Finding Our Way Through Life’s Setbacks and Detours

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Closed doors. Rejections. They do not decide your fate. They simply redirect your course. You must keep moving because life’s detours can also be meaningful.

―Dodinsky

This last week I was supposed to be registering for what would be my second last semester for my undergraduate degree. Since the year began and becoming so increasingly aware of how close I am to the end of my undergraduate career, my heart has been filled with so much joy (because wheeew my relationship with university has been a hard one). The joy further spurred on by my family member’s jovial utterances such as “when is your graduation so that we can get our outfits ready?”. For the first time in the longest of time, my dreams felt tangible and attainable. Dropping out and tiring along the way of my academic journey was no longer an option like the time I was still A Struggling Varsity Student.

Dropping out, especially because of finances was not an option because two and a half years ago, when I was contemplating to redo my schooling, an unexpected stranger said to me, “You are far too brilliant and you would make a great Psychologist. So let us get you back in school. Apply where you can and then give me a breakdown of your fees and I will pay for everything. I cannot just sit here and allow you to let your potential go to waste when I have the means to help”. I will never forget that encounter and conversation because it is one of those life-changing moments that made me so vividly aware of how I am wholeheartedly loved by God.

Unfortunately, to my dismay, last semester the person who had willingly put it upon themselves to pay for all my study fees unexpectedly ghosted me and inevitably financially pulled out on me. I had no backup plan because I trusted them to keep their word as they have the last two years. Thus, on approaching the second semester, I not only had fees owing from the previous school term but I also had to urgently get funds for registering for my upcoming modules. All my best attempts turned out to not be enough.

…perhaps one more disappointment is one more way I get to learn to process disappointment without it shattering me. Not because I’ve become numb to disappointments, but because I no longer resist them as a natural part of the human experience.

I did not know how important school was to me until I found myself cooped up in bed, bitterly crying at the realization that my dream of one day becoming a practising Psychologist would not materialize as soon as I had planned and hoped. My heart sank at the possibility of my academic dreams being driven further away from me, again. Does this mean I will have another incomplete degree to my name, as detailed in my post, A Struggling Varsity Student? It reawakened those trauma-inspired thoughts of, “Why does my life have to be a constant struggle?”. In that moment of weeping, it felt like all of life has been deliberately set up to oppose me at every turn. But this time around? I was not mad. Instead, peace wrapped itself so tightly around me even though my plans being derailed and interrupted still hurt me.

When I should be in the full swing of my second last semester, doing my last few modules, I am content with not having things be this way. As I write this, I have already made mental plans for how I will use the remaining months of the current year. I have already committed myself to several books I will be reading and immersing myself in. I am going to pick up on activities that brought me joy that I have had to sacrifice for the sake of school. And the best part is that I get to give more of myself, time and energies to nurturing the growth of this blog. But honestly? I am baffled by this wayward attitude and response to my current circumstances. Typically, I, Katlego Llale, would be wallowing in self-pity―feeling completely defeated by life with no sense of hope (because my toxic trait is that I take things way too personally).

Perhaps, I have become a really diligent student of Psychology who not only learns to pass her tests but I live and breathe what I learn in my textbooks (because Psychology truly saves lives―kise, ka mmao). Even though I am certain that I’ve had enough disappointments, setbacks and detours in life, perhaps one more disappointment is one more way I get to learn to process disappointment without it shattering me. Not because I’ve become numb to disappointments, but because I no longer resist them as a natural part of the human experience.

Perhaps, one more setback is one more way I get to learn that setbacks and detours are not final, but just tiny, inconvenient stops that we need to get through on our life’s journey. Perhaps, this is a needful disruption so that, one day, when I am sitting in a counselling room, with a patient sitting in front of me, disheartened by the constant setbacks and detours life throws their way, I can embody the empathy (a pinnacle quality in therapy) they need because I, too, have been there before.

And maybe this unexpected setback that I’m currently undergoing is here to show me how I’ve become a little bit better at processing the hard parts of life without crumbling. Showing me how I’ve become resilient. And at a moment when I feel like I’m being driven away from a personally significant milestone, I’m being reminded that some milestones are ones that we cannot see. And gaining greater resiliency? Is a milestone that I can mark-off as accomplished.

I think finding our way through life’s setbacks and detours is practising radical acceptance (deserves a separate post, honestly). Acceptance for where life may have placed us even though that is not the place we anticipated or wanted to be. We get so emotionally sick because we are so disgruntled and resistant over the way our lives chooses to show up for us and the form which they tend to take. We may not always have control over where life puts us, however, one thing I am coming to learn is that we can choose how to show up and respond to the places that life brings us to, no matter how unpleasant they may be. And for me, finding our way through life’s setbacks and detours looks like letting setbacks and detours ultimately work for me. I am truly a much happier soul for it.

My greatest hope for you is that you, too, may learn to get to a place where setbacks and detours do not get you down. I hope that when you get back on the direct path to your dreams, looking in retrospect, you will be able to look at the setbacks with great gratitude for the needful purpose that they played in your becoming and arriving.

I will leave you with a reflection quote from Daughter by Design:

God took Joseph on a detour through prison to fulfill his dream. He took Moses on a detour through the desert before He called him to be a leader. And He will take you on detours too from fulfilling your dreams and plans the way you want to, not to stop you from getting where you want to be, but to prepare you better for it. Never forget that a detour in your life does not mean you won’t get where you want to go. Sometimes it just means you’ll get there at a different time by taking a different road.

Here is to us finding our way through life’s setbacks and detours. **Raised champagne glasses**.

All my love,

XOXO
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2 Comments
  • Laz
    Aug 9, 2020

    I kept getting disturbed/disrupted while reading this. Finally finished on the third try. This is definitely relatable content. What I’m taking away from this offering is that a change in perspective really goes a long way. Detours will always be there in life, and their impact doesn’t change, but our attitude or response when they locate us can minimize and even transform that impact and redirect the negative energy into positive energy we can use to grow and develop ourselves. And you’re right, in future when you’re a practitioner, you will be better placed to actually practice empathy when a client sits in front of you and they are falling apart or threatened with the possibility of falling apart.

    And also, I think you can certainly say “my toxic trait used to be…” because from this post I can say you’re definitely outgrowing that toxic trait. Above all, thanks for sharing this, it’s especially helpful to those of us who are on the building stages of certain segments of our lives and are experiencing detours and delays. May peace be our constant companion.
    Also loved the Setswana young debut there, love to see it! 😂😂 May we see more of this beautiful language.

    • Katlego Llale
      Aug 11, 2020

      I am happy that you got around to finally reading the entire post and most of all, it gave you some worthwhile insightful nuggets to take home, if that is the proper English.

      And I trust you to be the person who catches on to my humour because I still cannot believe that I really wrote that but it was fun nonetheless and I am so happy someone could share in that delight, hahaha!

      Thank you, always, Laz. You know I appreciate you wholeheartedly.

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My Journey to Reclaiming Christianity
Finding Our Way Through Life’s Setbacks and Detours