“Everything happens for a reason.” This is a mantra I repeat to myself whenever my world is shaken. It’s a recitation I do with foresight, knowing it will help to eventually make clear the vast improvements the simple passage of time can create. I’m not there yet, but I hope to be soon. But, everything happens for a reason. Whatever happened was in the past, and in some way, it could have been for the best.
I believe that experiences shape your person. Each moment refines our wisdom. The insights derived from everything we go through, from the mundane to the monumental, are constantly informing a better and brighter future. Who knew something as trivial as internet surfing could rupture what I presumed were deep-seated beliefs.
I found myself on a message board in which many gathered to cope through “everything happens for a reason” and the also popular “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” There was, however, one dissenter. The commenter mocked the extent of hardship expressed by the others, wondering whether they even knew what hardship was. He then went on to narrate the most devastatingly tragic and unfortunate life story I’ve ever heard.
The moral: we fill each other with false comforts. Everyone waxes poetic when faced with life challenges. Real struggle, however, is insurmountable. It suffocates one’s ability to see any meaning for it or beauty through it. Life is shit (suffering), and a sense of narrative blinds us from seeing this truth.
Cue existentialist and theistic crises. Is there a God? I actively dissuade myself from examining that question because, honestly, I don’t want to know the definite answer. I have long been comfortable with the non-committal agnostic stance: if there is, great, if there isn’t, oh well. Through this professed ambivalence, I allow myself to retain a vague sense of security. “Everything happens for a reason” is a saying that perfectly describes this safety; it assures me that no matter what bad occurs, there will always be hope for something good later. Am I fooling myself completely? Should I just accept outright that nothing happens for any reason, that there really is nothing beautiful, endearing or meaningful about the tough times?
Ultimately, I resolved that I would never force myself to confront these concerns. I figured the unshakeable optimism that hope provides is advantageous even in a world where it is irrational. This logic of having faith may be shaky, but the positivity and resilience attained by its possession are what I trade for condemnations of ignorance and cowardice for not discarding it. Faith is still a source of life for most on Earth, and has maintained life for people in its throes. I’m too young for hopelessness, and I decided I would never age enough to receive it.
I have no judgments to pass on the commenter who disparaged the bonding session around the uplifting phrase and those who participated in it. I only have interpretation, and I feel he’s reached a point in his life in which even the possibility of regaining hope has drawn out of reach completely. The only thing I can do is hope that it will one day return.
I did resolve to reform some aspect of my desperate grip on “everything happens for a reason.” By choosing not to probe, I feel that perhaps the best lives are the most organic. Those that fully experience each individual moment to the next. When we fuel an idea that our lives should follow a certain path, we grow comfortable with predictability and take pains to realize that projected reality. We become slaves to a narrative. When the past is always used to demonstrate how we should think about the future, the present becomes irrelevant. It will always be a means to an end and never anything to itself. Some say it feels intoxicating when life is really lived, a state, in my opinion, when there is absolutely no regret of the past or worry about the future, only allowing your senses to completely absorb the current.
Tuning it all out sharpens your audial abilities; you can hear important things you otherwise would’ve missed. In these moments of mental solitude you learn new things about yourself you never knew, little epiphanies that make it all worth it, whether or not it’s clear why. I want to look back on my life decades from now with the comfort that I always strived to place myself outside my comfort zone, into circumstances ripe with uncertainty. I want it to be something completely different than what it could have been, for better or for worse, so at least it was my own.
I don’t know what’s going to happen, maybe nobody or nothing does. I do know I’ll get to find out though, and I look forward to all the ups and downs, lefts and rights, barely analogous directions that I’ve yet to live through, celebrate, overcome, learn from and move on. Shifting my perception of uncertainty from a bottomless predicament to limitless excitement has inspired a profound change in my outlook. I pray that I will always have the strength to push through, keep reaching for and dreaming of bigger things, whatever that means to me in the future. Whether they’re realized, I’ll just have to wait and see.
Narayan Reddy is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reddy Set Go appears alternating Mondays this semester.