Is it Serendipity… or something else?

Although the dictionary definition of Serendipity is “the luck some people have in finding or creating interesting or valuable things by chance. A seeming gift for finding something good accidentally”, in the Hollywood-ised or Disney-fied happy-ever-after world we live in, it’s come to signify the finding of the right person (I cite the film Serendipity starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale). But I’d like to chuck into the mix a concept I first heard of people coming in to your life for a Reason, a Season, or a Lifetime.

Initially I knew nothing more than that basic idea, but saw the sense of categorising people that way, because it could make it easier to accept the transitional nature of life’s relationships. Just to be clear, this concept applies to all types of relationship, not only romantic. So I looked into it a bit more…

SEASON: your turn has come to share, grow or learn. they bring you an experience or make you laugh. they teach you something you have never done.

I always found the idea of people being seasonal in my life an easy one to work with, which may well relate to the transitional nature of my childhood, as we moved every 2-3 years so the only constant relationships were with our parents and siblings. I also suspect I’m not alone in finding this one easier, as while about learning, Seasonal people are about laughter and joy, which makes it an easier and more positive way of looking at a relationship that’s now in your rear view mirror. There have been many seasonal people in my life, and I remember them all with gratitude and a smile.

LIFETIME: these teach you lifetime lessons, things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. your job is to accept the lesson, love the person & put what you’ve learned to use in all other areas of your life.

In terms of those who fit into the Lifetime category, it seems clear that while there will, of course, be people you’d hope would make it into that category, it wouldn’t be something you’d know for certain for a long time, if ever. And I was entirely content with that – both with the hope and with the likelihood that I’d not know – until they either left or didn’t. The category I had most trouble with was the Reason.

REASON: it’s usually to meet a need you’ve expressed. they’ve come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance & support. they may seem like a godsend, and they are.

I struggled (still do to an extent) with a person being in my life for a reason… and still leaving. Indeed, I can only think of two people who fit this category, and I’ve lived for more than 6 decades. It’s only by looking back on those relationships with the benefit of time and distance, that I’ve been able to give this whole concept some credence. It’s the hardest category as you have to accept their departure happening “without any wrongdoing on your part, or at an inconvenient time”. The suggested reasons why this may happen be that they may die, they may choose to walk away, they may behave in a manner which leads you to send them away. And, of course, it is only later – perhaps much, much later – that it will become clear you had a need which they could meet, and once that was met, their work was done. The difficulty at the time, is that you didn’t see (or believe) that your need had been met. Maybe you didn’t even see what need it was they were meeting, for you thought – or hoped – it was something else.

I’m not religious, but something which helped me feel more positive about people being in my life only for a Reason was something I heard author Maggie O’Farrell express when talking about her autobiography I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death. With a title like that, it is perhaps unsurprising to hear she believed her life has benefited from “terrestrial angels”. She went on to express how she intended that her book should highlight their presence in life and the impact they have, by stressing that if we see someone who needs helps and we can make a difference, we should do so. Yes, O’Farrell wants us to be bold in being the Reason, when we see we can help someone or make a difference in their life.

And that takes me to the flip side of this concept – that we will all fall into one of those categories ourselves for other people. For if you read the full poem, what’s key is contained in the opening verse:

People come into your life for a Reason, a Season or a Lifetime. When you know which one it is, you will know what to do for that person.

What do you think of this concept? Is it just a bunch of woo-woo nonsense, or does it make sense to think of relationships in this manner?

© Debra Carey, 2022

12 thoughts on “Is it Serendipity… or something else?

Add yours

  1. I sort of like the concept of there being a purpose, so to speak, of a relationship. As bad as my first marriage was, I think I needed it to get to the next level of my personal growth…he made me realize that I underestimated myself. I could name a bunch of other things like this…

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  2. I think it’s humanity trying to make it all make sense, and this involves everything from dark matter to religion to putting our relationships in boxes (or books). Not that it’s a bad thing–it’s both comforting and hopefully a learning experience. Besides, it’s up to each of us to ultimately find our own meaning in life, right?

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  3. I don’t know about the reason, season lifetime thingy, but I do know that if you don’t learn “the lesson” the first time an experience (or person) comes into your life, you will keep repeating it until you do learn the lesson. Kinda like the movie Groundhog Day.


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  4. Exactly LA. My first reaction was to harumph 😉 But when I re-visited the concept some years later, I felt comforted to a degree by being able to look back at past relationships, friendships, work experiences etc and see a purpose to them. If you’re left feeling all you’ve done is waste your time, that’s such an awful place to be – emotionally speaking – and I found this helped alleviate that somewhat.

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  5. That’s a great way to describe it Autumn. I think we humans do look for stuff to make sense of our lives and everything that happens in the world, and sometimes a bit of woo-woo can be both comforting and provide learning.


  6. Deb, the first time I saw a quote on this subject, it floored me (emotionally speaking). It reminds me of a saying I heard: fool me once – your fault, fool me twice – my fault. Life can deliver hard lessons – but they’re best learnt first time round. If only…

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  7. Exactly! If we start thinking everything is a waste of time, we are going to get depressed real fast…


  8. I have some people in my life that have drifted away in each of your categories. Most of the seasonal ones I guess were romantic partners. I worry that if I probe too much about others that I might find unearth aspects about me that I’d rather not be reminded of. So it’s a double-edged sword for me at least. I love how you broke it down here, though. – Marty


  9. Never heard of this before, but it makes a certain sense to me. I will say this: most of the people I thought were going to be in my life forever turned out to be only short term relationships, while relationships that I initially expected to last only a short time have endured far, far longer.


  10. I can think of two instances in my life of a friend for a reason. The reason in one case was for me. In the other case, it was by me. When I have left a friend for a season or for a reason, sometimes I just move on and leave that to the past. Other times, I enjoy keeping in contact through Christmas cards or something like Facebook. You can’t recreate the circumstances of the original friendship, but that past is still part of you and that past friendship may still mean something to both of you.


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