09/10/2013 06:38 pm ET Updated Nov 10, 2013

Journeys: Every Smile Happens For A Reason

Throughout my life, I have heard a great many ways in which the word 'journey' is used.

"Life is a journey." Or, "That was quite a journey."

One of my all-time favorites: "Jason doesn't know who Journey is." Sure, over time I had heard the iconic, "Don't stop believing!" but I'd not yet put the pieces together that I knew who Journey was. So, my friend, also named Jason, called me out on it.

Those words stand out in my recollection because it sparked a period of self-discovery and the undertaking of a micro-journey within this macro-journey of the blink of an eye that we call human life.

It was a time when I was forced to go deeper within myself and find meaning within this life by taking a step deeper into the land where personal growth is cultivated. I was challenged to "embrace the journey" or walk consciously in my life, following an invisible thread that seemed to be guiding me.

Though challenged to learn about the group, I did not start listening to Journey and its music then (or to this day) but for some reason in the midst of adversity, I actually started to believe there was a point to what I was going through, if only because I felt it.

In retrospect, it is hard to say why I felt that way because there was loss occurring in my life all at the same time: I was laid off for the fourth time, my relationship ended out of the blue, my grandfather passed away... I even lost a sports competition.

As challenged as I was by the events of my life, that was tiny compared to the task of putting to rest the insecurity, the fear, the inability to be authentic with myself that I had struggled with for so long.

You see I have a confession to make. For decades, I had lived in fear. The feeling gripped at my soul, controlled me, and I had never quite felt alive fully.

Yet at my lowest points, when I felt like giving up, I would get that second wind and find inspiration because something would always happen: a book would find its way into my hands, a kind word, an experience that kept me going and not giving in. On one such occasion, while working as a courtesy clerk during a busy shift at Safeway, where everything that could go wrong did, I felt my fear leading to anger.

Though it was a long time ago, this isn't Star Wars. I wasn't apprenticing to Yoda, but I started to see how anger was a mask of fear and hurt, one that I had begun wearing years earlier because it was easy to protect and guard against life rather than go into the fullness of my experience. Or in that case, to be blunt with lazy coworkers. As I walked the floor, glaring at lines, not seeing my peers around, I felt helpless and alone, and the anger began to consume me. I recall telling myself, the next person who says a word to me, I would "amp" or yell at.

Right then, I heard it, the smallest of voices: "Hi!"

A child, no more than four-years-old sitting in the seat of a shopping cart greeted me with such warmth and affection while her mother's back was to both us. My heart melted in that moment and all I could feel was "Aww..." because little did I know it but that one smile helped me through not only that shift but on many days since and did in fact change my life.

I have told the story countless times because the experience showed me how powerful something so simple and pure could be. These type of experiences have kept happening, always pulling me back into the present moment and reminding me that so long as I was alive, it would all be okay because this life is amazing.

In the three years since that period of loss, as I have not stopped believing, I have seen my life transform. I have seen my physical being change. I have seen myself do things I always wanted to do but never did for fear had a tight grip, and I always thought I needed to have money, status, (insert societal expectation here) first.

The greatest gift that I have been given in my journey thus far was the intensity of pain that came with that period of Loss. It reminded me not only recall that smile, but be like that child, to let go and be present.

All of the choices of my life have led me here to this point in time. Whether I manifested it through law of attraction as some may believe, or I am along for a ride on a spiritual journey, as others might say, either way this is where I am. More than anything else, I want to keep growing and always find a way to smile amidst the tragedies that can and will happen.

For as long as we are living, there are going to be challenging happenstances beyond our control. Even though we may not always like life, we can still learn, we can always grow, and it is my hope that we choose to smile.

Don't stop believing...

All life has a purpose, each journey has meaning, and every person has a story. Every smile matters. Explore the journeys of others out there exploring the landscapes of their own lives.