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I remember reading somewhere that we are all here on this earth to learn a lesson.
It’s one that is made for us and only us, like a special recipe concocted in the stars and implanted in our tiny developing fetus.
While it may sound a bit out there, it was extremely comforting to read. For much of my life, I would compare my hardships to others. I’d look at those who seemed to have it all together and wonder if they ever struggled. I felt envious as they seemingly sailed through life. ‘Why do I have to deal with this and not them?’ I’d wonder. ‘What did I do wrong?’ But maybe they are not here to learn my lesson. They are here to learn theirs, whatever that might be.
While my life has been filled with typical ups and downs, it came to a crushing low when my sister died in 2013. The pain of her loss was so intense I wanted to claw myself out of my body. I really believed I was the only person in the whole world who experienced pain this excruciating. I would go to parties and watch people laughing and having the best time and feel so incredibly alone. It was like I was banished to another dark and miserable planet while everyone else merrily went about their life. It angered me that others weren’t suffering like me. I kept asking myself again and again, ‘Why me? Why my sister?’
I was too absorbed in my anguish to recognize that others were also going through hardships. It’s been seven years since my sister died and now I understand that while my grief is specific and particular, it is not unique. Grief is just another emotion we human beings will experience during our journey through life. It’s just one of those emotions that don’t get as much airtime as joy or positivity, so we assume no one else experiences it. Along the way, I’ve met others who have confided in me their stories of trauma and pain that I was completely spared of.
It reminded me that while things could have been different, it doesn’t necessarily mean they would have been better. This journey of learning that grief is shared by so many others has humbled me deeply. We all experience tragedies and heartbreak. There is no one in the world who doesn’t get hit with some kind of pain, no matter how happy and cheerful they may appear on the outset.
When we think we are alone in our suffering, we are not making it better for anyone, let alone ourselves. Focusing purely on our pain is like a vortex that only isolates us further and makes us feel worse. In these times of immense suffering, it’s important to get outside of ourselves. Often the best remedy is to volunteer or help someone who is less fortunate than you. It will suddenly become clear that you are not the only one.
It can be so easy to forget this, especially when we live in a world of social media. Everywhere you turn there is an Instagram story being born. Everyone seems to be having the best time ever. At least, that’s what they want you to know. But how much do you really know about these people you follow?
There is a whole other side to everyone you meet, whether online or in person—you may never actually see it. So next time you catch yourself looking at others or scanning through social media and wondering why your life couldn’t go as smoothly as theirs, remember that there are people looking at your life wishing they had something about yours. It’s sort of like that quote, “Every time you point a finger, there are three pointing back at you.” It can also be applied to this situation too.
I wish someone had told me this earlier, but maybe I wouldn’t have listened. Maybe this was one of the many lessons I needed to learn: keep your eyes on your own path. No one has it better or worse, they just have it different.