Awaiting the struggle.

After my morning workout, as I sat down to relax with my computer and a cup of coffee, I happened upon this article by Huffington Post writer Mark Manson. In it, he says that the most important question a person can ask themselves is not what they want in life, but rather, what are they willing to struggle for.

Though I probably shouldn't admit this, this article's straightforward message hit me like a ton of bricks. Not because I've never worked for anything, or because I haven't experienced the particular satisfaction that comes from accomplishing a difficult goal... But simply because I've never looked at life in quite that way, in terms of struggling. Like most people, I'm used to asking myself what I want and answering with fair yet perhaps vague certainty. I want to attend UNC after high school. I want to travel through Europe. I want to work in publishing. But whenever I don't get what I want, I usually just chalk it up to fate. I complain for a bit, shrug off the disappointment as gracefully as I can, and rely on the old "everything happens for a reason" mantra to comfort my ego. It doesn't often cross my mind, however, that the things I thought I desperately wanted may have just not been worth the struggle to me.

To be completely and painstakingly honest here (because if I can't be honest on my own blog, when can I be?), I haven't had to struggle for much in my life. Eek, I cringe just typing that God-awful statement. Yes, I've had to overcome struggles. Who hasn't? But I'm talking about in much broader terms. Money, security, the necessities. I graduated from college in less than four years, but I didn't pay for any of it myself. I wasn't forced to hold a job while I was in school, and I never had to live off of Ramen noodles and peanut butter to survive (although, seeing as I'm a peanut butter addict, I can't say I would have minded too much). I was free to accept unpaid internship positions and gain experience in my field without worrying about making rent each month. I studied abroad on my parents' dime, and I'm currently living with them while I work to save up for my next travel adventure. So I guess you could say I'm one of the lucky ones, with a mom and dad who desired to give their children the opportunities that they never had themselves growing up. But now that I'm in my early 20s, I'm starting to regret being handed all my life what so many people have had to learn to fight for in theirs. 

"Do or die," was the answer my friend gave me over dinner last Wednesday when I asked him how he managed to put in 70 hours of work a week on top of his college courses. For him, there was really no choice: If he wanted an education, he had to earn his tuition. If he wanted to eat, a job was the only guarantee of food on the table that month. I don't have many friends with backgrounds like Cody's, and our conversation was refreshing, to say the least. It was eye-opening and inspiring to hear that almost anything is possible for someone with enough determination; but it was also humbling, and I drove home holding onto a small sense of guilt that I haven't since been able to shake. The thing is, I've never known that kind of discipline; I've never had to. It's in comparing my own journey to those of admirably strong people like Cody that I realize a disheartening truth: At 22 years old, I have no idea what it really means to suffer or sacrifice for what I want need. And that both shames and terrifies me.

Looking back over the years, I'm reminded of how fortunate I've been to have supportive, loving family members who only want the best for me. I'm abundantly lucky/blessed/whatever you want to call it, and I try not to take anything for granted; I don't feel entitled, and I know that everything can be taken away in an instant. But sometimes I wonder how different my life—and mindset—would be if I had grown up without the level of comfort that was always provided for me... If I had grown up like my parents, living on love and not much else. I wonder if I would be a better person, a harder worker, a more independent spirit... I wonder if, at the end of the day, my small successes and accomplishments would be worth far more. But then again, I think, what's the point of asking those 'what-ifs?' All I can do is give back as much as I can and be grateful for the unique hand of cards that the universe has dealt me. A wise person recently told me that it's how we play those cards that determines who we are and what kind of lives we lead.

Come August, I will be completely on my own for the first time in my life, with my own place, my own job, my own goals, and my own challenges. I'm sure that making ends meet is going to be tougher than I realize, and I might be in over my head for a while. But to be honest, I don't think I want it any other way. Lord knows there's something to be said about working your way up from the very bottom. And damn it if I don't embrace that struggle with everything I have, because it's about time I discover what I'm made of.


  1. I loved his line about how the stress of getting lost in a new city is something he loves.. I can relate to that so much! You should also read some Brene Brown, she has great writing about struggle :)

    As for the opportunities you've been given (my parents also paid for college entirely), I wouldn't regret them. The right response (in my mind) is to take those opportunities thankfully.. to me, getting high grades was one way of thanking my parents for their financial gift. Struggle *will* come eventually, yours just may be a different kind than others will experience. And challenging yourself now that you're out on your own (instead of regretting the past that led you to where you are) is a great start. Girl, you're making me want to start writing again :)

    1. Sarah, thank you for your uplifting comment! I'm flattered that you take the time to read my blog in the first place.

      I agree that it's all about what we make of the blessings and challenges in our lives that make us who we are. Thank you for the reminder! And yes, I think you should start writing again, if only so I can blog-stalk you, and because I know you'd have so many great things to say. :)

    2. A lot of what you write about are things I think about a lot too and have struggled with time and time again. I'm impressed you always link to facebook, I always shy away from that because writing is so personal and it's hard to have the guts to put yourself out there. Maybe I'll play around on Blogger or Wordpress tonight :) I used to have a blog but abandoned it a year or two ago!

      ps- one day we should travel together :)

    3. Honestly, linking blog posts on my Facebook page still scares me every time I do it. Especially when I write about things that are really weighing on me, because there's always going to be people who don't agree with what I write or just think it's plain stupid. Haha. But I do it because it I like to write for an audience. I like starting discussions and interacting with people, and I like to know when we can all relate to each other. Which is probably why journaling never did much for me. ;)

      That would be lovely! Where do you want to travel?!

    4. Everywhere :) Hopefully I'll get to do Amsterdam this summer for a conference, and I want to go back to Germany, still haven't seen France, Greece would be lovely.. I could go on for days :D

  2. I love the new format of your blog! It's awesome! Very professional. Great job on the redesign.

    To think about life in terms of what we're willing to endure was quite deflating for me. I have not pushed through the difficulty nearly as often as I should have. I'm very tempted to say that is more because of a lack of discipline than insufficient desire for something; however, in my more lucid moments, I know that would be intellectually dishonest.

    This leads me to question why I don't have stronger passions that can carry me through to the end. This could be quite a depressing train of thought, but, fortunately, I realize that I most of my struggles revolve around the primary weaknesses in my temperament. As I'm actively working on improving those areas of weakness, I know that I'll continue to achieve more and more success obtaining those lofty goals for which my heart yearns.

  3. Thank you for your comment, Austin! It sounds like you've done quite a bit of thinking on this topic as well, and I'm glad you shared your thoughts with me! I have to agree with you -- I am very much the same way. It seems as if I'm always starting things and giving up before they're finished because the "struggle" gets to be too much, or my desire for it starts to wane. It's a discipline thing, I think. But fortunately, I find that learning discipline is similar to exercising a muscle; the more you do it, the easier it becomes. And like you, I hope to keep improving my strengths over time. :)

  4. I really enjoyed reading this. I read that article as well and it left a different impact on me. I'm glad to be able to get even more out of it after reading your perspective :)