Sideswiped by Life
Jason Smith

Live rightly. Eudaimonia. Be virtuous. Just be. To live in the Kingdom of Heaven. No meaning. 42.

Neither “arrogant” nor even “confident” are apt descriptions of me. Looking back on my life with 20/20 hindsight, though, I can see that my success is inevitable when it really matters to me, whatever “it” is. In ROTC, softball, political science, Res Life, Awakening — I was so ambitious, so successful, as far back as I can remember.

And then the seizures.

No more goals, only fog. No more drive, only the heavy weight of futility. No more bright future, only a dreary, interminable “now.”

I chose a Jesuit university purposefully. Despite having been (for some reason) staunchly Catholic, I came to realize that I didn’t fully understand what that meant, to the Church, or even to myself. I wanted to grow in my faith as well as my mind. The Jesuits, I knew, provide a uniquely “whole” experience, strongly demonstrative of its commitment to cura personalis, care of the whole person. Both spiritually rich and deeply intellectual, I thrived.

And then the seizures. The fucking seizures.

God was no longer in all things. I opted out of passionate indifference. The Examen, the graces, going forth and setting the world on fire — it meant nothing anymore. My commitment to God and the Church was no more. I was angry, despairing, and self-destructive. What was the fucking point? Of anything? No matter what I did, things stayed bad. Someething HAD to give me a reason to keep crawling. What mattered though? Not myself. Certainly not God.

Through it all, there was Mom. Even today, she is simultaneously the reason I believe in God, and the reason I do not believe he is benevolent (sorry, Mom). Her love was real and tangible to me in ways that neither philosophy nor religion was anymore. Love and kindness were my only tenets, the only values that guided me. Act with love and kindness; always try to do the next right thing.

In the midst of anger and hopelessness, I found within me an inexhaustible wellspring of love.

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” –Mother Teresa

I can do great things, of that I am certain, despite a life full of uncertainty. What I learned, though, and what came to matter was that I can also do things, big AND small, with great love. Slowly, then all at once, my purpose became clear to me (though its vocational application remains elusive).

To love others, that is why I exist. My greatest gift, egregiously undervalued by society — and myself for so long. It took me 27 years to realize that that’s a pretty incredible gift to have. Though ambition no longer drove me, I was no longer concerned about it, no longer bothered by the lack of substantive answers in my life. I’ll get there.

In the meantime — and how great is this — I get to live my purpose every day, and just love people. A million opportunities, camouflaged as seemingly inconsequential moments and interactions, give me more meaning and a deeper sense of fulfillment than my beloved ancient Greeks ever could.

Mark Twain said, “The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

If that’s true, well, I missed the two most important days I’ll ever have.

And I’m totally okay with that. Because now that I know WHY I’m alive, every day I have the blessing and the burden to go out and LIVE it.

“There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot….” — Anais Nin