Sometimes life is hard. Really hard. Relationships falter. Obstacles seem insurmountable. And just getting to the next day feels overwhelming. At times like these, we have to remember that it is OK to struggle.
We don’t have to be perfect. We do not need to have all the answers. Sometimes all we have are questions. But that is often a good place to start. And then we begin again, one foot in front of the other, perhaps not seeing the whole path ahead, but just enough to know where to put each foot.
“Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Uncomfortable? Yes. Exhausting and overwhelming and painfully hard? Yes. But not impossible. And it won’t necessarily feel this difficult and debilitating forever. You’ve made it through similar hard things before. You’ve survived every single bad day and every obstacle the universe has ever thrown at you. You’ve survived all the things you felt convinced would break you. Every single one. And this is evidence that you can make it through this too.
“You don’t have to figure everything out today. You don’t have to solve your whole life tonight. And you don’t have to tackle everything at once. You just have to show up and try. You just have to focus on the most immediate thing in front of you. And you have to trust that you’ll figure out the rest along the way. It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. And its okay to make mistakes. You’re still learning how to navigate this new path. It’s going to take time, and you’re allowed to give yourself that time. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to get all A’s or be the best version of yourself or outperform everyone else. All you have to do is show up and try. It’s always been enough before. It will be enough this time too.”
— Daniell Koepke
Here’s to you finding the light to take that next step, and then the next and the next, until your path leads you out of this present darkness. It is OK to struggle.
Slow and steady wins the race. We get discouraged and stop, or chase after another enticing goal, or turn back. But, if we stay true, we will make progress. Remember the tortoise and the hare? They had a rematch recently:
We each are a little bit Cleopatra, the Queen of “Denial”. We overlook flaws in ourselves and our relationships. We gloss over harms and injustices we see or commit. Because when we notice these things, we disrupt the status quo. Things might get messy before they get better. And it calls on us to get to work rather than just kick the can down the road.
But for real progress to be made, in ourselves and in our relationships, we must look deeply and notice where things fall short. Then we can get to work to close the gap between the way things are and the way we want them to be.
Sometimes progress is subtle and slow, born of persistence and endurance. Not everything needs to be solved now, today. But we must persist. We must set our goals and work toward them, cognizant that we may stumble and backtrack along the way.
Yet we push on.
For a lovely example of persistence, consider the story of Jadev Payeng, a simple man who set out to plant trees in a barren stretch of wasteland where no one believed anything would grow. That was in the 1970s. Now that barren wasteland is a forest home to rhinos, elephants, tigers and more. One man, one mission, plus persistence, and now there is a sanctuary for many wild animals bigger than New York’s Central Park.
For a short video of Payeng story, go here. For a deeper dive, watch National Geographic’s look at this remarkable story.
It takes courage to be authentic. It is so easy to stay disconnected from our emotions, afraid to listen to the messages they give us, to put on a happy face, constantly, to be afraid to buck the crowd or disturb the status quo. But the things that upset us are clues, really, to what needs fixing. They are data points that we can take in and consider what needs help–in ourselves, in our relationships, in the world. And tuning in to the full breadth of our emotions juxtaposed against our values can help us discover how we can make contributions in our society–to unmask wrongdoing, to stand up on behalf of the vulnerable, even to advocate on behalf of those society is only too willing to throw away. Authenticity helps us find our voices and the courage even when we are afraid to put on our work boots and start walking in the direction of positive social change.
So much seems out of reach. So many problems have yet to be solved. So many people do not get along. And yet, when we step back and take a long view, so many seemingly impossible things have been accomplished in just a lifetime–anti-biotics, flight, space travel, computers, internet. And though social justice clearly does not move in a straight line, we have seen significant advances in human rights that our great-grandparents may have been unable to predict or even hope for.
So what to make of this? It’s important to keep fighting the good fight even when the odds seem insurmountable. Keep striving for peace, for social justice, for a more equitable world. We may not see the dramatic change now, but when someone looks back at our time here on Earth, they will see we didn’t stop pushing forward and, with that long view, there was continued progress ever forward.