Working with youth, as I do, I often hear the phrase, “That’s not fair!” Many of the children I have worked with have in fact, suffered through many pains in their lives that were inflicted by no fault of their own, which obviously is not fair. However, usually when I hear this phrase, they feel that they have been singled out or slighted somehow. Sometimes they are correct, but most times, they really have no basis for their complaints.
When I have these conversations, I often find myself hoping that as they get older, they will gain more perspective, eventually gaining a better understanding about how life really isn’t fair. Generally these complaints come up regarding something petty, which is typical of youth. What is happening in their lives is obviously important to them at the time but they don’t have a wide range of experiences to draw understanding from. When you think about it, despite the obvious time where puberty plays its part, and we grow up physically, really the only differences between adults and children are the experiences they have had in their lives. Growing older gives us more perspective, and in most cases, allows us to compare and contrast what happens to help us make better choices, or to state it more simply, to gain wisdom.
Growing older, or aging, does more than give us more perspective. Aging gives, but it also takes. I have seen that painfully clear over the past several years as I have watched how time has slowly been stealing away bits and pieces of my grandmother’s life. This is a woman who has had to fight through so much. Her childhood was far from ideal as she suffered tremendously as a result of her own parent’s and grandparents’ internal issues. She was subjected to many things that nobody should have do face, let alone a child.
Her body has failed her on many occasions. She has endured many surgeries, one that technically took her life as she bled internally after being sewn up after the surgery. The doctor nicked an artery as he closed her up, and didn’t know it. She was clinically dead for a short period of time, and as a result, had to relearn much of what she knew how to do before the surgery. She was born with two kidneys; however one of them was never viable. She beat breast cancer with the assistance of a very aggressive chemotherapy regimen. Unfortunately, the chemicals that killed the cancer cells also had long term effects on her health, which have obviously lessened her quality of life over the past decade or so. She has fought so hard just to live a normal life at times.
I’m sure some of you are wondering right now why I’m comparing complaining children with my ailing grandmother. Well, here is the correlation…
She has very recently taken a severe turn for the worse. I have sat and talked with her and watched her struggle to comprehend what is going on around her. We can be having a conversation where she is completely engaged, and all of a sudden, she can’t find the words to express what she wants, or has even forgotten what she just said. Literally, in a weeks’ time, I went from having a great conversation with her to sitting and watching her struggle to finish a sentence.
This is what I feel isn’t fair. Here is a woman who has lived a long life, has had the opportunity to raise and enjoy her children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren. She has seen them grow, and helped them as they dealt with their own struggles. But now, all of a sudden, she is having a hard time differentiating between what is real and what is not, as doctors are telling us that she is now suffering, in part, from the first stages of dementia. She celebrated her 84th birthday yesterday, but it pains me to realize that a week after that, she may not even remember the gathering of her family to celebrate her most current birthday. Eventually, as her sickness progresses, her whole life will be stolen away, and there is nothing that any of us can do about it.
I guess many people may say, “Such is life.” Life is so dichotomous not only personally, but collectively as well. It seems that some people have tremendous highs and lows in their lives while others appear to live a life that progresses with easy transitions, while others seem to live on a perpetual downslope, crashing to the bottom on countless occasions.
Life gives, but it also takes away. Each of us learns that as we age, and hopefully we learn from the rollercoaster ride we take as our lives transition throughout our years in this world. Is it fair? Absolutely not. Would I like my life to be easier? Sure. Would I take away all the sad parts of my life if I could? Absolutely not. Why? My reasoning is simple. Without the valleys I travel through, I would never learn to appreciate the summits. Ultimately, we are refined by the fire that is the difficult parts of our lives.
I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I also believe that none of us are here just by chance. I believe that each one of us has a purpose for our lives, and as our lives intertwine with others, we have opportunities to grow and learn from those around us. I believe that there is a grand plan laid out by an omnipotent and omniscient being that sees how it all fits together, but I also believe that we play a part, and our contribution comes about through our own free will. So, as I hear children complain about how life isn’t fair, and in the same day witness how life is being stolen away from my grandmother, what do I do about this? In reality, what can I do but hang on for the ride, and do my best to mitigate the extremes. The cool part is though, I can try my best to put things into perspective in order to help others out with their struggles. Is that my lot in life? Who knows, but I do know that as I have gotten older, I have learned to look at life and not to take it at face value, which has served me well, and has also allowed me to use this perspective to help others look at things from a different angle as well. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But hey…..such is life!