My life didn’t turn out the way I expected. Nobody’s does. In some ways, it has exceeded my expectations. And in other ways, it has disappointed them. Never in my wildest dreams as a child would I have imagined the life I have lived. The adventure, the experiences, opportunities, the love I have given and received, and the success I’ve enjoyed have all far exceeded my expectations. But I also never imagined in my worst nightmares the dark side of some of these bright lights. We all end up living unexpected lives. There are hopes and dreams that didn’t materialise that I grieve, but I’ve been surprised and delighted by other unexpected gifts. And there are hopes and dreams I am glad did not come to fruition. The unexpected goes both ways.
But these are not the things that make life most unexpected. It’s the truly unexpected things. It’s those things we don’t hope for or fear, particularly those things that come out of nowhere and break our hearts. You wake up one morning and discover that your life has been changed forever because of something you did or something someone else did. It’s the things we don’t plan. The things we never imagined would happen. It’s those unexpected events that slap you in the face so hard that you can taste blood in your mouth. Nobody’s life turns out the way they expect it to. We shouldn’t be surprised. Nobody looks back on life to discover it unfolded exactly as they hoped or planned.
But at this time in my life we’re reflecting upon, I found myself particularly unprepared for the inevitability of the unexpected. That’s the paradox. It’s inevitable that we live unexpected lives. Life doesn’t unfold according to our plans. But sooner or later, we each have to decide how are we going to make the most of our one, brief unexpected life? It is then that we come face-to-face with two enduring truths. We cannot live without hope that things will change for the better and we are not victims of our circumstances. Hope is not always as accessible as we would like it to be. It often seems just out of reach at those times when we are most in need of it. When our hearts are broken, our minds are downtrodden, and our souls are crushed. Yet even in those moments, we have a choice. The unexpected is either a curse or an opportunity, but we get to decide.