collaborationYesterday I listened to NPR’s Fresh Air host Terry Gross interview Tim Gunn, the nattily-dressed and well-loved Project Runway (PR) mentor and now the star of his own Lifetime show, PR’s Under the Gunn. I started watching Tim’s new show this season, surprised to find that so far I like it as much, if not better, than the original PR, and certainly more than PR’s All Stars (sorry, Alyssa and Zanna).

Tim’s natural likeability and humility aside, I was especially touched by his accounts of being relentlessly bullied as a youth, which included a suicide attempt at 17, and his more than 2-year stint in a psychiatric hospital after that. When he said he hated not the learning but the social aspects of school, I imagined many creative folks in the radio audience must be nodding (I know I was). “I would rather be in my room alone…with my Legos and my books,” he said. I already liked you Tim, but you hit the nail on the head.

Later he said even if he could, he wouldn’t trade back the pain and anguish he’d suffered, especially in his younger years, because they made him who he is today. That gave me pause for thought as well. So many writers have been down that hard road, D and I included. Does pain build armor that makes us better, stronger? I’d like to think we’ve honed our craft over the years, even if through a veil of tears at times.

The most profound statement of all came near the end of the interview. Tim said simply, “Life is a collaboration.” He was encouraging listeners in crisis to seek help, referencing his own experience with a few remarkable people who literally saved his life, and likewise helped him turn his life around. But it also made me think of D, and our collaboration. When Tim talked about a person who makes the difference, saving one’s life or changing it for the better, then it truly hit home.

No matter how impossible or grueling the mountain seems at times, I am blessed to have someone there who reaches and pulls me up when I think I can’t take one step more (or write one more word). Collaboration is, indeed, the magic key to a better life.