I am sitting here in my apartment, with morning sun falling in through the large east windows. I am joyful, and remembering just how damn good it is to be alive. Yes, there are problems in my life right now, though, no, I don't feel like sharing them here. One reason is that they seem so distant in the sun. I feel like I can do anything.
I saw the movie Moana, and finally, a disney princess in which I can believe. It's important to have hero/role models that look like one, but its also important to see heroes in people who do not look like one This latter is true for me, as I am not Polynesian/Maori/Hawaiian. No, the movie is not deep, and it wears its message on its sleeve. But I cried during the scenes where she stamps her foot and says her name.
I have known terrible depressions, externally generated or internally opaque to me. But I have always managed to find my way back to joy and the beauty of the world. I know there are others who do not, cannot, will not.
Then there are the friends and colleagues who rejoice in dwelling in dark places. Some of these folks fancy themselves witty and erudite for seeing the world through grey or brown or dull blue glasses. Some of these wear not just skepticism, but negativity like a cloak to protect themselves from something they fear, but cannot name. There are reasons: problems in the past, abuse, emotional neglect, the list is as long as the Canon. Some of these friends, people I know well, and love, and embrace, can no more change this outlook then I can stop being inappropriately goofy with the happiness inside of me.
But one of the things that makes me sad is the inability to shed that drab blue and faded brown outlook. I've had students and techs and collaborators who are cynical and ironic and see disaster at every turn. Hell, I've had partners I lived with like that. They are people who cannot look at a piece of work, something they did, and see the beauty in it. "Here's another stupid thing I finished".
There are many kinds of lack of support and encouragement. You can be critical and a perfectionist and see people as failing to meet your standards. But there is the one where it all seems pointless. This isn't mentor failing to support mentee. This is friend not seeing the beauty in friend. This is reading a paper and nit-picking your way through it, and not being able to say to the first author: Wow, I took a step back and you've done something really, really good here.
I was talking to my summer medical students who have another week or so in my lab. This year's batch was one of the best ever, if not the best ever. When they interviewed with me, and then again when they started I promised them that they would work harder than any of their peers in the same program. That the hours, because of the experiments, would be longer, and that they would be more challenged. I said this is because they would be partners in the work, and the work is hard. Yesterday, I asked them if they though it was true, and they all said yes, but, ... but.... what they got out of it was worth it. We talked about how to write the first draft of their letter of recommendation (from me, for their future projects). And they started listing what they learned: surgery, electrophysiology, and then they went beyond techniques and talked about working together and compassion for the animals and their co-workers. Their faces held joy.
Life is short. Being happy is better than being miserable. Making the world happy and better for someone else is one of the greatest accomplishments we can have. We can choose. I do not believe I can make those ironic and unhappy friends better. I can't. You can't. But I can set the space, create the place where it CAN happen.