At some point we have had or will have that one pivotal moment or event in our lives that plays a major part in the direction our paths take. I've mentioned mine. When I lost my job at the bank more than two years ago. It changed my life irreversibly. I was set in a whole new direction that I never would have taken otherwise.
Recently I began to wonder. How many of us have had the rug pulled out from under us? How many of us have had our lives so completely upended by just one, singular event? It's so easy to let that one major triumph or defeat consume us. If we're not careful, that one life-changing event can become the thing that we use to define ourselves. Too often we get trapped in that moment. We let what we see as out biggest failure, or or even victory, define who we are. I know that was how it was for me for a while.
For a long time I let that one event define me. I let it cast a shadow over how I saw myself and dealt with others and with situations. I felt worthless, like everything I had accomplished up until that event was worthless. Worst of all, I felt like what had happened to me would be all I'd be known for. I just couldn't see past the mistakes I had made. At first, when my "big fall" happened, I hoped and prayed for some way to go back and fix the things that I did wrong. I knew it wasn't possible but if only I could only have a do over... But you can't go back.
After a while I became resentful. I blamed everyone, including myself, especially myself. I told myself I wanted nothing to do with that bank ever again. "Screw them!" I thought, "Banking isn't for me. I wasn't happy there, anyway." I know, sour grapes. But I meant it. I wasn't happy there. I would have preferred to have left under different circumstances, though.
I convinced myself that I was glad for it to be over. But, of course, it wasn't. I still have a loan and credit card there that I'm trying to pay off, so I have no choice but to go back from time to time. And for a while my stomach would turn every time I walked in the door. Even after months passed, I still felt pangs of guilt, shame and anger every single time I even passed in front of the building.
It took me a while to realize that that event wasn't all there was to me. I wasn't a loser or a failure because I failed at that one instance. Even if my mistake was a huge one, my life wasn't over because of it. It doesn't define who I am. I've realized that the only way it could do that was if I let every choice I continued to make was determined by that one incident. As long as I continued to live in that guilt, shame and anger I felt, then it would define me.
It wasn't the first time something bad had ever happened to me. More than likely, it wouldn't even be the biggest thing to ever happen in my life (even though one could hope that nothing worse could happen). Life has far too many ups, and even downs, to let just one event dictate who we are. The way I see it, you learn from it and do better the next time. Sure, shit happens, but as much as the situation may stink when it does, it will always stink if you just stay there and wallow in it.
I, for one, am tired of just wallowing in that shit.
[UPDATE] I didn't plan this but it fits. Check out Studio 30 Plus for other posts on this week's prompt "The Best Advice".