It sometimes amazes me how people's lives can change over time; how someone's life can begin on one trajectory and end up on quite another.
For example, many years ago, when I lived up in Scotland, I had a very close friend. We were studying for our PhDs together and we saw each other most days. She was even a bridesmaid at my wedding.
My friend was (obviously) very bright and she was talented in other ways, too -- she was outgoing, sociable, and a great comedienne and mimic. I have no doubt that she would have excelled at stand up, had she tried it. She was the heart and soul of any party and she was also a bit of wild child -- an extremely heavy drinker and a bit of a flirt. She was great fun to be around. And she seemed destined for a successful career, gaining a temporary lectureship at a time when jobs in academia in the humanities were almost impossible to come by.
Yet, not long after I received my PhD and moved down south, things seemed to take a turn for the worse for my friend. She gave up her job. She was in a car crash. And the next thing I heard, she had been sectioned.
Our lives took quite different directions and we gradually drifted apart. We exchanged Christmas cards for a while, but eventually lost touch completely.
The other day, in an idle moment, I did a Web search for my old friend and was shocked to find that she had been the subject of a missing person search. She had disappeared and police had appealed for witnesses, saying that they were becoming increasingly concerned for her safety, as they considered her to be "vulnerable". To my relief, she had been found safe and well a few days later.
But all of this made me think how transient success can be. Someone can apparently be headed in one direction, and then something can just change, which makes their life veer off in another direction altogether. My friend should have been a successful academic (that's where things seemed to be going), and yet, ultimately, her life has turned out quite differently.