“The job of the emperor is a gift if you make it one” - Marcus Aurelius
Many times in life, we will face setbacks. As the Stoics and existentialists both can remind us, we assign meaning to tragedy and it is not the inverse. Certain events unfold in the physical realm, but how we react to them and give these events a story to be told is within our control.
As I have been making plans for this upcoming summer, I think about where I was just a year ago studying for the LSAT for days on end. Last summer, I clocked nearly 300 hours of studying over a less than four-month span, but this ultimately led to a score I was ashamed and disappointed with. I wasn’t sure how to handle this outcome, and my thoughts began to spiral: am I a failure? Should I ditch the idea of law school? Should I take the exam again? Do I have time? Should I take a gap year? Questions flooded my mind, but only time could lift the fog and show me the path forward.
Just a couple of months later, I am having the best cross country season of my life thus far, and the prospect of taking a 5th year to run emerges. Although I never considered taking a 5th year, my LSAT score deterred me from applying to law schools, and running for another year became a worthwhile way to spend that gap year.
The next thing I know, I am applying for Loyola’s law school. It would be a dream to run for the team and complete my first year of law school simultaneously. And thus, the dream that was destroyed in September flourished into something anew in March when I received my acceptance.
From my long-winded story, I call us back to Marcus Aurelius’ lesson. Make every encounter with life’s difficulties into a gift. When I sat in despair over my LSAT score, my tunnel vision of negativity was nearly impossible to shake. Now that I am able to view my score from a different perspective, I see the experience in a positive light. That summer, I proved to myself how much self-discipline I can exert towards achieving a goal, how willing and open I am to learning new things, and how I can still find time to hold a part-time job, train hard, sleep well and have some fun all while studying my brain off.
Although I couldn’t find a positive perspective at the time, I now know that the next time adversity hits I will be able to step back and take a lens that looks at the aggregate. Hence, I share this story with you to hopefully offer you some perspective. Next time you miss the mark, fail to meet that deadline, get rejected for that job, turn that failure into a gift. Marcus Aurelius did not want to be emperor as a boy, but it made the most of his uncontrollable circumstances by leading with virtue and bravery.
I don’t believe everything happens for a reason. The world is chaotic and it would be absurd to think things just fall into place for us humans. Rather, I believe humans have an incredible ability to get back up and find meaning from their suffering. So next time you face a setback, step back, find some perspective, and begin to see that tragedy as a gift.
Have an awesome week!
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