I Don’t Believe That Everything Happens For A Reason

Do you believe everything happens for a reason? Why or why not?

I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. There seems to be a danger to that line of thought, a danger similar to a danger of moral/cultural relativism — the hesitance to create change, the assumption that things are as they should be and so should not be judged or criticized. After all, why do anything to combat injustice if that injustice is happening for a reason?

I’ve heard of too many horrible things; I can’t fathom a “reason” for them. I can’t just dismiss injustices by saying that they’re happening for a reason. There are no fixed points in time — I have to believe that there’s always another way something could have happened. That isn’t to say that people always have other options, but I don’t think that situations are utterly determined, fated to happen.

Nevertheless, as much as I don’t believe that everything that has happened in my life has happened for a reason, there is very little I would change about my life if I could travel into my past. As much as there are decisions I’ve regretted, as much as part of me wishes that I could do things differently, I don’t think that there is anything important from my past that I would have done differently if I were actually given the chance.

I firmly believe that my experiences have shaped who I am. If I’d had different experiences, I wouldn’t be who I am today, for better or worse.  If I had come out at a younger age or chosen a different major, learned about prison abolition earlier or spend junior year abroad, gotten a different internship or attended college in a different city, I might not be where I am now — my life might have taken a completely different path. Life works is strange ways, and I can’t know what might have happened.

There would be obvious differences, of course. If I’d been a gender and sexuality major, I wouldn’t have had my baked goods/Sushiland meetings with my philosophy buddies. If I’d spent junior year abroad, not only would I have missed out on an enormous amount at Bryn Mawr, but I would have spent my first year being out of the closet in a foreign country without my support networks. If I had gone to college in a big city or transferred to a bigger school like Northwestern (which I actually considered for a minute during the first semester of my freshman year), I wouldn’t have been a Mawrtyr — and that’s borderline ridiculous.

When I first started writing this post, over a month ago, I wrote the following sentences: “Overall, on a really grand, big-picture scale, I really like where I am in my life right now. My experiences have impacted me in a huge way, and I wouldn’t change what I have done. That doesn’t mean any of it has happened for a reason, simply that it has been influential.”

Now, however, for possibly the first time, I’m wishing that I had done something differently. I really think that if I were able to go back in time, I would have worked harder to find any kind of job in Chicago. I spent too much time focusing on trying to find a job that I cared about, a job that would be full-time, a job that would help me on my way somewhere. Knowing what I know now, I would have just tried to find a job that would’ve paid my rent and enabled me to stay in Chicago.

I am desperately hoping that moving back to Minnesota won’t be my one great regret. Maybe I will be able to look back a year from now and say, “Despite how desolate I was after leaving Chicago, it was the right move for me, and because of where I am now, I wouldn’t change that if I could.” I really, really hope I can get to that stage because right now, I don’t see how that could happen.

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4 responses to “I Don’t Believe That Everything Happens For A Reason

  1. I am one of those people that everything happens for a reason, but not as a copout or excuse or mystical mumbo jumbo. Earthquakes happen because we live on a planet where techtonic plates are in motion. The HIV/AIDS rate has gone up (in the US) in the past few years because our country has chosen to teach abstinence only and had taken federal funding away from std education. Things happen to us because the choices that we make, or the choices of other people cause a reaction. For every action there is a reaction. This is true weather we know the reason behind the reaction or not.

    • I think we’re actually using two different interpretations of the concept of everything happening for a reason. I do think that most things that happen have causes (I won’t say “all” because I don’t like using absolutes when I haven’t given an issue much thought), but I don’t think that’s the same as having reasons. Just because something has a cause (like with the idea that every action has a reaction) doesn’t mean that it has a reason why it should be so.

      I think that might be what I mean — I may agree that things have reasons why they are so (things that caused them, consequences that cause other things to happen), but I wouldn’t agree that everything has a reason why it should be so, or why it is good that it is so. Sometimes, I feel like saying that everything happens for a reason seems as though saying that it’s fated to be, or that god chose for it to be that way, or that for whatever reason, it is meant to be that way. Yes, I think that’s it — that it’s not just that events have causes but that those events were meant to be. And I have a problem with that.

  2. I remember meeting you and talking to you on the train, on the R5, and you telling me that you wanted to transfer. I’m pretty sure I told you to wait it out until the end of hell week and the end of your freshman year before making a real decision. We also talked about philosophy, I think you asked me about the major in general. 🙂

    Re: subject matter of the post, I’m inclined to agree with you, Ryan. I don’t like the concept that things are “fated” or that things are “meant” to be a particular way. For me it’s more of a choice thing and my ability to control what happens to me.

    • Hmm. I actually don’t remember that conversation at all. I’m beyond glad, though, that I waited until after Hell Week to make a decision (and after that, how could I possibly choose to leave?). I do, however, remember a bunch of great advice you’ve given me, particularly about being a philosophy major, but also about life in general and law school and such.

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