In which Hugh struggles with futility

If there’s a dominant feeling in Hugh’s life now, it’s futility. He had at one point a successful career in finance, felt that his success qualified him to speak about success more generally and become a life coach. He imagined himself a famous motivational speaker, with best-selling self-help books, seminars, crowds of admirers.

And he struggled for years, drained his savings, and took to drink.


Now he doesn’t know who he is anymore or what his purpose in life is. He’s thought of suicide before, but wants to hang on. Why? He’s not sure. The more he’s studied of people, and the deeper he’s looked into himself, he’s discovered futility. It follows him throughout his life, as if he always has a trapdoor under his feet that will open at any moment.

But he wants to live. He wants to see things through. He hopes to keep studying and looking, even though most days he has little sense of direction. He sees destruction on the horizon.

“I’m not optimistic,” he tells me with a wry smile. We’re sitting in the conservatory on the third floor, near a pot of Red Edge Peperomia.

After finding him staring out a window, I had started our conversation with a “How are you?”

He took the question seriously. He felt that he could, with me.

And when he shares what he wants to, for the moment, about futility, he says, “What about you?”

I don’t know where to begin. “Fine… I guess.”

He nods slowly. Gives me his wry smile. “I’m fine too. We all are.”

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