I want to believe things happen for a reason. I’m a hard-wired meaning-seeker, who’s spent an inordinate amount of time asking “Why?” And I’m a storyteller at heart, who wants life to flow like fiction, with a plot and a climax and a resolution that explains it all.
But even if things happen for a reason, it’s rarely—if ever—apparent in the moment. Sometimes when we look back, we can connect the dots—why a relationship didn’t work out, why we lost a job, why we didn’t get the house we swore was our dream home. Only then do we see how it positioned us to gain something else—hopefully something better that we didn’t even know we wanted. Or maybe it taught us something we needed to learn, like patience, assertiveness, or diligence.
And sometimes stuff just happens. Good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. There’s no lesson to learn, no virtue to gain. And it’s not necessarily cause-and-effect, though many of us like to believe we’re responsible for everything in our lives. When something good happens, we take credit for it—we worked hard, we’re kind, we’re aligned with our purpose. When something bad happens, we blame ourselves—we’re lazy, we’re stupid, we made bad choices. The appeal of this way of thinking is control: if we succeed, we steered the ship; if we failed, we can fix it.
That’s the problem with seeking meaning and reason. We can’t accept that life throws a mean curveball. That we’re not really in control. That the world is filled with things that will never make sense. All we can do is get up, get out, and keep going, no matter what this nonsensical life throws our way.