. I flew to Poland, me, one of the last children of the Cold War. And as I waited in a Warsaw radio station, I reflected that it was I, and no-one else from my PhD class, who was about to give this interview. Life was incredibly, amazingly sweet.
So there you go. Zero to hero (or zeroine to heroine) within four years, and incandescently in love within two. There is always hope, and as this story is too long for a tweet, I write it here.