My mom used to say that she could never understand why life treated me so harshly. That no matter what I ever tried to do or accomplish, it always took a struggle first. She never understood why my life always took the scenic route in order for good things to happen, but that bad things came so easily. It was too fast and furious, and it wasn't fair. She even cried about it a couple of times. My response (even as a little kid) was always the same: "I think God just has a lot to show me, Mom. It's ok".
Life is often acclaimed as a journey, and for some of us, that journey is anything but linear. My path has been a turbulent one, packed with hardships and unexpected challenges. There were no shortcuts or easy roads; every step forward seemed to be followed by a setback that knocked me off my feet. Yet, through it all, I’ve learned that perspective is the key to not only surviving but thriving in a world that can feel relentless.
And life is just that—relentless. I cannot find a better word to describe its motion. It's continuous and forever in forward motion, no matter what happens to us, good or bad. I'm realizing more and more these days that it's literally all just a process. A process that is just happening. Not just to me or to you, but to all of us. But perhaps therein lies the rub. We can't stop life from moving forward any more than we can stop what is meant to come. It's just what it is. Everything is happening to us, yes, but a lot of it (most of it) is happening for us. That's what we can't actually see when we are in the thick of things.
I, for one, want all the answers yesterday! I'm very impatient by nature, and I don't try to make excuses for it anymore. I want to know everything, and I want everything to happen in my way and in my time. That's just the human in me.
I’ve never been handed success (or anything else, for that matter) on a silver platter. Opportunities didn’t magically appear, and dreams didn’t materialize without sweat and massive struggle. I think that life decided for me a long time ago that my route through this world would be the scenic one—full of twists, turns, and breathtaking views, but also steep climbs and treacherous descents. At times, I felt like an unwilling participant in an obstacle course where the hurdles just kept coming.
Every time I started to gain momentum, life had a way of humbling me. Obstacles emerged just as I thought I was gaining ground, forcing me to reevaluate my path and reconsider my goals. It took a toll on my mental health, amplifying my anxiety and depression. Fear became my constant companion, whispering doubts in my ear whenever I contemplated taking a step forward.
Depending on what you believe in—God, spirit, nature, or the universe—I honestly think that we all choose our life path before we are born. I've always believed this. Before I was born, my main focus was to be helpful and to be chosen for people to learn from. This is a feeling I've always had. It is the reason I lead my life as I do, take on the projects I do, and have such an empathic heart and way about me. If you know me, you know that when people ask me what I want to do or accomplish during my time here, I always answer the same way: I just want to help people. I want people to learn from me. But to teach is to experience. I need stories to tell, and in order for these stories to be accountable, I need the experiences to go along with them. Teachable moments are like Amazon reviews: If they're all just good ones with 5-star ratings, people become skeptical of how reliable they really are. Nothing goes well all the time. You need a good flavour of experience from both good and bad journeys to get the entire picture. I think life works the same way.
Now, just because my inner spirit assures me that this is who I am and what I want, it doesn't mean that it makes the hard challenges any easier to accept or go through. If anything, it can make it even more depressing sometimes. So, I have to continually remind myself that I really need to put some more work into my perspective on things. I'm absolutely fantastic at showing others some and even giving advice on how others can gain more. But, as you know, when it comes to taking your own medicine, it's bitter.
The power of perspective is a vital key to any journey, especially the devastating ones. I realize that my mindset has a significant impact on how I respond to life’s curveballs. I can't control the obstacles, nor will I always (or ever) have control over what comes my way, but I can control how I approach what arrives at my doorstep. I also know that it's a very slow and often painful process, but I pray every day that I can better develop this side of me and to always see that obstacles are merely opportunities for growth and the ultimate key to finding strength within myself.
Perspective isn't about denying the difficulties I'm facing. It's about acknowledging them, facing them head-on, and finding ways to transform them into stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks. It means looking beyond the immediate pain and disappointment to envision a future where these challenges could be catalysts for positive change.
Living with mental illness makes this perspective shift even more crucial. For many of us struggling, it's not just about overcoming external obstacles; I have to battle my internal demons as well. And boy, are those voices loud—even deafening during difficult times. But I work on it every day, as we all should. I'm learning to see my struggles as part of a larger narrative of growth, which helps me navigate in the darkest moments. Perspective on the narrative gives me the strength to reach out for help when needed and to develop coping mechanisms that go beyond merely surviving.
I won’t sugarcoat it: embracing this perspective is going to be a gradual and ongoing process for me, as it always has been and always will be. Some days, it's honestly a huge victory just to get out of bed and face the world. But over time, it gets easier the more you practice. I'm slowly starting to view the setbacks as opportunities to rise stronger, wiser, and more resilient. I hate it, but I know it's all for my good. A necessary evil to get to what's better. I learned that the lens through which I view my life has a profound impact on my overall well-being, and no matter how hard it is, I know I'm worth it.
I have a process for it all. The minute I am confronted with the next path or journey, if it's a tumultuous one, I need to assess it immediately. I need all the information—good, bad, and ugly. I will ask others for advice in order to gain a diversity of perspectives on what's happening, but then ultimately shut down and have to juggle all my inner negative voices simultaneously with the ones from others around me. Then I walk away and retreat. I need to work it out in my own way, which normally means crying, self-nurturing, music, prayer, and journaling for a day or two. Once I emerge, I'm ready for battle. I will give it everything, but I need to win. Losing is not an option. You need to find your process and do what you need to do to get back to that level of perspective that you'll need to see your journey through, whatever it may be.
Life will always have its share of challenges, and the unexpected will continue to test us. But by adopting a perspective that values growth, resilience, and transformation, we can rise above the trials and tribulations. We can turn detours into scenic routes and use them to appreciate the beauty that exists even in the midst of difficulty.
And so what if our route from a to b is the long way around? Maybe that's how it's meant to be. Maybe the easy roads and the shortest distance to something aren't that great—or right. Not for all of us. Maybe that would bore us. Maybe you don't actually learn anything. Perhaps you can't find teachable moments if the path is too easy. This is my perspective on it all. The road less travelled isn't necessarily the most desirable one or the easiest one, but as they say, it will make all the difference!
Our perceptions shape our reality, and the way we choose to see the world can either hold us back or propel us forward. It’s a choice that we have the power to make, no matter how many times life knocks us down. So, let’s look beyond the obstacles and see the potential for growth, the chance to elevate ourselves, and the opportunity to make our journey truly extraordinary.