It’s difficult to believe in karma when everything always seems to go wrong. You help a homeless stranger on a train, you feel inspired, and next thing you know all of your worldly possessions are stolen from a locked locker.

Then you’re stranded with no place to sleep and no contact with the outside world, and when you finally make it home after sleeping on a random couch and waiting for hours at the train station because your mother couldn’t communicate with you that she couldn’t make it until later, your father loses his job.

You’re out hundreds of dollars because you need to replace not only your phone (when it’s not even remotely time for an upgrade), but also your driver’s license, your school ID, your apartment key, your debit card, your social security card, and your friend’s items that were placed in your bag so they could possibly be kept safe. All this, with a frozen bank account and the real inevitability of what unemployment entails.

The security guards are no help, you’re a drunk, crying mess, and meanwhile, you’re in knee-high boots and a bikini because – how convenient – your clothes were stolen while you were in the pool, having a grand old time. You’re wandering through a casino with that awkwardly desperate look in your eyes, and you’re pleading with the world that somehow, someway, everything isn’t quite as bad as it seems. Oh, and don’t forget – it’s your mom’s birthday.

This little series of unfortunate events taught me lessons about life, about friendship, and about love. It has been tumultuous and scary, and also startlingly funny (in a masochistic sort of way). It has given me insight into what is necessary and what is superficial, and has reaffirmed my confidence in the individuals that I have chosen to surround myself with.

To the pledge brother who gave me a place to sleep; to the fraternity sister who gave me her phone and a listening ear; to the friends who bought me dinner and drinks multiple nights in a row so I wouldn’t waste what was left of my cash; to my dad, who took some shots of scotch, put on a brave face, and picked up the pieces; to my mom, who knows how to get her way with even the rudest of individuals, and who still bought wine for her birthday dinner; to my old roommates, who let me in at the ass-crack of dawn and who kept my spirits high when they were feeling oh-so-low; to my current roommates, who sent me cute puppy pictures and didn’t complain when we had to change the lock:

To all of these people who fill my life with so much joy even through pain and frustration, I say thank you. I say that, perhaps, you are my karma. I have been rewarded with your presence and your help through every tough time, and even when terrible human beings crush me into itty bitty pieces, I know that – even though, on the surface, things are shitty – I am so much luckier than the soulless individuals who try to bring good people down.

Life is really good at kicking you while you’re down. It makes it difficult to believe in karma or fate or anything that requires you to believe in something. But rather than sit back and mope, yelling “why me?” while eating a carton of ice cream with black mascara running down your sleep-deprived face, those who are strong are defined by their ability to get back up again. Karma may not always take the shape we expect. But hey, maybe in 20 years this will just be a vague remnant of the past, a funny story told over a glass of wine at your mother’s birthday dinner.