There’s a phrase that pops up a lot when I’m blogging, “living the life we came for,” which reeks, I know, of “destiny” and “fate,” terms I think are often misunderstood. So, I’m taking this moment to define those terms and to talk a bit about what I mean when I speak of living the life we came for.
Our destiny, quite simply, is the highest possibility that exists for our lives. It’s who we might become given the unique set of talents, attributes and experiences that we have at our disposal this lifetime.
Our fate, on the other hand, consists of all the things that happen to us along the way, both our trials and our triumphs, our good fortune and our bad.
Our fate, if we let it, can become our lives. We suffer a loss, for example, and it defeats us, or we set out on a safe but inauthentic path and we stick to it, because it’s lucrative or we’re successful or we don’t know what else to do. Or, if we choose, our fate can become the raw ingredients from which we cook up real and authentic and meaningful lives.
This doesn’t mean you can have any old life you want. We can’t be or do anything (and we’d be wise to stop telling our children that they can). I, for example, couldn’t be Adele if I wanted to. I simply don’t have the singing chops, nor do I have the one of a kind combination of ingredients that make Adele Adele. What I can do, though, and what we all can do and teach our children to do is pursue our own singular lives with a measure of the passion, commitment and drive she’s shown in the pursuit of hers.
To walk towards the life that’s available to us is to walk the path of destiny. This path is a demanding one. It will ask us to give up our attachment to all that we might have had or might have been “if only” everything were different, and to make peace with the lives we were given, and the hand we were dealt, no matter what. And that’s the juggernaut (juggernaut, from the Hindi Jagannāth and the Sanskrit Jagannātha, lord of the world). We don’t get to choose. We have to live the life we were handed no matter what. The only question is, will we live it well?
We all hope for an easy fate. Of course. None of us wants to suffer, and we certainly don’t want to suffer greatly, but sometimes we will, and none of it will be fair. Our job in those moments isn’t to make things different than they are; it’s to figure out what we can make, even so. Our destiny — the highest possibility that exists for our lives — lives there, not only in the welcome things we received, but in all the unwelcome things that we must work with even so.
We are the captains of our ships but not the shipbuilder, which means we are powerful and powerless in equal measure, one of the most difficult things for us to accept. We are powerful to influence the direction of our lives, and powerless to choose what those lives, in their essence, are. We are who we are, we are born to the circumstances we are born to, things happen to us, and there’s only so much we can control.
If the hands of fate force you to face the limits of your own control, count yourself lucky (even if you’re terrified), for when fate shows you what isn’t in your control, it helps you to see better what is, and that awareness will enable you to work with life, instead of fighting against it.
I like to think about this question of fate and destiny and living the life we came for through the lens of film storytelling, something I devoted a period of my life to. In the movies, the protagonist experiences something early in Act One that sets her life moving in a new direction. For the rest of that act, she grapples with her new reality while trying to hang on to the life she had. Finally, at the end of Act One, the protagonist makes a plan for dealing with the thing she can no longer dodge. She then spends Act Two dealing with the complications and reversals that ensue until, at the end of Act Two, all seems lost. At that point in real life, many people give up. They’re tired, who could blame them? But in the movies, the protagonist rallies. She reaches deep down inside of herself, and finds a way to go on, and in the third act, she uses all that she’s learned and all that she’s become through the trials and tribulations of Act Two to defeat the antagonist and realize her goal. She faces down her fate in order that she might realize her destiny, that she might realize the highest possibility for her life.
We can do it too.
PHOTOGRAPHY by Unknown via Pinterest
PAULA PURYEAR is a Lawyer, Film & Television writer, HuffPoster and Founder of Revel In It Mag.