Like everyone else, I enjoy days that roll along smoothly. I get out of bed on time, and the weather is pleasant. The newspaper arrives neatly folded on my doorstep. I do not burn the toast. Traffic is smooth, making for an easy commute. I arrive at the office perfectly on time, and my daily schedule clicks along like Swiss clockwork. We all–perhaps far too occasionally–have days like that. It seems that everyone, from the gods on down, are easy to get along with, and everything falls in place.
The only downside to that delightful sort of day is that I have never really learned a darn thing about myself or about life during those times. Sure, on those perfect days I have avoided unpleasant emotions and states of mind, such as anger, confusion, frustration, and sadness. On the other hand, I have not been forced to grow. My mettle has not been tested, and I have not had the transformative experience of having to overcome adversity and rise to the challenge, be it minor or dire.
Despite what the books might tell me, everything I needed to learn in life was learned during those times when I was heartbroken, defeated, wracked with grief, or mired in feelings that I was sure I would never be able to rise above. I have learned far more from rash decisions, fears, anxieties, and personal failures than from any self-help book, corporate training seminar, or university course. If I have any wisdom or worth as a human being today, it is because I have fallen flat on my face time and again, and learned the valuable lesson of how to laugh at myself.
If we are truthful with ourselves, we will realize that it is not comfort and harmony that allow us to reach our potential as human beings. We do not transcend our limitations when everything goes our way. The times that we grow and develop are the times when everything seems to be falling down around our heads. If our first love walks out of our life in the middle of a bleak February rainstorm, or we are fired from a job that we really needed, it seems as though nothing will ever again be right.
It is only days, weeks, or years later that we begin to have an inkling of the deep, rich layers those minor or not-so-minor catastrophes have added to our beings.