Life is unfair, so what have you learned?

I tend to make an effort not to plan too far into the future. It's a part laziness, part trusting the universe, part experience-has-taught-me-plans-tend-to-change kind of recipe. So when my sister, Ava, and I convened in British Columbia after six months of travel abroad, our plans were pretty close to nil. With, however, the exception of one certainty: Ava would buy a car, and our summer would nomadically revolve around said vehicle.

In April we arrived back in Canada. One week later Ava purchased her very first car. Flash forward 18 days, the car (and its head gasket): dead.

So! What to do when life throws a big (expensive) wrench into your plans? Well, for Ava and I the solution would appear to be something like: accept, learn, get on with life.

Acceptance

There is no use in arguing with what is. Getting upset or wallowing in our misfortune could cause us torment, but wouldn’t change our situation. We knew that the sooner we accepted our circumstances, the sooner we could do something proactive. And yes, easier said than done. I'm not a guru; I have emotions that can entangle themselves in my external situations and ride close to the surface. It's not easy to keep a level head in less than ideal situations, but it's definitely something that can be practiced. Luckily we had mentally prepped ourselves for worst case scenario and were able to stomach the news fairly easily. Indeed, within a few hours of the diagnosis we were able to poke fun at the whole sad, slightly absurd circumstance.

A couple tips I found helpful for acceptance in this situation:

  1. Maintaining perspective. There are actual adversities facing people in this world right now. The breakdown of our car does not qualify as one of these problems. Maybe it sounds cliché but in annoying situations I really do ask myself, "Has my health been compromised? Is the well-being of my loved ones in tact?" And I give myself a moment to think about the types of real challenges that people are dealing with (hint: the daily news provides plenty of suggestions). It might sound extreme, but I promise this practice has the power to quickly transform any of my "major" issues into something I am grateful for.
  2. Once perspective is achieved, I try (and it’s not always easy) to have a laugh at myself and my situation.

Learning

There is always something to learn. Always. Experience has inevitably taught me that the harder a situation, the more there is to learn from it. For Ava and I this instance was no exception.

We had lined up some workaways to do for the next month or so, and although the car served as a convenience to these, it was not a necessity. But when the car broke down all of our certainty about our plans started to waiver. We weren’t sure what we wanted anymore and we were all over the map; one minute we're scanning Craigslist for jobs and apartments in the city, the next minute I'm planning a solo bike tour down the west coast. It was becoming overtly ridiculous and we realized that we needed to slow down. So we did. And then we asked ourselves, “how do we honestly want to be spending our time this summer? What do we really want to gain?”

What we came to realize was that the workaways we’d arranged were mostly what we wanted, but not entirely. We had absentmindedly settled for “good-enough.” We didn’t realize it at the time, but we had hastily committed to these workaways because we had no certainty that something better would present itself. This uncertainty created pressure for ourselves in our minds to make a timely decision; (thus!) perfectly exemplifying a decision based out of fear. It was all the questioning and doubt that the car breakdown stirred into our consciousness that enabled us to gain the awareness that something wasn’t quite right.

So we re-evaluated our plans and now we feel more passionate and aligned with what we have set before us. Now when we reflect on the car breakdown we can happily focus on how it has benefited us. If things were always fine and dandy I’d never learn those important life lessons. Dealing with challenging experiences in my life is what’s taught me (over and over again) that the tougher a situation is, the more it has to teach me. And this is very significant! Because now when I’m going through a rough patch I at least have the awareness to endure these obstacles with gratitude and an openness to learn.

Getting On With Life (Perseverance)

So once we're able to look upon our grim circumstances without malicious thoughts or self-pity; once we're able to proudly hold our glass half full, then what? Of course, we persist! Because really what other choice do we have?

I try to gather as many lessons as I can from all of my experiences, but I pay extra attention when I encounter challenges. When I'm faced with a challenge I know that life is trying to teach me something in a way that I otherwise might overlook. Now that I've regained my footing after the car debacle, I've come out the other side better situated on my path than I was when everything was running smoothly. I find myself equipped with new insight and renewed clarity, and I'm carrying on with life the only way that anyone can: one day at a time.