Written by Simone Knego | Author of The Extraordinary Unordinary You | Sarasota, Florida
The following is adapted from The Extraordinary UnOrdinary You.
My son Ari was four and a half years old when we adopted him. My husband and I made the journey to Ethiopia with two of our daughters, Emma and Olivia. When we finally went inside the orphanage to meet Ari, he looked at me, gave me a shy smile, and offered me some of his lunch.
At the time, he was recovering from the mumps. He had ringworm covering the majority of his scalp. He had scars all over the bottom of his feet because he had never owned a pair of shoes. His legs were bowed from rickets and his belly distended from malnutrition. But when he spoke, he had the sweetest high-pitched voice that warmed our hearts. He was adorable, and we loved him at first sight.
As a family, we had to lean into our adoption experience. Our lives drastically changed, and it wasn’t always easy. Nevertheless, Ari—and all my other children—have made my rather “ordinary” life into an extraordinary one, and every step of the way, I have been guided by three pieces of equally “ordinary” advice that have never failed to give me extraordinary results.
Chances are, you’ve heard some of this advice before, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful. I encourage you to take it in with a fresh perspective and learn how extraordinary life can be when you consciously apply these three lessons.
1. Embrace Change
Ari was barely four years old when his birth father dropped him off at one of the orphanage’s drop-off points because their family didn’t have enough food. I can’t even imagine how scary it must have been for him to lose everything he had known and then become part of a new family. But Ari embraced the immense change that life threw in his way, and he is right where he is supposed to be.
Although he suffered huge losses, Ari has gained so many opportunities that would have never been possible if adoption was not part of his journey. He has access to great schools and an education that would not have been possible in Ethiopia. His life in Ethiopia was about survival. Even at the age of four, Ari was helping to take care of the family’s livestock and crops. The focus was on making it through the day and having enough to eat.
Some people may say, “He doesn’t get to be with his birth family,” but that wasn’t our decision. The choice we made was to make him a part of our family and to love him. What I can say is that because of the gift his birth family gave us, Ari truly has been able to shine, and he has changed our lives forever. Every choice you make to embrace change puts you on the path to becoming a better version of who you are.
2. Stop Resisting New Opportunities
One morning, after I got Ari up, I focused on getting the other kids ready. But when I went downstairs to make breakfast, I couldn’t find Ari anywhere. I panicked and started screaming his name, “Ari! Ari!” which I’m sure probably scared the absolute crap out of him. Hours later, my mom and I found Ari lying under the curtains; he had totally shut down and looked scared to death. He tried to hide and avoid school because he was afraid that we wouldn’t come back for him.
When I think of Ari’s story, I think of all the times in our own lives where we shut down because we’re faced with something new. Ari had no idea he was resisting; he just didn’t understand. So many times, we resist new opportunities because we can’t get over our past experiences.
I will be the first one to admit that it is hard to view new situations without putting them in the framework of our past experiences. It’s not easy to start dating again once you have had a broken heart. It is difficult to get back in a car again after a major accident. Because of this, we sometimes give up great opportunities in the present because we are afraid of what happened in the past.
Our greatest growth can come when we stop resisting the experiences life throws at us.
3. Everything Happens for a Reason
Even though I am a strong proponent of embracing change, I know full well that things will happen in our lives that can cause us to spin out of control. It’s especially important when these hardships come to remember that everything happens for a reason.
Things will happen in your life that you can’t do anything about. If you spin your wheels focusing on those things, you will end up making yourself miserable. Worrying isn’t going to do anyone any good, so I try to look at things with a more positive perspective. That makes a lot of difference in my ability to get through those hard things.
For example, when Ari became part of our family, the process was difficult for everyone involved, from the adopting family, to the family giving up their rights to their own child—and it’s especially difficult for the child who has to adjust to a whole new way of living. We didn’t take the decision lightly because we understood the impact it would have on our household and the children we were bringing into our family. But without a doubt, there is a reason all of our kids are here.
Sometimes in life, we know the reasons behind things immediately, and sometimes those reasons become apparent over time. But inevitably, those reasons become apparent. You can’t just give up because things turn out differently than you expected, or because you don’t get what you want in that moment. There are going to be many more moments. Learn from it and move forward.
Commonplace Wisdom is True
Ari’s trip to America may have changed his life, but it was our journey to Ethiopia to bring him home that changed us even more. That trip—and every day we’ve lived with Ari since—has taught us just how true some often-repeated advice can be. The reason phrases like “embrace change,” “be open to new opportunities,” and “everything happens to a reason” are considered commonplace is because they are so, so true.
It’s easy to forget the time-tested wisdom locked in such simple phrases, but when you slow down, truly embrace that advice, and apply it to your own life, you might be surprised at just how extraordinary your life will feel.
For more advice on living an extraordinary life, you can find The Extraordinary UnOrdinary You on Amazon.
Simone Knego leads an ordinary life filled with extraordinary moments. As a wife, mother to six children (and three dogs), and a serial entrepreneur, she splits her time between her family, businesses, and personal growth. She’s realized the small choices she makes every day to do good actually have the power to inspire others. Simone shared that message during speaking opportunities she received as co-chair of the National Young Leadership Cabinet for the Jewish Federations of North America. With this book, she hopes to inspire you to embrace life’s ups and downs and realize the impact you’re making on the world.