How many times has something gone wrong in your life? How many times have you missed out on getting something you really want? How many friends have you lost contact with? How many arguments change the course of your relationships? How many of those times have led to someone telling you that everything happens for a reason?
Everything happens for a reason.
Earlier this month, I booked a week-long holiday to Belgium. My soul-sister (her favoured term for our strange-in-the-best-way friendship) and I did the East side together last year, and we decided that, before anything else, we needed to see the Wallonia region too.
I’ve never had wanderlust. I’m not one of those people who wakes up in the morning and hates being home, who wants to head over to the beach to sunbathe or the mountains to ski. But since meeting her, the part of me that wants to travel – to see the world, experience new cultures, fall in love with architecture and art and houses of prayer – has awoken. Realising this made me start counting out everything else that has happened since we met.
My friend had cancer. Leukaemia, to be exact.
If she hadn’t have been diagnosed with Leukaemia, the chances of her searching for a book she found relatable on the subject, something that didn’t end all like a John Green novel, were slim. If she hadn’t been trying to find that perfect book, she wouldn’t have started writing her own. If she hadn’t started writing her own, she would never have joined the online writer’s community and found me.
Twitter, believe it or not. She ‘stalked’ me for a few weeks and then, during NaNoWriMo, actually started talking to me. There she was – this strange girl writing a very different book to me but who had the same mugs as me, found the same things funny, even had the same random t-shirt from the same store in Canada. If she hadn’t found me, hadn’t have contacted me that day, we would never have gotten to know each other. If we had never gotten to know each other, she would never have invited me to Amsterdam.
I found myself on a plane less than six months later, then in a city where I didn’t understand the language, staying with a married couple I had never actually met. My very first trip alone. Thankfully, it was as if we’d known each other from birth. An absolutely lifechanging experience.
Had I never gone to Amsterdam, we wouldn’t have learned just how strong and brave either of us really were in the ways we did that trip. And I would never have come home with a fresh perspective. Would have never realised quite how many cracks there were in other relationships, how many things were stifling me instead of letting me breathe.
And it didn’t end there. She came to stay with me in London for a week and I suddenly became a tourist in my own city again. My Home Sweet Home became a playground filled with new experiences and adventures I had never thought of trying.
Without her, I wouldn’t have joined a writers group. I wouldn’t have met the people I now consider my little pride of lions. I wouldn’t have made new connections or started to make the most out of my life in London. I wouldn’t have started writing about mental health for a magazine, opening up online about it all. I wouldn’t have even accepted that I suffer from mental illness, let alone asked for help and started dealing with it. I wouldn’t have had the bravery to head over to Belgium. To plan trips to Budapest and Prague and Sicily with other friends. What I would have done was remained in numerous volatile relationships, shuffling deeper and deeper into my reclusive shell. What I would have done, was refuse to heal.
My part in her story, and her part in mine, would never have come about if it wasn’t for that diagnosis and all that came with it. The lessons we’ve learned from each other were likely to never have been learned.
And perhaps knowing that, perhaps seeing it all laid out bare, is the key. The key to realising that everything NEEDS to happen. That all that darkness, that pain, that hurt, is necessary in order to go onto the next step. That those lessons need to be learned. Those friendships need to be made. Need to be broken. That those emotions need to be felt.
Because everything happens for a reason.