The Only Choice We Have is Perseverance

I was once told, from someone I trust, that if you want to succeed at something, you need a combination of two of three things: luck, talent, and perseverance. I heard this and I went, great. I need only two of these things, and I can guarantee that I have at least one. I mean, talent is something that I strive for, luck is an elusive bitch that I try to catch, but perseverance is something that I can control. It is within my power to decide whether or not I give up or not.

Turns out, perseverance is almost as much of a bitch as luck is.

Perseverance is easy to aspire to in the beginning, when the only obstacle in your road is actually starting what you’re going to do. It’s simple enough to say, “yes, I want this, so I’m going to do this, no matter what it takes”.

And then you actually begin, and the world crashes down around you.

You begin, and the beginning is such hard work that it leaves you exhausted. So exhausted that it’s difficult to do anything more than merely begin, even though there’s so much else to be done, so much that needs to be covered in such a short amount of time. You take caffeine pills and coffee and tea and tell yourself that you’re not tired, all the while snapping back at anyone who dares to speak to you and crying over the tiniest thing, but you’re not tired. You’re too busy to be tired.

And in those late hours, when there’s still things to be done and you haven’t gotten to them all yet, when you can think of nothing you’d rather be doing than lying in bed and staring at the ceiling because at least that would be a fucking break, the thought crosses your mind that maybe you shouldn’t do them. Maybe it would be alright if you just quit.

And when the rejections keep piling up. E-mail after e-mail, letter after letter, so many that you stop expecting anything but. You used to get excited to receive a response, but now it’s all just the same. You know what you’ll find. You’ll open it up, and you’ll read the automated message that they send to everybody, because you didn’t even leave enough of an impression on them that they cared to dignify you with anything original. And sooner or later, you inevitably began to wonder why you even bother. You just keep getting the same response, over and over and over and mother. Fucking. Over. Again. What’s going to change if you stop, really?

We tell ourselves that failure isn’t an option, and really, it isn’t. It’s inevitable. We may not choose it, and we may not want it, but it happens anyway. That’s just the way of things.

And that’s where perseverance comes in. Because perseverance is a difficult choice to make, and sometimes, especially when we’re tired and beaten down, giving up really does look like the best option.

But what would we do if we did give up? What would be left of us? Of our lives? Would it be worth it?

These are questions that we need to ask ourselves in these moments. Because, yes, perseverance is a bitch, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worthwhile. It doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be chosen in favour of the things that matter to us. Because if it matters, if it truly, honestly matters, then we need to find it within ourselves to keep fighting for it.

Because, believe it or not, perseverance does offer a difference from giving up, even in the moments where all perseverance buys you is failure: it is the difference of possibility. If you give up, then you lose all possibility. What you want to happen most certainly will not happen. If you can live with that, then great, whatever, I hope you find happiness in something new. If you can’t live with that, then the only option you have left is to persevere, because at least with that, you still have hope. You still have that chance that something might change. That among countless exhausted, run-down days, you might have one where you’re bright and full of inspiration. That within that endless pile of automated rejections, you’ll eventually receive that one acceptance that will change your entire life.

These are the thoughts that keep us from giving up. These are the thoughts that we live for, when there is noting else to keep us going.

And, no, it’s not fair. It’s not easy. It’s not how the world should be, but it’s how the world is. And at the end of the day, you do have control over perseverance. And if you keep trying, keep trying, keep trying, sooner or later, either someone is bound to notice your talent, or you’ll simply get lucky. I wish that I could give you something more than that, some guarantee that you’ll be okay, that today’s pain can easily be swallowed away in favour of tomorrow’s hope, but I can’t. All that I can ask is whether or not it’s worth it. Can we accept the exhaustion, the disappointment, the rejections, and the labour, all for the possibility that it might work out in the end? Are our dreams worth all that for us? Because if they are, then the only choice we have is to persevere.

 

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Are You Unlucky?

Sometimes, I do want to think that things are outside of my control.

And I’m not necessarily talking about situationally, well-I-did-all-I-could-now-all-I-can-do-is-wait-for-the-results kind of outside of my control. I’m talking about higher powers than teachers or employers or friends and family. I’m talking about luck, this idea that some people do well in this world because some force outside of their control has decided that their worthy.

I think we all like the idea of being lucky, and we’re consoled by the idea of being unlucky. When something goes wrong, then that’s okay; we just weren’t lucky, there was nothing else we could have done. When something goes right, then that’s great; we’re lucky, and things are going to keep going right for us. Either way, the result was outside of our control; we didn’t necessarily have to do anything to earn it, we just earned it by way of existing. For some people, this might be a comforting thought.

But at the same time, it isn’t really true.

Not everything is always within our control, of course; sometimes things just happen, whether they’re bad or good. Sometimes we are subject to the choices that others have made. Sometimes we lose something, or someone. Sometimes we can control what happens to us, but not always. Not often, in fact, and trying to control everything will only make the world that much more frustrating for us.

Life is a game with too many players, too many chances, for us to be in control all the time.

So when bad things happen to us that we can’t control, why wouldn’t that be because we were unlucky?

Well, in my opinion, it’s because these bad things don’t necessarily have to be bad things. We sometimes get so lost in this idea that life has dealt us a bad hand, life is being so unfair, we are so unlucky and doomed to be unlucky forever, that really, we create our own suffering. We’re so focused on the idea that we’re unlucky, and so that is all we see: terrible luck, everywhere. But the truth is, bad things happen to everyone, at one point in their lives or another. And maybe this is a rough patch in your life. Maybe things are a little bit harder right now than usual. But things like that happen to everyone at one point or another; you have not been singled out by the universe.

And more than that, I am firmly of the belief that even bad things have their purpose and meaning. And, yes, I know that can be a controversial statement for some people: people want to know what the meaning for some of the world’s most terrible crimes can possibly be, and I don’t have a blanket answer for every single scenario. But what I do know if that, in my life, my greatest suffering has been used for a purpose. I learned from my mistakes, lessons that I never could have even imagined if I hadn’t gone through them. I took my pain and I used it to relate to other people in a similar scenario, to help them. I do not regret a single tear that I have shed, because they all led me to where I am today.

So, ultimately, I don’t know if the bad things in our lives can necessarily be labelled simply as ‘bad’, not when they have their good sides as well. They most certainly hurt, yes, and they might require time to heal from, but they don’t have to be entirely negative aspects in our lives.

So when you fail, when you get knocked down and suffer loss and betrayal, can it be said that that was entirely bad luck? Is the scenario bad because it caused pain, pain that you may eventually heal from, stronger and smart than ever? Or is the scenario bad because you have decided it is bad? Are you unable to see the potential growth and change that it can offer you because you are too single-mindedly focused on the pain?

Flowers grow from mud, after all, but not if you stunt their growth and ignore them.

And I know, the world isn’t even as simple as all this: saying that all you need to do is change your perspective and focus on the good is all fine and dandy in a world where mental illness doesn’t exist. But, unfortunately, we live in a world where it does, and depression and anxiety sometimes does all it can to obscure our vision of the good. But, again, from my experience, that doesn’t mean that the good isn’t there, and that doesn’t mean that you can’t train yourself, try, to see it. All you need is time, patience, and practice: just keep looking for it, even when it seems impossible.

And, of course, you aren’t always going to see it, even if you don’t deal with mental illness. Sometimes the pain is still too fresh, too raw. Sometimes the good is hard to find, or far away, waiting to be discovered at another time. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t try to look for it.

Finding the good won’t magically turn the situation good, either. I’m not trying to say that we will consistently have ‘good luck’ throughout the rest of our lives if we do this. All that I’m saying is that we won’t consistently have ‘bad luck’; we’ll just be. Sometimes, things will hurt, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t grow from it and that doesn’t mean that all of our lives are pain. Sometimes, bad things happen, but that doesn’t mean that we are unlucky or that only bad things ever happen to us. That’s just the way that life is; messy and complicated, but not awful. Not so long as we train ourselves to see the brighter sides that do, most certainly, exist.