Train

A Train Wreck of Choice & Circumstance

That’s all life is; a train wreck of choices and circumstance.

Every day we’ve had to make choices based on the circumstances of our life at that moment in time. It’s been that way ever since we were no longer shitting in our diapers. Sometimes we felt in control of those choices and other times it seemed like we didn’t have any other alternative.

Each of these decisions has led to exactly this moment. Whether your life is perfect or totally miserable, it’s this way because you chose for it to be this way.

If your life is good, you’ll agree with me. You know that everything you have today is because you worked hard to get it. You know there were times when you wanted to quit and it felt like the struggle wasn’t worth it. But you persisted and here you are. Everything might not be exactly as you’d liked it to be. But you’re okay with that because you know you’ve done your best and this is what you’ve got … what you’ve earned.

And if your life is shit, you’re going to argue and outline all the reasons I’m wrong. Or explain why you’re the exception. You’ll call me names and say I don’t know what I’m talking about. You’ll say I need to try living in the “Real World,” as so many people just like you seem to enjoy labeling their lives … as though there’s some alternate dimension I’ve been occupying all these years.

I know bad things happens. I’ve been through a lot in my life.

I was raised in a broken home by an alcoholic mother and a multitude of abusive men who came and went like the weather. My father committed suicide when I was in the third grade after I admitted to my mom that he’d been sexually abusing me. I used to blame myself for his death. It’s still hard sometimes not to feel responsible.

I’ve been homeless, sleeping at friends’ houses until I was no longer welcome. I had no other place to go. Sometimes I’d stay the night with complete strangers that my mom would meet in the bars. I was twelve when I first smoked pot and I started drinking and doing drugs regularly as an escape from it all a few years later. I was arrested and put in jail at eighteen.

I’ve lived in the “Real World.”

I didn’t like it.

Changing my life didn’t happen overnight. It happened slowly, one choice at a time. The choice to get clean. The choice to go back to school. The choice to get out of debt. The choice to travel. The choice to live life on my own terms. The choice to seek adventure. To find happiness. To be honest and vulnerable to hurt.

Even though none of us can control what happens to us, we still have the power to influence the outcome of our lives by how we react to any situation. Stop being a victim to the circumstances of your life. Don’t just be the product of other people. Choose yourself and begin creating a life you never thought possible.

It’s your choice.

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6 thoughts on “A Train Wreck of Choice & Circumstance

  1. I disagree. Both if you are successful or unsuccessful it is the same combination of your choices and luck and circumstance. A lot of successful people’s success is luck but they made choices that put them in the place to benefit from that luck. And other parts are simply the luck of their birth (which it seems you didn’t have a lot of, but at least you were born in the US – see Warren Buffett’s comments on this).

    • It’s okay that you disagree. It’s true that different people have different struggles. And that certain people have advantages over other people. It is also true that the situation you are born into will provide opportunities or challenges that other people will never have to face. None of this means that you can’t create the life you want. It simply means you might have to work harder than the next person. Is that fair? It doesn’t matter. That’s just the way it is.

  2. Very thought provoking article. I’m glad that you managed to get where you are today, despite your bad childhood. That’s something to be proud of!

    I have to disagree a little with this sentence though: ‘Whether your life is perfect or totally miserable, it’s this way because you chose for it to be this way.’
    Someone’s life could be far from perfect because he/she suffers from a disease or mental condition, which is not a choice.

    • It’s not about a disease or a mental condition. It’s how a person makes the best out of what they’re given, in spite of their disadvantages. I was two weeks away from leaving for Paraguay with the Peace Corps when I woke up to paramedics standing over me asking if I knew my name. I didn’t. I didn’t know who I was or where I was. I’d just had a seizure in the middle of the night and my girlfriend called 911. Until that point, the worst thing that’s ever happened to me medically was the flu when I was a kid.

      I was heartbroken because I wasn’t able to leave for Paraguay. It was something I’d been working at accomplishing for years. I went to school specifically to learn something valuable to the Peace Corps, Environmental Science. I went through the application process and medical evaluations. Spent a lot of time and money to prepare and it all disappeared in an instant. Out of nowhere. The doctors can’t find anything physically wrong with me. It just happened. And it still happens once in a while. I’m now on medication twice a day to prevent anymore seizures.

      I went through a grieving process. I cried. I got mad. Depressed. I didn’t have any direction as the path I was on was the only one I’d been preparing for. It took a while but I eventually was able to accept the situation and start over. From literally nothing. So I know that there are things beyond anyone’s control. I still believe that people are capable of incredible things.

      Take, for example, people who are in the Special Olympics. These people have overcome huge disadvantages in their lives and are doing really amazing things. Looking in on the outside, we might be able to say “Yeah, well…it’s not the ‘real’ Olympics…” But so what? They’re pushing themselves and that’s what matters. I think we all have a lot we can learn from people who have challenges but choose not to let that limit their potential.

      Another example is Spencer West. He doesn’t even have LEGS and he climbed Kilimanjaro on his hands! You might want to argue people who have cerebral palsy or other disorders that literally make them incapable of nearly anything and have to be cared for by other people. At that point, your argument is valid. Until then, I still believe people are remarkable and capable of amazing things.

  3. I don’t really believe in luck, per se. (Unless you’re talking about folks that win the lottery!) I think people create their own “luck”, by making choices that enable them to benefit from their circumstance as a result. You can’t always control the things that happen to you, but you CAN control how you react, and what choices you make.

    Sorry, but I think a lot of people use luck as an excuse – a cop-out. (Or at least people i know.) Because it’s easier than making difficult decisions or working hard. If your life sucks – change it. My life has not been easy and I consider myself successful and happy today, not from luck, but from hard work, discipline, sacrifice and patience. But I have nothing but gratitude for all of my experiences – good and bad.

    I love how you brought up the special olympics – same thing with the Paralympians. Those folks are amazing!

  4. Pingback: What’s Luck Got to do with It? | Steven P Severson

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