What do you have to be unhappy about?

I spent the fall quarter of my junior year of college in Tours, France, which was every bit as wonderful a privilege as I would think it sounds to most of you. Living in the wine country, traveling around Europe for a month before school and nearly every weekend during … it’s a time I’ve never forgotten.

There was a close-knit group of us that ended up hanging out together, all terrific people, although there was one who was prone to fits of crankiness or depression. And I can remember wondering to myself about her, “What do you have to be unhappy about? Just look around you.”

Of course, this was immature of me, assuming that there couldn’t be emotional challenges amid the glory of one’s surroundings.

Since then, I’ve had several of bouts of depression and anger with myself — some of them debilitating. Even today, in a time that I figure might well be the best years of my life — the generation before me and after me in my family all hale and hearty — I’m struggling to appreciate what I have and not get bogged down in the challenges I face, the frustrations I feel. I have lived an extremely fortunate life, but I am not a man completely at peace.

The thing with one’s emotional state is that so often there’s no sense of proportion. Perspective is a bronco you’re trying to wrestle down. And just when you think you might have it, that bronco jumps up and flips you over. And it hurts.

We — me, Milton Bradley, whoever — all responsible for our actions, responsible for their consequences. But people, by and large, do not choose to do bad things, do not choose to be miserable, do not choose to be angry for the sake of being so. There are all kinds of things going on. We should all do what we can to be better people. Some might not get there, and maybe they didn’t try hard enough. But others, maybe they did try and they just couldn’t make it.

Villains are villains, and let the hammer fall on them where it should, but there’s a reason that the most interesting villains are the complex ones. Because that’s reality.

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