The Treasures Within Tragedies
Imagine being a freshman in college and finding out in the newspapers that one of your classmates (allegedly) locked herself in her dorm room and set it on fire. The death of Elizabeth Shin was a horrific reminder of the ongoing mental and emotional health issues faced by MIT's student body. Her (apparent) suicide served as a cautionary tale to other students that were either 1) white-knuckling their way through the pain or 2) unable to find the help and support that they needed.
One of those students was me. While I ultimately never used the services provided by the Mental Health Services department (mostly because I was unwilling to put myself on medication after my initial consultation), the deaths of Elizabeth and others inspired me to search for my solutions. The reason for wanting to go a different route? I kept coming back to the following questions: Why is a school filled with some of the smartest students in the world plagued by one of the highest suicide rates? If we are all so intelligent, why are we so unhappy? Why are we so unwilling or unable to find the help we need? Why are the college's provided services insufficient to stop these issues?
I'll spare the details of my journey, but I discovered many solutions across various arenas: Buddhism, meditation, alternative healing modalities, self-help, mentors, etc. Ultimately, I was able to pull pieces from many of them to bring myself out of my darkness and suicidal depression, which at times was overwhelming and terrifying.
What a gift to get my life back!
However, this is just the beginning of the story. I didn't realize it at the time, but my journey to hell and back opened many, many opportunities to pay it forward. Because I had relatable experiences with others going through significant adversity in life, I was able to connect with and support them within their journey. I've lost count of how many people I may have directly or indirectly touched. Dozens? Hundreds? The exact number isn't important. What's important is that I would have never ever ever had those opportunities without first going through my shit storm(s).
So, was Elizabeth's death for naught? Hardly. True, I cannot fathom the untold amount of pain that it inflicted upon her parents, extended family, and friends. However, the reality is that I'm probably one of many people that used this (and other stories) as motivation to change. And having changed my life, the ripple effect has been felt by many, many others.
If I'm honest with myself, almost every major problem I've faced in life has held the possibility of long term benefit. Yes, this was little comfort while going through life's sucky moments. However, Napoleon Hill's words would echo in my head: "Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit." Indeed! The key is to be on the lookout for these treasures, especially when life serves up a problem that feels unbearable.
My advice? Find the most empowering interpretation of your past to serve as motivation towards a better future. Turn these tragedies into an untold number of treasures.
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About Rick Manelius
Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.