The fires we pass in times of struggle transform us into the receptors of life’s blessings and lessons.
This past year, just like many others, has been one of the most difficult years I’ve faced. At the same time, it has also been the year of most growth. Prosperity. Benevolence. Development. Strength. Resilience…
In my first year as an undergraduate student, I was recovering from an eating disorder. Even though I had built some self-awareness in trying to heal and earn back my health, I was still very self-centered and self-focused. I didn’t think of other’s needs. I just wanted to control things to go my way, period. As I became more involved on campus, as I began to be around other people similar in age but different in mind, body, culture, beliefs, and personality, my mind began to open. I started to focus more on how others felt, their stories, and their struggles. There was a shift in wanting to make a difference in other people’s lives. Despite this shift of open-heartedness, however, many of my intentions were subconsciously still centered on fulfilling the cries of my own ego.
By my last year in college, I had set everything up on my terms. I didn’t have time for those who really mattered. Sure, I was volunteering in research labs, conducting my own research, working at different jobs, always trying to get my hands dirty in everything to be “fully prepared” for the future. However, I often neglected to spend time with my parents. The moments with my boyfriend, whenever he would visit, were sometimes rushed. I didn’t hang out with any friends or go out. My “busyness” impeded me from being involved in life. From fully applying my new skills and knowledge in a way that could actually effectively help others. At the rate I was going, I don’t think I would have been able to find the person I needed to become for the mission I was given in life. And when life happened, I faced it with denial and anger believing that life was going against me. That somehow it was pushing me back from my dreams and aspirations. From my future. It took me almost two years to realize that all along, it was happening for me.
This shift in my life circumstance happened all at once. My father was diagnosed with cancer and lost his job. My mom just had surgery and was still on disability. I had planned to graduate from college before the summer but turned out that I would need to stay for that entire term. My relationship with my partner was starting to hit the rocks. And where was I going to get the money to finish my degree? I had no idea. Then one of my mentors moved away too. And my brother started to have marital problems which only I and my older brother knew about. I found myself juggling between school, work, research, and volunteering during the week while providing my help and support at home on the weekends. That summer I started to binge eat again. And overexercise. Then the panic attacks began to submerge. Followed by uncontrollable cry spells. Chronic insomnia. The heartaches, stomach pains, migraines, and constant minor physical injuries. Things worsened after the pandemic when I needed to be with my parents all day every day without having space that was not filled with emotional reactivity. The grief, the loss, the ambiguity was too overwhelming. I hit an all-time low as I had never before.
Everything felt raw and heavy. But something I did every day was read or listen to podcasts about individuals who’d gone through difficult hardships. To hear their stories. To listen to their insights and perspectives. To possibly find answers or solutions that I could use for my own life. And a common phrase that kept coming up was, “Life happens for you, not to you.” It was a phrase that I’d toggle with in the morning while working out or late at night after a bad panic attack. I was trying to connect the dots. Find purpose and meaning to it all.
I began to become impatient. I wanted to find my answer because the panic attacks were becoming more frequent, more painful, and honestly psychologically unbearable. I thought that within a matter of weeks I would somehow ease my debilitating anxiety and get my life moving in a more positive direction. I was tackling every book, article, podcast, journal entry, anything that I could find to help steer me in the right direction but nothing would ever really stay. It took me months to realize that we can have all the information and life advice someone would ever need in a lifetime, but if the person is not ready psychologically, emotionally, mentally, cognitively, physically, or even spiritually, it won’t have the same impact as someone who’s receptively ready to receive it. It won’t cement into the person because they’re not in the right place to accept the weight of that knowledge to be rooted in their being. Not to mention that the journey that often leads to that receptivity is often a nonnegotiable stepping stone to growth and wisdom.
The fires we pass in times of struggle transform us into the receptors of life’s blessings and lessons. Even though the fire burns and pains our soul at times, it is only through the scar tissue formed do we become mediums of our own destiny. The day I let go of my anger and resentment towards life, I found the space needed to have the inner strength to carry that which had been placed on my shoulders. Little by little, I accepted what was and the panic attacks began to decrease. I began to have the energy to hope for a better tomorrow and to dream a bigger dream.
Today I find myself being able to support my own family and my partner’s family with a kinder heart that doesn’t feel resentment when my needs are not met. My own agenda is no longer the first one on my list of to-dos. Time is no longer an entity measured by productivity and successes but by the quality of life shared with others. I’m learning how to apply my skills and knowledge to my daily life all while bringing those around me up with me in one way or another. With this rhythm, I found that life happens for you, not to you.