For the last several years, I have chosen to believe that everything happens for a reason. I was first opened to the possibility of this being true when my miserable freshman year of college ended up being one of the best things that ever happened
to for me. It caused a positive change of course in my life that I cannot imagine having gone without. As a matter of certainty, I didn’t know then and I still don’t know now whether everything truly does happen for a reason. Still, I choose to believe it. If it is true, then I believe something that is true. If it is not, then at least I believe in something that will keep me looking for ways to make things work for me in life. I believe this is a helpful perspective to have and that it can serve a person similarly to how any faith can serve to help people regardless of the object itself or its objective validity.
Yesterday I took note of a couple of seemingly unimportant, everyday examples of why this works for me. I should note that in neither case did I so explicitly think, “everything happens for a reason”. Rather, the concept has become a part of who I am and how I look at life. The words are not as important to me as the impact they have had on my general perspective.
The first example took place at the beach. Lauren and I have spent the last few weeks in Charleston, SC (a beautiful place if you ever have the chance to visit). She took a few days off from work and I front-loaded my week of podcasts so that we could have a nice long weekend. That is how we found ourselves on a beach yesterday afternoon. All good right? An Instagram certainly would have said so. It was ironic that of all settings it was in this one that I let a rare few minutes of frustration come over me. It was a combination of things that caused it. My back has been killing me for no apparent reason and in searching through our beach bag for my sunscreen I was struggling to find it. You know when you are looking for something in a busy bag and desperate times call for desperate measures so you have to take everything out one item at a time only to eventually confirm with certainty that you do not have what you are looking for. That was what happened in this instance. All the while, my back is flaring up and I am realizing that I cannot just relax on the beach because I get burnt faster than bread on a second round in the toaster. I sulked in my chair for a minute feeling like a spoiled shmuck for being so frustrated in the middle of the afternoon on a beautiful day on a beautiful beach on a Thursday. That’s when it occurred to me that I could make something better of the situation than would have been without it. The sensible fix would have been to walk back to the car, drive to the local general store, and buy some sunscreen. That would have cost me some time, money, and energy, but it would have got me to where I wanted to be, or to where I thought I was going in the first place. That was not an intriguing option to me. Instead, I decided to go for a run. I didn’t have compression shorts or sneakers but I didn’t care. I ran 3 miles barefoot on the beach and listened to my last recorded podcast so I could send it back to the guest later for approval. In the process, I shifted my focus, cleared my mind, beat up my feet enough to forget about my back for a bit, and got a good run in. When I got back, I dove in the ocean, floated around for a bit, and I was fine. In fact, I was better than fine. I walked back to my chair and without even thinking about it pulled a towel around my back and over my head like a giant hood. It made enough shade that I didn’t have to worry about getting burnt anymore. I never would have run if not for forgetting the sunscreen. I never would have listened through the podcast. I might not have gone in the water and I certainly wouldn’t have gotten as much color on my arms and legs. I have found that sometimes when I look to make things work for me, I get some added luck from areas that are outside of my control. I could not tell you how I did not get some sunburn through my time running and in the water and shaded by my towel but with my arms and legs exposed. Somehow, I got just enough sun that it wasn’t an issue
The second example was shorter and sweeter, in a literal sense. Lauren and I drove out at night to get some ice cream for the house from the grocery store. When we arrived, I realized I forgot my wallet which had both of our credit cards in it. All we had in the car was a couple of quarters and a one euro coin for some reason. Neither was enough for a pint. Lauren quickly recalled that she had tried to use Apple Pay last time and that they didn’t have it there. Alternative option #1 was in and out of play before I even thought of it. The fix that first came to my mind was to go in the store and see if I could Venmo someone a few bucks to pay for the ice cream. I didn’t really want to do that but I figured it would probably work and I might have been willing to do it to save ourselves the round-trip of having to go home and come back. Neither of us too much minded the drive so we decided against it and turned around to go home. We were pulling out of the shopping center when I noticed a Ben & Jerry’s. I asked Lauren to pull in so that I could pop out and check if they take Apple Pay. There was a parking spot right in front of the store. I went in. A few minutes later, I walked out with a few pints of better ice cream than anything we could have found at the store. I also learned about a pretty nifty little deal where you can get them to hand-pack a pint of any fresh flavor you want for just 60 cents more than a pre-packed pint and a couple bucks more than a cup. The Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz was an absolute treat and now we have ice cream for weeks!
I know these are not life-shattering examples, but they really do demonstrate the way that believing everything happens for a reason have shifted my perspective in everyday life. Without even thinking of the phrase, I am constantly looking to turn lemons into lemonade. Instead of looking at things as happening to me, I tend to look at things as happening for me. I try to turn obstacles into advantages. Instead of climbing over a wreck in the road, I run around it to find that the new way is often better than the way I was trying to go in the first place.
I will admit, I do not know if this works all the time. I think it is hard to say that there are any golden rules in life. I think believing everything happens for a reason also requires some semblance of sensing when one needs to persist. Hard obstacles are different than soft obstacles and soft obstacles can be dissolved with persistence. Still, there is something to be said for looking at an unanticipated obstacle in the road and realizing that there is always another way to go. Sometimes, the other way can end up being much better than where you intended to go in the first place. Keep your mind open and your eyes peeled. Everything happens for a reason. At least, that’s what I believe.