A great lesson I’ve come to understand in these last ten years or so is that no one has it easy. Not one person you or I know has had an entirely easy go of it. Of course, everything is relative and as a Canadian I feel like I’ve won the lottery as far as good places to be born go. As a tall, white male with decent looks and a reasonable amount of intelligence, there are few disadvantages I’ve had to overcome over the years.
I come from a family that didn’t really have any money and we never really travelled. For most of my childhood we didn’t have a car and I was forty-two by the time I lived in a home with more than one bathroom. But I have rarely been hungry and I’ve always had a warm winter coat and shoes or boots that could keep my feet dry. I’ve always felt loved by friends and family.
In this regard, I feel like I’ve had a pretty easy go of it. And I have. But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy.
I have wealthy friends and friends who came from under-privileged upbringings. I’ve got friends who are kind of famous or very successful in their fields and friends who are just scraping by. Doctors, lawyers, ambassadors, TV personalities, artists, musicians. All bright and accomplished people. People who have beautiful children, handsome husbands and attractive wives. If social media were a truth-telling narrative, then I would even say some of my friends seem to have picture-perfect lives.
But I know better. When I’ve experienced difficult times, it was reassuring and disheartening in equal measure to realize how common our difficult times are. Our shared, if not commonly talked about, experiences. The details are always a bit different but the way we feel about these times of turmoil is pretty universal.
Everyone has had relationship difficulties. Everyone has stood at some kind of crossroads career-wise and didn’t feel certain about which direction to head. Few of us feel as sure about ourselves as we might appear to others. Just as many have felt not good enough at times. And our loved ones get old and leave us.
When I look in the mirror, I don’t see the child I once was. Or the handsome twenty-two year old some may have considered me to be. I don’t see my sense of humour or my empathy or my kindness. I see someone who kind of looks like someone I used to be and looks like the youngest version of who I will be in the future.
No one else can see what each of us can see in our own mirrors. No one else can know what we know or feel what we feel. But each of us knows the truth about ourselves, even if we spend large portions of the day looking away from it. But we know.
Despite what we might think we see in others, we can never truly comprehend. The only thing we can ultimately understand is that any person in front of you has travelled a hard road. And the details of their travel is likely never to be fully understood. Maybe even if that person is your own reflection.