If we were to break down life into several broad and general categories, it would be based on social, academic, financial, and cultural aspects. From my observations, people — at least the ones I have encountered — do quite well in a few of those categories. Some might even do exceptionally well. But from what I have seen, no matter how accomplished people might be, there are still some aspects they struggle with. Struggle is universal and no one is exempt.
Of course, I am not an exception. In my two decades in this crazy world, I have already had to endure my fair share of struggles and rough experiences. Some of these I handled pretty well, and others, I didn’t quite manage to do so. But I wouldn’t have truly understood this had it not been for a conversation I had during a night out with my friends.
One evening while sharing drinks, a couple of friends and I started casually conversing about life, our experiences, and basically everything that’s happening around us. Almost everyone around the table took turns in sharing their stories while the rest enjoyed their beer and listened with great attention. Story after story, it was evident that it was not a typical night of beer and laughter for us. It was different. It felt as if everyone had been wanting that night to happen for a while. “You guys are screwed up, maybe even more than I am,” I said, after listening to all their stories and sharing mine. The bunch laughed because they clearly understood where I was coming from. Their stories surprised me, but more so, they comforted me. I discovered that it was not so unusual to struggle. To find out that others — even my friends — did too, was a revelation. Not because I want people to struggle but because I felt empathized with.
In learning others’ struggles, we can have a better perception of the world from a more realistic perspective. In this age of irrational perfectionism, we try to live up to idealistic standards that are too harsh to handle. However, by sharing our stories, the standards get modified to more realistic ones. Struggles as well as triumphs, failures, and growths will all seem normal. It becomes evident that no one really has it all together.
I once read a story about a man who found the cocoon of a moth in his backyard. He sat and watched the moth for hours, patiently waiting for it to force its body through the tiny hole in its cocoon. After a while, it seemed that the moth was stuck and couldn’t go any further. The man, feeling for the poor moth, decided to grab his scissors and cut open the cocoon, freeing the moth. The man continued to watch the moth, eagerly awaiting its first flight. But it never happened.
What the man didn’t understand was that the moth’s struggle to get through the tiny opening was the only way it could develop into its full body. Growth and flight would only come after the struggle. Taking the struggle away from the moth, the man unknowingly deprived it of its freedom to spread its wings.
But do we actually give ourselves sufficient time in the cocoon? I didn’t. There are times when I boarded my train of thoughts heading down a slippery slope. In those times, I asked myself, “Would I still ponder over the hardships had I taken the time to process and heal instead of taking a shortcut?”. I wouldn’t have, probably. I wouldn’t be recollecting memories and questioning my decisions — as I usually do after reading a novel or watching a Wes Anderson movie. Though it kind of sounds like a cliché, it seems that it might just be okay to not be okay. We can even learn a thing or two that we wouldn’t have otherwise.
Life is one beautiful scuffle; it just doesn’t conform to our desires at will. But that doesn’t mean it is not going well. Setbacks are essential to life. If we go through life without any, how would we grow? Life without growth is dull and dreary. And so in moments of struggle, we should remember that these experiences come and go and we must allow them to run through us, uninterrupted. Instead of viewing life as a series of never-ending struggles, we must trust that our personal battles are leading us towards the realization of our better selves: for we are imperfect beings who strive and struggle to overcome, and in doing so, prevail and find our true selves.