“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” – Albert Einstein
It has often been said that just before our greatest successes in life, we will face our biggest failures. It has also been said that our most significant breakthroughs will commonly be preceded by major breakdowns and that when one door closes, another opens. There is an endless list of elegant quotes and sayings that capture the simple idea that when life gets tough, there may be more to it than initially meets the eye but that doesn’t change our reality when times of struggle hit. Unless you’ve experienced it for yourself, the most beautifully articulated words will be of no use to you.
That’s what happened to me and now I know what Albert Einstein and all the others were talking about. When I was in third-year university I picked up a guitar for the first time along with a few friends to learn some of our favourite songs and play music around the campfire. In a short time, it became obvious to me that I wasn’t getting the hang of it as quickly as my friends and before long, I discovered the cause…I was losing my hearing.
Here I was a young man in my social prime, without a care in the world and out of nowhere, this disaster strikes. I soon found out that the hearing loss was due to a hereditary condition that in my case, set in early and rapidly. In a matter of a few months, my hearing significantly and steadily declined making it more and more challenging for me to hear my professors in class, to hear people clearly and easily, and to hear the music. I was initially told that the surgery to correct the condition involved a 10% chance of complete loss of hearing in the ear operated on and that my best option was to wear a hearing aid until my hearing worsened further, which was inevitable. This was without a doubt, the single most difficult experience and time of my entire life. I was lost, I felt completely alone and I was terrified. I began to think about what life would be like without sound, I became very alienated in social situations and I had all but given up on the hope of ever playing music.
So what happened next?
A miracle. Yup, that’s the only way I can describe it. I did some more searching and through a family friend, I found a doctor who did a lot of the surgeries. He was cool, confident and he encouraged me to go ahead with the procedure.
Fast forward one year: I’d just had surgery on my second ear. The first procedure happened a few months prior and as the healing process unfolded, my hearing began climbing back up to normal. I can still perfectly remember leaving the surgeon’s office after my post-op appointment and getting into my car. I sat there for a moment and thanked God for everything that had happened. Bursting at the seams with anticipation, I finally reached for the radio and sat in awe, tears rolling down my cheeks as the music made its way to my eardrums, my heart and my soul for the first time since the beginning of this difficult ordeal. I was beyond elated, full of gratitude and humbled by the experience.
In the months that followed, I lived in wonderment enjoying the miracle of hearing the way a newborn baby explores its five senses. Most of all, I played music tirelessly. I stayed up til all hours of the night learning to sing and play my first songs. Before long, my family members began leaving the door open when I played music and would soon come to remark in amazement: “You sound good!”
Fueled by the gift of a second chance, the fire of passion for music had been lit inside me and has continued to burn strong to this day. So much so that a few years ago, I left behind a promising career in law to follow my dream of a career in music but that’s a story for another blog.
The moral of this story is that my discovery of my true calling in life came in the form of the greatest crisis I have ever faced. I truly believe that if it hadn’t happened that way, that if playing music had come too easily, I might have gotten bored or restless and moved on and missed out. So in my case, though it wasn’t immediately apparent, the disaster was actually a blessing in disguise.
Sometimes, the positive is easier to see like the possibility of a new job or relationship when our current one comes to an end. Regardless of the situation, there is always, at the very least, a chance to grow and build character in the way that we respond to the challenge at hand. Whether it’s obvious or not, opportunity often does present itself in the guise of difficulty and it’s our job to remain open, to have faith and to rise to the occasion.
So no matter how bad the storm overhead and regardless of what it is that you’re dealing with, stay calm, take a closer look and you’ll see for yourself, there is a silver lining.
Written for Dreambelle (Nov. 14th, 2011)
Published by The Daily Love (January 28th, 2012)