The Truth of C’est La Vie

2010 May 14

Hate To Break It To You is a recurring feature wherein we dispense succinct home truths that everyone could benefit from facing up to, unpleasant as they may be.

Recently, I had cause to be in a room full of women (ranging in age from early 20s to 50s) discussing their career trajectories. And as they all recounted the different paths that had taken them to the present, one phrase kept being repeated – and then/but, life just happened. Bewildered, resigned, rueful. I wanted to grab each of them by the shoulders and tell them that they damn well didn’t need to feel disappointed in themselves for elements out of their control. That would probably scare them even more, though. Maybe homemade cookies and a pat on the backĀ  instead?

Photo by Okinawa Soba

We make the decisions we believe are in our best interests – maximize happiness, minimize unpleasantness, meet a specific need. And sometimes, the outcomes and consequences aren’t what we expected and we have to navigate these new realities. We live and (it’s hoped) learn. But sometimes, life intervenes and through no fault or credit of our own, stuff goes sideways. People die, they get cancer, they get transferred to Akron, they get downsized, they get dumped, they have car accidents, they win the lottery, they meet their soul mate at a square dance for singles. Icelandic volcanoes erupt, condoms break, for better or worse, life happens. And it happens in ways we can’t necessarily anticipate or predict or adequately brace ourselves for. And we shouldn’t condemn ourselves for not being able to see these twists and turns coming and bounce back in record time.

The best we can do is to do what we believe is best. Forget about micromanaging the vagaries of other people, nature, the universe and apologizing for a lack of omniscience. Life happens – to us, for us and all around us. Recognize this, accept it and don’t apologize.

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