We’re all struggling, we’re all afraid, and we’re all looking for reasons to keep going, aren’t we?
But messy lives don’t mean the human condition is a pathology or that we need to overcome our humanness either as human nature is only perfectible up to a point.
As a process, life is a mess involving frequent discomfort on an individual and collective basis. While it can undo us on occasion, discomfort can be the engine of change and an agent of growth, depending on how we approach it.
Remember when you were a kid and had those mystery pains as you shot up an inch or two over the course of a few weeks? And those school pictures with missing front teeth because they had just fallen out?
Growing pains don’t stop once we enter adulthood.
They take on a different guise and force us to stretch ourselves, be it at school, at work, at home, and anywhere in between.
We learn, we evolve, we fail, and then we generally commit to doing better next time. Rinse and repeat until we master skills, strengthen relationships, build communities and families.
What’s life but an ongoing experiment for which there’s no instructions, only loose guidelines? Try as we might, no one can schedule the future, we can only make tentative plans that may or may not come to pass.
If the sun rises.
If we keep working on them.
If the stars are aligned.
There’s no recipe for self-actualization or overnight success, not even hard work over a sustained period of time. Lucky breaks are random and sometimes you don’t get any but you keep going anyway.
What else are you gonna do, not live because you didn’t get what you felt entitled to?
Life is both a process and an endurance sport; it owes us nothing.
Whining about life when it goes off-script is a waste of time; there was never a script to start off with.
But as long as we are conscious, we have agency.
Every moment is a crapshoot, the outcome of which we can usually predict with variable confidence when needed. Thankfully, life in the West is more comfortable than in other parts of the world and seldom needs nudging along to happen.
But it can also detonate everything in an instant and blow your every landmark to pieces.
No one, alas, is immune to hardship, illness, or death.
As long as you’re alive, it’s never where you’re at that matters most but what you’re doing to get from there to a place of greater ease, whatever your definition thereof is.
So don’t tell us where you are, show us where you’re going instead and get us interested in the journey so others might support you in your efforts. Then take the scenic route and make all the mistakes you need to make instead of looking for shortcuts that’ll help you avoid them.
Remember you need experience to get expertise; experience takes patience.
So no, you’re not a failure if you haven’t found a way out of whatever mess you’re in yet.
No, you’re not a failure if you haven’t reinvented yourself into a success story yet.
No, you’re not a failure if you haven’t figured out how to overcome the fear of being human yet.
No one can ever be 100% confident 100% of the time that everything is going to work out OK despite doing our best. This world is as terrifying as it is abrasive; ours is an individualistic culture of instant gratification that posits human worth is a dollar figure.
It is not.
Being poor, being sick, and being uncertain about the future do not make you a lesser person nor should you ever be ashamed of your circumstances when they’re less than ideal.
Adversity isn’t a black mark against your character, it’s the part of being alive we need to make peace with and accept with grace.
As long as you keep moving forward, you’re not a failure, you’re a work in progress like every other human.
And even if you stop doing anything for a while, you’ve still achieved something: more life. Please don’t wait for depression, cancer, or the encroaching presence of death to slap you in the face with a sense of perspective.
The one thing we take for granted is the one thing we most need to celebrate: life, the moment, now.
Take stock of it often, it’s yet another small victory.
And they do add up.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.