Yesterday, I was abruptly reminded about why I should cherish well-being and try to maintain as positive an outlook on life as I possibly can as much of the time as I possibly can. Yesterday, I received word that a colleague had collapsed and died suddenly and unexpectedly. This is a colleague I had known for nearly 15 years. I first met her when I interviewed for the job at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She made a convincing case for why to be there. That is interesting, because she spent years apologizing for convincing me to take the job, as I struggled to find just the right fit in my early career. The thing is, that happens to a lot of faculty, and I never held it against her. She cheered me on as I rose to full professor and finally understood that there never had been a need to apologize.
She seemed at least somewhat happy at Johns Hopkins but eventually moved to Wake Forest where she seemed to have a slightly better fit but always looked for a little different setup than she had, and then went to Drexel. At Drexel she flourished. I emailed her. I wrote editorials with her. I discussed teaching with her. We became friends outside the professional world as well. I enjoyed hearing how her life was going and she read the blog I wrote last year saying that my life was a prayer and comparing me with Eric Liddell--a comparison I never thought I deserved. Since moving to Philadelphia and joining the faculty at Drexel and blogging and struggling with the intellectual underpinnings of the field of economics, she seemed happy.
Nearly everyone who has commented on her passing on Facebook commented on how she was at the top of her game. I could not agree more. And that was in life in general as well as in her professional life. I believe she cherished what she had dearly. She had no way of knowing when she would pass. This is an excellent reminder to me that when things are imperfect, I should focus on what I do have that contributes to my well-being rather than focusing on what I don't have. That is, of course, easy to say when things are going well. The test of character and the greater contribution to well-being comes when I am put to the test of cherishing well-being when things are not going so well. I am sure such a day will come. We will see how I do at that time.