I will warn you now that this is going to be a very intimate look into my life. I write this because I want to share it because it sets on a context for my writings.
Looking at my life now, I am so glad that I did not commit suicide. I've written about this time in my life various times, but it is one of those thing that is hard to put out there.
During graduate school, I saw life as very pointless. I was a large man. I couldn't talk to girls. I was lonely. My parents were having issues. My friends were leaving to have real jobs. I was not doing as well as I wanted to in classes. My projects were failing all around me. Then, my mother attempted suicide. This last bit was devestating, and it is hard to explain the feelings. I just disconnected, and I just could not see the point.
I decided that I would live in my car, and then do myself in sometime during summer. At the time, I was teaching college algebra recitations as a graduate teaching assistant. I liked my students, and I did not want to leave a debt behind. I finished teaching and dealing with my course work because it did not seem right to leave things so abruptly. As the lease on the apartment was ending and my room-mates moved on, I liquidated what I could. I moved my stuff to a storage locker, and I started the process of pawning off or donating things. Many big things went to the landfill.
I was sad that no one caught onto my cries for help. I was emulating something I remembered from health class. A sign of suicide is giving away things. And, I gave away or sold what I could.
At this point in time, my only financial burden was the cheap storage locker with things that were hard to give away or throw away (or worth something to someone). The contents were well worth more than the rent, and summer came.
And it went.
During this time, I had cut off all connections to everyone. I was isolated, but it was ok. I existed. I was free.
I was no longer running around between classes or doing various tasks. I was just existing. I ate when I was hungry, and I slept where I parked. I would go to the park, and I would watch the sky. I relaxed. I existed. I went several weeks without showering.
Classes began again, and I started to live on the campus. The isolation and freedom from everything gave me time to breath again, and I recovered. Sure, I was without a home, but I made whereever I was home. In some sense, home really is where your heart is. I loved math, and I loved computing.
My classes became easier because I put all my attention into them without distraction, and I got to the point where homework was done the same day as it was assigned. This proactiveness gave me more free time than imaginable. I was exercising daily since I needed to use the gym to shower, and this gave me hope that I could lose weight. I ate good food because I could afford it (as I wasn't paying rent). Life was pretty good, and I was free from all obligations.
I had the time to sit in the quad, and watch. I observed people. I smelled the flowers. I layed in the grass, and I just was.
I had insane office hours that spanned much of the day, and my students knew where they could find me when I wasn't at my desk. I remember very clearly some students that took advantage of this, and I helped them understand their Calculus work. I had the joy of watching a student progressively improve from F all the way to an A, and I had the joy of recording their final grade as an A. I remember feeling the joy of them earning their next A with righteousness. I could say that I made a difference in someone else's life.
This was the first period in my life where I knew my purpose, and I was happy.
I was young, so I lacked emotional depth and intelligence. I was recovering from trauma, but I decided I should reconnect. I eventually reconnected with my mother bit by bit, and I felt bad. I started to make observations, and I remember seeing stacks of bills regarding her medical conditions. Attempted suicide is expensive. If you want to know why I am a liberal and why I think we need to be better to people, then this is the reason.
As I reconnected with my mother, I felt some stress from her situation. I did not want to think about it, but it was on my mind.
Then a friend called, and an opportunity arised. I got greedy. We were going to build a company. I was going to be rich. I worked hard. I dropped out of graduate school. We built an awesome product. We tried to raise funding, and we failed. We consulted. It sucked. We started to build a business. It was glorious, and it was awesome.
This was a new kind of fun, and a new kind of joy. This was adventure. Then, we started making money. I met my wife. I was engaged. Life was hard, exciting, and things were looking really good. Then…
My mother commited suicide.
My adventure halted. I had emotions that lack names. This is the worst way to experience everything. Guilt, check. Anger, oh yeah. Relief, a bit. Guilt for the relief, yep. Rage, off the charts. Did I mention anger? Sad, check. Depressed, twice. Fear? double time. Shame? five helpings of that.
I 'matured' way too fast, and I went back to work. I went back into an avoidance mode. I made my efforts on standardizing my inventions and software, so that I could leave. My friends were in the company, and I didn't want to leave them with crazy unmaintainable stuff. I stopped inventing. I was depressed in a very bad way, but I was functional. I knew I wanted to leave Kansas City, badly. There are too many memories. For instance, I couldn't go to a favorite restaurant without having to go to bathroom to cry.
I decided I was going to work at Amazon, so I interviewed and got the job. I got to reset my life again, but this time I had my wife. I had a new loving family in KC. I have great friends from building the company, and I have made new friends in Seattle. I worked hard, and learned a ton of stuff. I bought a house, and I have a new job at Facebook.
My life at this moment is great. I'm so glad to be alive.