everything happens for a reason

I used to absolutely hate this phrase, despite being the positive all too cheery person that I am. Everything happens for a reason. I’d hear it said to others, or people would say it to me, and I would almost always instinctively do the biggest eye roll, an eye roll so big that they’d practically come out of my head. I used to think it was the most cliché phrase ever; I used to associate it with something that people would tell each other (or themselves) every time they wanted to feel better about themselves.

But recently, at least in the past few months or so, this phrase has started to grow on me. I’ve started to believe it.

I’m not sure if it’s Fate or Destiny that is the ‘it’, but I believe that if you take one job over another, it was for a reason and will have an impact on your life later. I believe that if one friendship or relationship ends, it was for a reason. If the timing isn’t quite right just now, it’s for a reason.

But what is that reason? It’s impossible to tell in the present moment.

I think that I — and so many other people — are so skeptical about this whole notion because you can never see the reason up front. We’re narrow-minded creatures — we’re focusing on the moment that we are in right now, rather than a hypothetical situation or state that will take place in an indefinite period of time. In the present moment, when something has happened, we’re not instantly looking forward at the possibilities that may stem from it. We’re focusing on how we feel now, and what the implications are for us now.

But instead, why not focus on the bigger picture and how each moment — small or big, amazing or horrendous — is contributing to all that.

I reference Steve Jobs’s 2005 Stanford Commencement speech a lot but it’s because I believe it can be applied to so many things in life. In the speech, he talks about connecting the dots in life. He talks about how you can never connect them looking forwards; you can only connect them looking backward. And so, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. He says, “You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

For Steve Jobs, after he dropped out of college, he dropped into a calligraphy class that was being offered at his college campus, because he didn’t have to take any of the mandatory classes anymore. In the speech, he says, “I learned about serif and sans serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.”

He didn’t think any of that had any practical application in his life but then 10 years later, when he was designing the first Macintosh computer, he says that it all came back to him. The fonts. The style. And he went ahead and built it all into the Mac.

Jobs says, “If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.”

That, I believe, is a classic example of the idea that everything happens for a reason — good or bad.

I think I started believing it more this year because I realized that not everything will go your way, and that was a very hard pill for me to swallow, especially as somebody who loves to plan and look ahead five years into the future. And so, I started (or rather, had to start) embracing the uncertainty and the surprises and disappointments that would come up in life. I’d look at the stuff that happened that wasn’t so planned, whether it be withering friendships or opportunities that come and opportunities that I miss, and I’d try to tell myself that they are happening for a reason.

That maybe 5 days, 5 months, or 5 years down the line, I’d trace whatever thing that just happened back to that moment in the past. And that thing might either be good or bad, but it is impossible to determine in the present moment.

All that is possible is to hold on to some of that glimmer of hope and allow it to carry you forward.

I know this all seems like an excuse to just look every bad thing in the face and say “it happens for a reason” (That was what I thought so originally too). But if believing in the fact that the bad can become good somewhere down the line keeps you a little more hopeful and a little less depressed, I think that there just might be some worth to it.

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