24 Oct The People Who Challenge Us Can Be the People We Need
SOMETIMES I WONDER IF EVERYTHING IN OUR LIVES happens for a reason. If one believes in destiny, then the letdowns, the blissful moments, the people we meet and the leaps of faith — they are all preordained.
It’s as if these crucial experiences are out there in the universe, waiting for the correct combination of timing and boldness to ignite. It’s up to us to provide that spark of life.
Perhaps when it’s all said and done, we’ll be standing atop some victorious mountain peak where we’re able to stop, turn around, and take a long breath of cold, glorious air.
I want to be able to look down as my heart beats out of my chest and say: this is what I’ve conquered. Those were the points I thought I couldn’t take another step, yet I dug my heels into the mud and pushed forward through the night.
From my current perspective, I’m looking up at the dense clouds that shroud my future in mystery. I have no idea what lays beyond those icy pillows in the sky, but I will climb; I will provide that spark.
I believe there’s meaning to the uncertainty.
With that unknown, comes liberation. At any moment, we’re capable of changing our lives with a daring leap of faith. When we get comfortable being uncomfortable, real change occurs.
It may be as simple as giving a compliment to a stranger, for we never know what it may mean to them, or us.
Moreover, when we imagine that every human connection is for a reason, we’ll live with a greater love and passion in our hearts, for every conversation could propel us on a new adventure.
This life can be a constant uphill battle if we take it on ourselves, but it doesn’t have to be a solo ascent. Some people want to help, and those people are vital. These are our friends, our family, the people we love.
Yet some people will challenge us — these are the relationships we struggle with, for we don’t see what benefit they provide.
Like how the tough times in our lives serve some greater purpose, the people who challenge us can be the very people we need to become all that we’re meant to be.
They will dare us to take steps of faith, as believing those relationships are for a reason requires us to put our hands flat on the table and say, I surrender.
When we do, we’ll break through that veil of fog and see the wide-open sky, waiting on the other side of any challenge.
Looking back thus far, I recognize there were people on my journey who challenged me to see life in a brand new way. I wouldn’t be where I am right now without them.
One of these people was my college journalism professor, a man who looked exactly like Sam the Snowman from the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas special.
However, he was quite the opposite of a comforting Christmas special, in the beginning, at least. I’ll call him Sam, like the snowman.
Sam taught several different entry level journalism courses as well as specialized upperclassmen courses. His trademark course was media law, a class that all journalism students had to take after deciding they’d put it off for as long as possible.
When I took the class, I remember how the students would shuffle in, awaiting his first few words. Suppose you didn’t read, game over. If you didn’t speak during a discussion, he’d call on you. Many failed his classes multiple times before finally passing.
Some left journalism all together after having him as their freshman news-reporting professor: nope, I guess this isn’t my shtick!
As a young reporter, Sam covered the law in 1950s, Texas — that was his freshman news-reporting class. He garnered a perspective of life I can’t imagine.
But underneath that tough, hard-hitting-news exterior, there was a kind man, one who sincerely cared about the next generation of journalists. As he said, he believed in truth and democracy.
The fact that he looked exactly like Sam the Snowman helped take the edge off, too.
Sam always insisted on getting more information for our stories, perhaps by taking a trip to the municipal courthouse to speak with the District Attorney, my favorite weekend activity, or he’d insist we call sources directly.
That was the reasonable course of action, but I felt like I was wasting their time. Why would anyone want to talk to a naive college news reporter?
Each unwanted call and each rejected story idea was strengthening my determination. Those timid days were turning me into a writer.
After class, Sam would go over each student’s story, one by one. He’d bring out a large rolled up piece of paper from the art department and carefully unroll the paper on his desk like an Egyptian scroll.
With a yellow pencil, he’d draw a giant inverted pyramid which journalism stories are supposed to follow: the most newsworthy details on top and the general info on the bottom.
We’d go over every paragraph at his wooden standing desk where he’d scratch through the unnecessary words as if he was crossing names off a mob hit-list.
Through this one on one time, I’d nervously tell him a little more about myself; I’d maybe even get a chuckle.
I didn’t see myself as a journalist. But a few years later, through several seasons of questioning and feeling lost, I feel everything I’ve gone through has led to where I am on my journey.
In the year I interacted with Sam, he impacted my life in a way that maybe he’ll never know. I strongly considered changing majors; I hated it. But I didn’t — I continued to provide the needed spark, just by showing up.
That, I believe, is fate. Without those difficult years, I would never have been where I am today, writing about what I genuinely care about with passion in my heart.
I want to travel the world; I want to tell stories; I want to live my life as I see fit and connect with others through writing and reading and going for our dreams.
Perhaps that will change in five years. But right now, all I can do is continue looking up and taking this climb day by day.
Wherever you are, Sam, probably retired and kicking back, I hope you know I now thrive on what I feared in those college days.
You taught me how to use the written word as a guiding light to illuminate the darkness in ourselves, and the world. Sam wasn’t so scary after all. Nobody is.
Perhaps we are destined to meet the people we meet, the ones who we fear, and the ones who need us more than we think we need them. Each connection is an opportunity to take another step uphill through the fog and the sweet-smelling trees.
Wherever you are on your climb, know people are waiting to help propel you further. Know that all you can do in times of uncertainty is to keep taking steps forward by doing your best in every circumstance.
It may take a leap of faith or a whim of trust, but I say: why not believe it all happens for a reason?