"How do you manage always to remain so unruffled and preserve such a good mood no matter what happens?" somebody asked me yesterday. As somebody who probably deserved the title of the Drama Queen of the last decade, I have to confess that it took me a while to learn not to plunge into the depths of misery with every small setback. Now I want to share some of my tricks that help me battle my natural propensity towards depression.
Whenever something happens that is likely to make me feel that life has lost all meaning and the universe is conspiring against me, I think back to the lowest point of my life. I place myself right back there, relive it in detail, and then return to my present reality. Then, I immediately experience a surge of happiness because, no matter what is going on right now, I'm not there any more.
To give an example, sometimes students do things that annoy me. Or the bureaucracy attendant on being a college professor gets overwhelming. Or colleagues and administrators don't do exactly what I want them to. So before I succumb to the temptation to snap at the offending student, rip the annoying piece of paperworks to shreds, or become pissy with a colleague, I take myself to a moment when I was looking for a job and had no idea whether I would be employed at all next year. I relive the fear, the insecurity and the desperation I felt during that period in my life. And then I come back and realize that lazy students, recalcitrant colleagues and reams of paperwork are all part of something wonderful: having a job I love. And then all these things that annoyed me become lovely and make me really happy.