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the Gauntlet

Taking Stock of Personal Tragedy

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The past 12 months have amounted to what seems like an exceptionally bad year. And sadly, I don't foresee things changing in the future.

While we still have many trials and tribulations to look forward to (I still haven't had my quarter-life crisis), recently I've faced real, adult problems I've never had to deal with before. People I know, or at least know of, have faced serious diseases and ailments. Others have suffered tragic personal experiences or family troubles. Others still have died. And to make matters worse, I dealt with more than a couple personal crises that, even a year ago, I didn't see coming.

I've given this a lot of thought, tallying up the past year, and have come to a conclusion: much to my own chagrin, I finally have to grow up. And fast.

The sad reality is, as you grow older, things start to happen with increased frequency. Your network of personal connections grows, and you know more people who know people who are friends of other people. The world gets smaller and you're touched by more individuals in different ways than before, when the world consisted of people in your Monday morning class or those who lived on your street.

You're also approaching an age where you are the target audience for some real, personal tragedy. Maybe you're at that crucial age to run into serious health problems, or your parents get older, bringing a whole new set of issues to the surface. And at the very least, you'll finish school and leave the comfort of your parents' house and those 18 years of school you just saw fly by. And it's all happening at once.

However, this isn't a new phenomenon and I'm quite positive it isn't restricted to my sheltered life; I just didn't realize that until now. Thinking back, a few family friends and family members passed away when I was younger; it just didn't register in quite the same way. People my parents knew were getting sick or going through serious problems all along, it was just easy not to pay attention then. It wasn't my friends, and it certainly wasn't me.

I often worry about looking back and becoming too jaded and cynical. After all, it's difficult to hold on to any hope or faith when you suddenly reach the conclusion that life just gets worse from here on in. But it's also impossible to go on in blissful ignorance without this realization. Until you prepare for both the good and the bad--and realize that there will always be a healthy supply of both--you won't be ready for anything. And even if it feels like you've had more than your share of crises, the worst thing you can do is hit a tragedy head on, without knowing that eventually you will see the other side.

Then, you'll realize that life will move on, and if you're not prepared to be there with it, it will keep going without you.

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