It is difficult to reconcile the world I was raised to believe existed and the world that actually exists. Like a lot of people in my age category, I was raised to believe that I could do anything I wanted if I worked hard enough and that there was a benevolent being somewhere above us who loved us individually and only wanted what was best for us. A lot of it was reinforced as I grew up because I was constantly told how smart I was, how capable I was when I focused on something I really wanted, and how frequently things just worked out the way I wanted. My home life might have been difficult, I might have had some issues crop up in my family that I’m still dealing with to this day, but I pretty much just walked through my childhood and teen years without ever really being denied anything I tried to obtain. I had pretty low expectations and didn’t try for much, to be fair, but I still managed to get everything I wanted one way or another. It felt pretty believable that I was capable of anything and that there was some force watching out for me.
As I went to college and started to come to terms with what I’d endured growing up, how I felt about my family, and my own limitations, my once-strong faith was the first thing to go. I’d describe myself as agnostic now, but it’s a little more complicated than that. I really want to believe in some higher power, but I feel like higher powers get used to get out of fixing things more frequently than I’m willing to put up with. Religion is frequently used as the justification for a lot of bad things but that doesn’t make religion itself bad. It works really well for a lot of people and it appeals to me because of the frequent focus on forgiveness, love, and respect for others. I just want to focus on doing my best here and now, to help as many people as I can now, because it feels like helping and loving is more important than figuring out which faith is the right one. That always feels like a cop-out to me, but I don’t really know how to explain it any better. I just hope that whatever greater power there is out there, whatever got things going at the start of everything, either doesn’t care or understands that I was just trying to do my best by my fellow humans.
A few years after that, when I got my first permanent, post-college job, I eventually realized that not everything works out. I wasn’t even trying to believe that everything works out well, just that it eventually comes to an end and there is some kind of conclusion. Unfortunately, closure and completion aren’t always guaranteed. Sometimes things just stop and you’re left wondering if they’re over or if there’s maybe more down the line. I’ve had a couple of relationships end like that, a few moves away from jobs, and even a few friendships that abruptly ended, and I can definitely say that that’s almost never the case. Recently mending bridges with one friend is pretty much the only time that’s ever been true and it was for a friendship I thought had concluded. It was one small, simple, enormous step that showed me sometimes things “work themselves out” without really ending. But it’s one thing in a world full of times things are just over and it’s up to me to figure out what to do with the unsatisfying end.
I spent over a year denying that it was time to move on from my old job. I spent more than a few months trying to salvage a relationship that had ended mutually due to distance but blown up afterwards because of immaturity and poor communication. I spent fifteen months trying to work things out with a roommate when I’d already known it was never going to happen. I’m really bad at letting things die when they don’t have a clear-cut end or conclusion. I spend way more time and energy trying to make things work out to what feels like a real end because there’s still a part of me that believes I can do anything if I work hard enough. I know it isn’t true, I know there are real limitations to what people can accomplish based on the factors of their life, and I know that hard work is rarely enough to achieve success, but the idea of working hard is so ingrained in my soul that I usually just double-down and convince myself that all I need to do is work even harder. Then, surely, I will achieve the success I desire.
Nothing in life is guaranteed, though. Life is short and people leave yours all the time. Days are long and you could dash yourself to pieces against the wall you’re trying to break through. You could live a lifetime in two years, full of vows to change the way things had been before and to never make the same mistakes again, only to realize you’ve in a position not that different from where you started. Maybe progress is too slow to really see and you’ll wake up one day to realize everything is different. Maybe You just need a little more time or one last push to finally break through that wall. You never know. Maybe you’re one day, one conversation away from achieving your every dream. Only time will tell if you’ve pushed too hard or if you haven’t yet pushed hard enough.
I don’t think I can achieve anything and everything I put my mind to, not after failing as often and as severely as I have. I don’t think there’s some force out there trying to guide my life down the right path. I want to believe these things, still, but I feel like I’ve got something more important to focus on. I have one thing I want to do, one big goal to spend my life on. I may never be able to achieve it or find the success I want, but I’m willing to live my entire life in pursuit of it. I feel like having that pinpoint focus is a little more valuable to me in the long run than the potentially erroneous belief in my ability to succeed or to be granted the achievement when I follow the plan of some supreme being.