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Excerpted from Why Your Life Sucks by Alan Cohen. Copyright © 2002 by Alan Cohen. Excerpted by permission of The Jodere Group.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"That night I quit believing in facades of happiness."

  Alan Cohen, Why Your Life Sucks, Part 1

I can still feel my hand trembling as I grasped the classroom’s cold doorknob. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, offered a silent prayer, and entered, standing as tall as I could to keep from caving in. I set my briefcase down on the teacher’s desk and turned to face the class I would have given anything to avoid. I scanned their faces. Some of them already knew; they sat quite still. Others did not know yet; they were chatting amiably, some laughing. Soon their lightheartedness would give way to shock and dismay.

I took another breath and gathered all the strength I could. "Good evening," I began. They all quieted. I hesitated a moment, then forced myself to speak. "I have some very sad news to tell you." I could sense their apprehension. "Dr. Doughty will not be with us tonight . . . or again . . . he passed away over the weekend." The rest of the faces blanched. I paused and felt my jaw clench. There was no more avoiding it. Spit it out. "He took his own life."

A wave of gasps shot through the class. Then came the tears.

It was done.

At the age of 22, I was the graduate teaching assistant for a college class for adults seeking to return to the work force. The course was intended to inspire them to build their self-esteem to achieve their personal and professional goals. Six weeks into the class, their professor locked himself in his garage, turned on his car engine, and asphyxiated himself. Not very inspiring. Try abysmally discouraging. Now I had to pick up the pieces, get the class back on track, and give these people some hope that their future would be brighter than their teacher’s.

No one had any clue that Dr. Doughty was so unhappy. A nice-looking man in his late 30’s, with a boyish grin, the professor was brilliant and charismatic. His life seemed charmed with a prestigious well-paying position, many friends, and an attractive devoted girlfriend. Yet even while Dr. Doughty had an advanced degree in psychology and taught others how to make sense of their lives, he could not find purpose in his own. In spite of all appearances, Dr. Doughty’s life sucked. And it sucked to the point that he thought he had to leave it in order to find peace.

That night I quit believing in facades of happiness. It became clear to me¾ like a two-by-four between the eyes¾ that there are all kinds of things going on inside of people that we don’t hear about until it is too late. That people who appear successful on the outside are often aching on the inside. That couples who smile and look great at parties often go home feeling empty and lost, and their marriages end in affairs loaded with pain and heartache. That people with great bodies or whopping bank accounts have no idea who their real friends are and go to sleep lonelier than those who are poorer and less attractive. Many people’s lives suck and onlookers never know it. Many people’s lives suck and they don’t know it. Or they do, but they can’t figure out how to escape the prison whose walls seem too thick to break through and too high to scale.

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