I was talking yesterday with a friend and coworker about many of the things we've seen in our lives, personally and professionally, and the ways that it all shapes us. It can be striking, the way that the events in our lives, big and small, good and bad, can alter the trajectory of our understanding of the world. For better or worse, it makes us who we are.
That made me very contemplative, on the way home. As much as we get to make choices about how we conduct our lives, these events color every decision. The good things undoubtedly make us better, but the bad things can be so difficult to process and move beyond. Other things may have simply been neutral in their nature, but established a baseline for how we operate.
I think it's safe to assume that most people want to be "better" in some way, improving their own lives, the lives of others and maybe even improve the world. Age seems to make this more possible, but what I observe as people get older is that they either learn to let go of the ugly parts of their lives and be amazing, or they hang on to the bad stuff and become cynical and miserable. I never want to be the latter. I have certainly seen my fair share of pain and sorrow, but I won't hang on to it.
Indeed, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," is a silly cliche, but hopefully it's true.