Growth Through Pain
I was 37 when I got divorced, after 13 years of marriage. I tried repairing a social life from scratch. When you’re married with four kids, it’s fairly likely that most of your friends are also married with children. But this carries a small problem.
Parents are a pain in the ass to hang out with.
Hangin’ with Parents
They can’t go anywhere without getting a babysitter or paying a bit too much attention to their phones, “just in case.” They can never make plans on the fly. Everything has to be neat, tidy, and organized, and despite that, the likelihood of them changing the plans or canceling on you are so much higher. Combine that with the fact that the babysitter inherently increases how much it costs for them to hang out and gives them a deadline, and you have a recipe for a frustrating new social life.
So I was forced to broaden my horizons, to make new friends. However, in order to be able to solve all of the aforementioned problems, I rapidly found myself spending time with people a fraction of my age. And I enjoyed myself tremendously, and everything felt normal.
That being said, I can’t stand young people.
When I moved back to Israel, I found myself surrounded by the early 20s Jerusalem crowd. Some people were wonderful, others made me nauseous. I was at a gathering and two young ladies walked in. I’ll never forget my chats with them. I asked the first where she was from and received an answer that basically sounded like this, “It’s really not important where I’m from. That’s the past. What matters is where I am now and where I’m going.”
I then slapped her and asked her to answer the damn question…
Or at least it’s what I wanted to do…
I later encountered her buddy. After similar opening questions, I received this soliloquy: “I don’t feel that conversations should involve questions.
Conversations should evolve organically and just flow naturally. Questions are a complete conversation killer.”
I then stood up on a chair and shouted, “You dopey little children. Why can’t you just answer a person’s questions, without giving me your infantile philosophies? Why do you need to pretend your thoughts are so great? And why do you need to interrupt a conversation to rudely protest the way someone is speaking with you? Why? I’ll tell you why! Because you’re a child! You know nothing. But you’re too young and unexperienced to even realize how little you know. And by the way, the greatest conversation killer is not asking questions. It’s whatever asinine fortune cookie blah blah you just vomited out at me!”
Or at least that’s what I wanted to do…
The “Good” Ones
These two “conversations” started making me think a lot about the younger people in my life, the ones with whom I have amazing and intelligent conversations, versus the ones who just make me laugh at the dopey things they say and do.
After much contemplation, I feel there’s one element in life that’s the game-changer here.
The average 20-year-old American, even if they’ve suffered through the occasional “real” tragedy, has seen nothing too far beyond the unfairly graded college paper or the shattered iPhone screen. And that is what affords them the luxury of saying the ridiculous statements I mentioned earlier.
Obviously I don’t want pain in my life, nor do I wish suffering upon most people, but I feel it’s inarguable what pain does to progress your growth as a person. Suffering is like a stone that sharpens a sword. When we go through challenging times, we are granted a unique opportunity to grow. They are tests. We either let the challenges damage us, and we sink into nothingness, or we emerge on the other side of life’s hardships better, more intelligent, and more interesting people.
Suffering is like a stone that sharpens a sword. When we go through challenging times, we are granted a unique opportunity to grow. They are tests. We either let the challenges damage us, and we sink into nothingness, or we emerge on… Click To Tweet
Growth through Pain
My life has been a solid mixture of pain and privilege; however, age, experiences, and some really tough moments have given me what I consider a unique and worthwhile perspective on multiple issues. (With a hefty room for continued growth, of course.)
But not all perspectives are valid. And not every opinion is worth listening to. Fact is, there are many who walk around thinking the things they believe and the crusades they wish to fight for are noteworthy or fascinating. And they are dead wrong. They have just not experienced enough life or overcome enough tragic circumstances to realize this yet.
A life of joy and flowers is a privileged one indeed. And it’s one we all strive for. However, such a life comes at a cost.
Would I prefer to gain my opinions through reading a fascinating book, or my perspectives through a lecture at an esteemed university? Perhaps. But they will inherently lack something. They will not truly be my own. They will not be verified or validated through my own experiences. And they will not be sharpened through the privilege of suffering.
Perhaps I wish to learn the rest of my life lessons in a joyous and relaxed manner. But I will never stop being grateful for the suffering I’ve endured or the person it has made me.