“Are there good things ahead for me?” she texted me, late one night.
I drew in a tight breath as I read her message. A dozen responses flooded my mind, but none felt good enough to support the weight of her question. Everything I wanted to say felt glib and wouldn’t begin to scratch the surface of everything she was feeling in that moment.
How do you talk someone out of their existential crisis in less than 300 characters?
Her question is one that I’m intimately familiar with. And I bet you are too.
It’s a thought that creeps slowly into your mind when you’re struggling to fall asleep after a bad day. It flares up when you’re in the throes of another heartbreak, or when you listen to a friend gush about the incredible things happening in their life. It’s an innocent question that can rapidly spiral out of control: are there good things ahead?
The evidence piling up in your mind confirms the answer is no. You’re stuck in a mind-numbing job with no fulfilment in sight. Good, healthy people you love get sick. You’re in a rut with no clue how to get out. You’re ghosted by someone who doesn’t have the courtesy to say “thanks, but no thanks” to your face.
The jury in your mind lays down the verdict: there are no good things here.
Then, it gets worse.
You cast a furtive glance to other people beside you and it turns into full blown gawking when you see them get all the things you’ve secretly been longing for. A high-paying job with the freedom to travel. An Instagram-worthy relationship. A seemingly care-free life. Gawking turns into resentment: why is this person getting all the blessings you’ve ever wanted?
You ask yourself again: are there good things ahead for me?
Sometimes, you have enough willpower to cast the thought aside. Your to-do list calls out your name, you turn to Netflix to numb your thoughts, or slumber finally overtakes you. But, often, when the day is long and you’re feeling weary, you give in.
In an angry, hurt state, you text someone you know you can unload your emotions on.
You repeat the question, ‘Are there good things coming my way? When is it my turn?’
You want the other person to validate you; to say yes, your life is crap. You secretly want the pity. But you also want reassurance that good things are coming your way. You don’t want clichés shoved down your throat or a generic statement like, “Yes, of course there are.” You want an explanation for why life has fallen vastly short of your expectations.
Having repeated this cycle multiple times before, I was hesitant to respond to her text.
What do you mean by good things, anyway?
During my own spiral, friends would often turn this question back around on me. What are you waiting for?
I’d get frustrated and want to scream at them, ‘Good things. Ordinary things. The things that appear to come effortlessly to others.’
I wanted a job I loved and more direction in my life. I wanted to stop feeling the perpetual heaviness of depression and sadness on my chest. I wanted love to come as easily to me as it did for everyone else. I wanted to feel normal and have the same beautiful things as everyone else.
I thought my life would be ‘good’ when every area of my life – love, work, friendships – was running smoothly. But work and friendships would be thriving, while my heart broke. Or I’d be surrounded by a loving community but feel unfulfilled about my job and my finances.
It’s like I was living life on a treadmill: forever sprinting after happiness, while never moving from the one spot. I’d feel winded, with legs like jelly, wondering why I wasn’t where I wanted to be.
Late last year, I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. We sat perched on stools in the corner of a cosy cafe, and we listened to each other regurgitate all the events that’d unfolded since we last spoke.
While sipping on my latte, I listened to her recap everything about her life, from the guy she wasn’t sure she was dating to the woes of her full-time job.
As she spoke, I remember thinking: there are amazing things coming for this person. I can’t wait to see what her life looks like in six-month’s time.
Although she was battling her own frustrations and discontent, I knew she would find a way through it. She always did. From where I sat, I could see all the good things that had unfolded in her life, and I knew in my bones that more incredible things were coming her way – even if she couldn’t see it herself.
I couldn’t help but wonder: Why is it so easy to see goodness destined for other people and not for myself?
It’s hard to believe things will get better when we’re knee-deep in the middle of a storm and surrounded by the wreckage of our unfulfilled dreams and broken expectations. We can’t see the clear skies ahead or the dark clouds slowly starting to dissipate. All we can see are our flaws and the way we don’t measure up. Surely, no good thing can find its way to me, we tell ourselves.
But as I looked at my friend and saw the presence of goodness throughout her life, it made me think about my life, and what people must see when they look at me.
Just like how you look at someone and see only the most wonderful things, someone else is looking at you and thinking exactly the same thing.
My definition of ‘good things’ is slowly evolving. I no longer set perfection in every area of my life as the goal to attain. By doing so, I was breaking my own heart unnecessarily. I knew even when I did reach the job promotion, relationship, and peace I strived for, all I wanted was more. We humans are insatiable like that.
Now, I like to think that ‘good things’ are drip-fed into our lives. If we were to get everything we wanted all at once, we’d take it for granted.
At the start of my writing journey, I remember telling my mentor about the exciting opportunities that had come my way. People who weren’t my mum had told me they liked my words and wanted me to write for their publications. My friends were rallying around me, and the person I was dating at the time had yet to throw up any red flags. Things were good.
Almost too good.
“I keep waiting for the other shoe drop,” I told my mentor. “I’m scared that as soon as I let my guard down, it’s all going to fall apart.”
Although I had everything I wanted at the time, I couldn’t enjoy it at all. I spent the whole time eyeing my blessings sceptically and trying not to get too attached to the feeling of contentment because I didn’t want to feel crushed when it was yanked away from me.
But when small blessings crop up in unexpected ways, I find myself appreciating them a lot more. A random text message from a friend in the middle of a dreary day makes me smile. Finding the right word after struggling for days to write a blog post, feels like a victory worthy of being shared on Facebook.
I don’t remember the exact words I used to respond to my friend. But I understand why she asked the question.
When all you can see is your mess, you often need to hear someone else point out the things you’ve been missing. Even though we may not believe it ourselves, hearing someone’s deep conviction that there are good things coming our way may be what we need to start believing it too.
If you were to ask me the same question then here’s what I’d say:
Yes. It’s inevitable, just like how the sun rises and sets every day. There’s a fulfilling job with your name on it. A love story in the process of being written. You’ll meet strangers who’ll turn into lifelong friends, and friends who turn into something more. The obstacles that are tripping you up today will soon be nothing more than a minor inconvenience. The sharp ache you feel because he rejected you will eventually be a distant memory.
But there are also good things happening, right here, right now. They’re buried beneath the carnage of crappy things. But look closely enough, and you’ll see them. Someone thinks the way you tell stories is utterly hilarious. Someone needed to hear how you faced your fears and came out on the other side. Another person made a decision to keep moving forward because of you. You have so much impact running through your veins and you don’t even know it. You’re discovering the things that light you up, and steering clear from the things that drain your energy. With every step forward you take, you’re inching closer and closer to where you want to be.
Hold out for the good things. I promise you’ll see them soon.
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