I randomly bumped into a long-time friend today, having gone an unusually long time between crossing paths. We caught each other up, talked about life changes, new challenges, opportunities. That got me to thinking about another recent conversation about active career management, and another one about more adult problems, another about therapists forcing you to confront your damage, and yet another one about stress and leadership...
No matter where you are in life, it never gets easier.
On the surface, this sounds like a pretty horrible and terrible realization. The idea that no amount of money, experience, whatever, makes life easier, that seems sad. I'm here to explain why there's way more nuance to that than you think.
I'm often reminded as a parent that the meltdown my child is having over some issue that seems irrelevant and maybe even silly to us is in fact the worst thing that's ever happened to them. That's not being dramatic... it probably is the worst thing that's ever happened to them. As we go through life, we often define ourselves by all of the things we've survived, maybe not giving enough weight to the things we've succeeded in doing. We all endure a lot of bullshit, and sometimes it's just dumb luck when we don't. I'm not suggesting we're incapable of affecting our outcomes, just that the circumstances can be pretty random. So as we move through life, we keep piling on all of this scar tissue.
And it's true, being financially well off, or checking off some other arbitrary boxes (careers, spouses, houses, whatever), don't materially change this. It's because human interaction is really the source of the hurt. We confuse material comfort with emotional comfort, the latter of which is really hard to achieve under most any circumstances. Life is pain.
However, remember the worst thing that ever happened to you? Mom telling you "no TV" was probably superseded as the worst thing a long time ago. I can count off all kinds of things just in recent life that have been hard, like moving, losing a job, being the parent in that meltdown, there are no shortage of things. While the difficulty never really stops, your ability to process it should be on a path of continuous improvement. There's something strangely freeing that comes with the acknowledgment that the next difficulty isn't far away. This doesn't mean that you stop trying to change the things that suck, or mitigate the circumstances that cause pain, it just means having the confidence to say, "I've got this."
The reality is that nothing is permanent. You're caught between the fact that the challenge you have will soon be behind you, and the fact that you will eventually die. That's a pretty compelling argument to not dwell on either end of that spectrum. If you can accept this, you can be present and make the most of the time you have in between. The only alternative is to not do that, and I think everyone knows deep down that's not how you should roll.
So yeah, it never gets easier. What are you going to do about it?