Earlier this month, my little sister wrote a wonderful blog post (all of her writing is amazing), that got me thinking about one of the defining moments in my life that changed the course of things. Check out her blog here, all her posts are worth a read. That same day, I received word that someone I went to high school with passed away unexpectedly. I wasn’t close with them, but I knew them and had fond memories of them from back in Rockford, MI. I got to thinking that day about things that really shape our lives and push us to grow as individuals.
I’ve also been on a weird ass Country Music kick this month (sorry, not sorry) and one song in particular keeps sticking in my head, Life Changes by Thomas Rhett, the premise of which is, no matter what you plan in life, you can’t control everything and you need to roll with the punches. The thing about this song though, is everything that happens to the singer is all good things. He gets a record deal, marries his 2nd grade sweetheart, grows his family, and just generally succeeds at adulting. Rhett belts out “life changes but I wouldn’t change it for the world” like it’s some accomplishment that he has no regrets in his perfect little life. Good on you, Rhett. Easy to have no regrets when what’s changing in your life is for the positive.
Look at the fable in the Old Testament about Job. Whether you’re religious or not, you probably know the basics here. Job is a pious man, prays to God every day, and has wealth, riches, and a big ol’ family. Then God and Satan are sitting up in the clouds shooting the shit and God boasts about how righteous Job is. Satan scoffs in reply stating it’s easy to be righteous when you have an easy, blessed life with no struggle, but how will Job react if his life is turned upside down? Challenge accepted says God and allows Satan to wreak havoc on Job. Soon, the wealth and riches are gone, all his servants are dead, all his children are dead, and Satan serves up a nice side dish of boils for him. Astonishingly, Job doesn’t give up, doesn’t renounce his beliefs, and perseveres. In the end Job survives the many struggles and gets all his wealth back and he makes a new family. Through struggle Job becomes better.
This is true throughout life. Caterpillars struggle in the cocoon before transforming to a butterfly, diamonds form through pressure and high heat, mountains rise through violent collisions of tectonic plates. Some of the most beautiful and powerful aspects of life on earth came from struggle. Same is true of people. Einstein, Gates, Jobs, Edison, Ford all struggled and failed before finding their success. It was through the struggles and perseverance that they grew and learned. As Teddy Roosevelt said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” This is because out of struggle the greatest strength, growth, and understanding is found.
In looking back at your life, from what did you learn from the most? What pushed you to grow and change for the better? For me there are some big defining moments that entirely shaped my life, ultimately for the better, but most of them are not easy happy memories. Some of my big defining moments: 1. my fatal car accident in high school where I lost a dear friend; 2. My struggle with depression, anger, and alcoholism in college; 3. nearly going to jail during a black out drunk night in D.C.; 4. the birth of my daughter; 5. the collapse of my marriage; 6. drunk fight on Christmas with my brother that resulted in us not speaking for two years; 7. Losing my job; 7. Starting my own private law practice; 8. the deterioration of my latest romantic relationship.
Of the above eight defining moments, only two are happy moments in my life, the birth of my daughter and starting my own law practice. Even those, though, arose during tumultuous and stressful times in my life. As the song says, “life changes” but there are definitely things I would change “for the world.” That’s not to say I have regrets, because I don’t believe you can live life regretting mistakes, but there are moments I would go back and change taking with me the knowledge and lessons that I learned, because I know I could live those moments better. Everything on that list pushed me to evaluate my life at the time and I learned valuable lessons from each event. I wouldn’t be the person I am today and I am proud of that person because I’ve learned from each struggle, each mistake (yes, I acknowledge my own failings that led to many of the worst struggles on that list) and I’m a better person, better brother, better son, better partner, and better father for it.
Of course I’ve also grown and learned from positive events, and healthy relationships too, but I personally, have learned the most through life’s struggles because that is when I contemplate, evaluate, and questions things in life more. Life’s baggage is what shapes us into the people we are. Without the struggle we can’t always appreciate what we have. Through heartache, pain, anger, loss, and tumult I’ve learned what I want and who I want to be.
I really strive to live a more positive, gratitude filled life and it was an accumulation of all the things I’ve learned through the hardest moments in my life that pushed me toward that healthy and positive outlook. This isn’t to say I think we should all struggle through life all the time. That’s just miserable. However, through struggle and adversity we learn and grow and we can then use that knowledge to be better people, to live better lives, to be better lovers, to be better friends, and we will then love what we have even more because through overcoming life’s struggles we truly earned it. Life changes so learn from it.