Sometimes good things happen and we wonder how we got so lucky; sometimes things go wrong and we get frustrated or confused as to why. Often, there’s no direct answer except that that’s just life. However, I do think that everything happens for a reason, both good and bad experiences. You may not know what that reason is until much later, but it’s there.
I think that life has a funny way of leading us right where we need to be. Does that mean our lives are not in our control? No, not at all. I think the decisions we make are still ours, whether or not we pursue opportunities or take chances all falls on us. However, where we ultimately end up, or what ultimately happens to us, the people we meet, I do think is meant.
A Story from my Own Life
As an example, I often get asked how and why I moved to southern California. The job market in medicine is super competitive and I don’t have any family here. Here’s that story:
A Little Background…
I have an MD/MBA and during my time as a resident physician (a four-year training program), while trying to figure out which fellowship I wanted to do, if any, I finally realized that what I really was interested in was expanding upon my business knowledge. I wanted to see if there was anything out there that would give me real life administrative experience.
Turns out there are a few fellowship options out there for those with such interests. So I applied and was accepted into my fellowship in perioperative management. During my last year of training, my program offered to pay for a “senior” conference. I had all kinds of plans to go on some fancy senior trip with my co-residents, except that our program changed the rules that year and made it so that we could only attend academic meetings in the contiguous United States. (Insert eye roll)
Given all the restrictions, and thinking about my eventual career goals, I ended up going to a conference in “Practice Management”, which was in Atlanta that year. The conference is a pretty large one, with several hundred attendings and approximately 60 residents arriving for the dedicated “resident track”.
I got there late on a Thursday night and Friday morning was the start of the lectures. I got up early Friday morning, got ready in my professional suit and went downstairs to check-in.
Breakfast of Fate
I sat down at an empty table with a large cup of coffee (hello, super sleep-deprived resident here) and some food. A little while later I was joined by an older gentleman. He struck up a conversation and we started to chat. All kinds of questions came up: Where I was from? What year in training was I? What are my plans for the future? He learned about the fellowship I was doing, which was in California, and then mentioned that he too was in California.
Somewhere in my sleep-deprived brain, I missed the fact that he was a Californian. However, towards the end of breakfast, I started to wake up and then started asking HIM questions: Where in California are you? Why are you at this conference? What do you do at your institution?
Turns out, he’s the CHAIRMAN of his department. Meaning, he’s the head honcho of the department, meaning he’s the boss, meaning he’s top dog.
Probably what my face looked like:
I think my jaw hit the floor. I couldn’t for the life of my sleep deprived, tired self, remember any part of our conversation. However, I must have said something right, because right before we left for our lectures, he wrote his email on a napkin, gave it to me and said,
“let me know when you’re in California”.
Coincidence? or Maybe Everything Happens for a Reason
What’s crazy to me is that I had no intention of going to this conference. Yet somehow I was basically forced due to circumstances. With such a large conference, and so many in attendance, it’s amazing that of all the people to sit down next to me, it was him; and for all the residents for him to find alone at a table, he sat down at mine.
Everything happens for a reason…with time those reasons will come to lightyoubethree
Getting the Job
As soon as I started my fellowship, I started to get bombarded with questions about my plans for the future. This threw me completely off guard. I mean, I wasn’t even done unpacking and I had to start my job hunt and figure out my plans for once I was done? ALREADY?
To be honest, I had no idea what my future looked like. All I knew was that I wanted the opportunity to work both in administration and clinical medicine, and to have so sort of work/ balance.
The first decision I had to make though was, “Do I want to stay in California”, which turns out I did. So, I tugged on the only line I knew: the email address I had on a napkin.
Everything Happens for a Reason
Fast forward to today, I have been at this job now for a little over 3 years. It in no way escapes me how lucky I am to have the opportunity to come here.
I also believe that my coming here was probably meant to be.
I believe in such things; I think you sometimes have to in order to understand why things are happening. Sometimes we perceive the bad things that happen to us (canceled plans, plans that fall apart, unexpected events, sudden illness) to be a kind of punishment. We fail to recognize that sometimes things fall apart so that good things fall together. In other words, something positive could come from whatever disaster we are dealing with.
Reframing your thoughts
It’s not always easy to take a step back and reframe what is happening to you. When you’ve gone through or are dealing with major things like natural disasters, or sudden illnesses in the family, or maybe everything happening to you currently feels like it’s going wrong, it’s difficult to say “hey, I guess everything happens for a reason”. In those moments, you’re just trying to cope and get through it.
But, once you’ve dealt with the adversity – because you ARE strong enough to deal with it -, you CAN reframe how you reflect about it and how you move forward.
Difficult situations can teach us valuable lessons, right? Sometimes bad things happen suddenly, unexpectedly; sometimes people come into your life and leave unexpectedly; sometimes an opportunity you were hoping for resulted in a door closed. Everyone you speak with will tell you to “take the lesson and move on”, or to “learn what you can and let go”. I’ll add “everything happens for a reason”. You may not know why, you may not see the lesson until much later, but it’s there. The why will come. The point I’m trying to make is to stay open to the reasons; reframe how you think about each situation so that you see the lessons.
Don’t let bad experiences just happen to you and bring you down. Once you’ve dealt with it, take some time to reflect and look for a positive takeaway. By changing your perspective you keep yourself open to opportunities and open to change and new ideas. You’ll be able to take something that happens to you (good or bad) and make it work for you for your personal growth as you move forward.
Bringing it Home
Going back to my conference, I had no intention of going, as I mentioned earlier. However, I took the situation I was essentially forced into and tried to make the best of it. I was at a networking event. I networked; I paid attention, I played my role. As annoying as it was to get into that headspace, I coached myself into taking the stance of “I need to learn what I can from this place”. As a result, I was presented with an opportunity that I think very few people get.
(Timing is also key; I went to the same conference as a fellow, and that same chairman couldn’t make it that year.)
The point here is that things may happen that we don’t want, or don’t anticipate or don’t plan for; however, there’s a reason for it. Rather than wallow, just embrace what’s happening and trust the universe.