Monday, June 17, 2013

Lessons Learned

At particularly low points in my life, I try to encourage myself with the reminder that life is a school. When I was in school, there were subjects I did well in (like English) and subjects that were a bit of a struggle (like algebra). In life, there are going to be moments where you triumph and moments when you fall down. The difference between life and school, however, is this: while you may never actually use algebra, you WILL use the lessons you learn the hard way in life. If I were to have a mantra, that's what it would be: learn the lesson.* It's one of my fundamental beliefs. So is this: the application of the lesson may not be immediate, but it will come.

Beliefs are tricky things though, because they require faith. When I'm going through the tougher lessons in life, faith is like an eel -- slick and hard to hold onto -- and the only thing that allows me to keep it in my hands, juggling back and forth but still in my grasp is determination. Sometimes the mantra comes out through clenched teeth and I think, "What the hell could the lesson in this possibly be? WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE SO HARD?"

About seven years ago, when I was at one of the lowest points in my life, I was driving home from work on an October afternoon, talking to my mother on my cell phone, and sobbing. It may have been raining. It may not have been. I wasn't in a stage in my life where appreciating the beauty of an autumn afternoon was a thing, because the only thing I could see was personal failure and a great deal of pain. What I do remember, vividly, was saying -- through the crying -- was that I understood that this was a lesson, this was something that needed to happen to me, and that someday it would be clear, while at the same time a little voice in my head said, a little coldly, "There is a chance that you are completely full of shit."

Sometimes, I forget to have faith. It can happen.

Life always reminds me why I should trust the lesson, though. Seven years have passed and in the last two or three, I have been able to reach out to people who have found themselves where I was back then, in a low, painful place, and I can say to them, "I have been where you are and I love you and I can help you right now, if you will let me." Sometimes they don't -- but often, they do. And every time, I think that I am lucky. Lucky to have been there then, and lucky to be in a position to reach out now.

If I could go back seven years and tell my sobbing self that someday, I would feel fortunate to have struggled so much, I'm pretty sure that seven-years-ago-me would punch current me right in the face, and possibly deservedly so, but I'm also sure of this: I AM fortunate. One of the worst things that could have happened was also one of the best. Breaking my heart apart let me put it back together in a way that is bigger and more welcoming and -- I hope -- more kind than it ever was before.

Learn the lessons. All of them. Even algebra -- you never know what they will bring you.

*I should have this inked onto my person, I think.

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