The Quest You Get
I’m still reading the Magician King, the second book in Lev Grossman’s trilogy, and there was a line that gave me pause, especially in regards to our very real, very unmagical world. It, of course, made me think about infertility, but it’s applicable no matter what you’re dealing with in life.
On page 227, Quentin is comparing what he has recently gone through vs. what another character has gone through in terms of their “hardships.” Both characters have gone through long adventures, encountered obstacles, frustrating moments, loss. And Quentin wonders if the other character would have fared as well on Quentin’s adventure, and whether Quentin would have fared as well if he had gotten the other character’s lot in life.
The narrator muses, “Maybe he would have failed where Quentin succeeded, and vice versa. Maybe this was the only way it could have gone. You didn’t get the quest you wanted, you got the one you could do.”
This is, admittedly, a pet peeve of mine; this idea that the universe or G-d or fill-in-the-blank will not give you more than you can handle. We all have our trials in life, and if we just have enough faith, trust, energy, we can get through those trials. That our trials have been carefully curated to fit our capabilities.
It’s true that we can get through things that we never thought we’d get through, and therefore, by definition, we have not been given more than we can “handle” even if we think we cannot get through the situation before we’re in it.
But that’s a pretty weak definition for “handle.” I mean, there are really only two options: continuing forward or stopping. Even if you’re not moving forward well, you’re still moving forward. And if you’re stopping, well, you’re likely dead. So by that logic, all people who don’t die in the process have technically “handled” whatever the universe has sent their way.
But what is the cost of a quest or a trial or an obstacle? Just because we can get through it doesn’t mean that we aren’t changed for the worse. And is that the universe’s goal? To create broken spirits and distrust and exhaustion? It brings forth another adage: what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. And, I’m sorry, but I don’t think that is always the case. Sometimes we’re not stronger. Sometimes we’re actually weaker or just different, depending on the situation.
I don’t know, I’m not always certain I get the quests I can do.
It’s more that I have to do the quests I get.