Everything happens for a reason.
When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.
Has anyone ever told you those platitudes in response to some great loss you have experienced? Do you find them as annoying as I do?
Sometimes stuff happens that just plain sucks. It never stops hurting. I don’t care how good the lemonade is.
I started my career as a software engineer. I worked hard to be the best software engineer I could be. I loved the work. I loved the challenge of crafting tight code to do really cool things. I loved pretty much everything about being a software engineer. It was like getting paid to solve puzzles. How cool is that?
And then, something happened.
My hands gave out. I won’t go into the details. They’re not important. Bottom line is, I typed too fast for too long and I was in pain. A lot of pain. Pain that drove me to see a slew of doctors in search of relief.
After more doctors than I can remember, the quest for a cure came to an end with this conversation with a highly regarded specialist:
Doctor: There’s nothing I can do for you.
Me: How do I make it stop hurting?
Doctor: Stop typing.
Me: That’s what I do. That’s my job.
Doctor: Get a new job.
Just like that. Simple. Matter of fact.
I was angry. But I also came to appreciate his clear statement of what needed to happen next.
So I did what the doctor suggested. I got a new job. And eventually, it stopped hurting. At least physically.
I was not happy about the need to make this change. There were many days and nights of asking, “Why did this happen?” and “Why me?”
Finally, though, my engineering training kicked in. It was clear that knowing the answers to those questions would not make a difference in where I went next. I could not undo the injury. Knowing why at this stage was pointless.
The only question that mattered was, “What now?”
I was extremely fortunate to work for a company that supported me through the transition. I was able to change jobs without changing companies. The change even opened up a whole new career path.
The company provided adaptive equipment that allowed me to do the much smaller amount of computer input needed in the new role. They changed door handles on restrooms for me because I was no longer able to grasp and turn a round doorknob without excruciating pain. They were amazing.
Despite this support, I was still frustrated.
It felt to me like I was living an extension to the old joke, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t teach, manage.”
(Side note: This old joke is not at all fair to teachers. Teachers rock!)
As a manager I had a much broader impact than I ever did as a software engineer.
Climbing the corporate ladder was certainly good for my income, too. My new career far exceeded anything I ever imagined.
You could say that lemonade was made. You might even argue that this was a reason that the injury happened.
But, you know what?
It still pains me that I had to stop being a software engineer. Even now, I long for the days of solving puzzles, writing code, creating cool things.
That ladder climbing career change also enabled me to do what I do now – run my own business, spreading joy and laughter wherever it is needed. What I do now has even broader impact than being a manager.
Again, you could argue that is a reason all of this happened.
That doesn’t stop me from feeling the pain of loss.
What bad stuff has happened in your life?
Have you been able to move forward in a new direction?
Can you see that it might even be a better direction?
In most cases, trying to figure out why the bad stuff happened is a fruitless exercise. “Why did this happen?” is the wrong question on which to focus.
What matters is, “What now?”
You don’t have to let go of the pain. It’s going to hurt. It might hurt for a very long time. The pain might never go away.
But you can move on. You can move forward.
Forget about making lemonade. Don’t waste your time trying to discern the reason.