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.

 

What I Am Going to Be

I have a picture in my head of what I’m going to be.

I’m going to be big. Not too big – I’m not going to be talked about hundreds of years from now like Shakespeare or anything. I’m not going to last long enough for people to start arguing about whether or not I actually existed. But still, there will be people who will know my name, people who I haven’t met before. That would be enough for me.

I’m going to be stable, and I’m going to land my dream job, and I’m going to be satisfied with it. I’m not going to go home after a long day at work and feel like nothing I did mattered, or like it was all just a big waste of time. No, I’m going to change people’s lives. I’m going to make a difference in this world.

I’m going to be happy. I don’t entirely know how yet, but when I look into my future, I see it. I see me, fifty years old, smiling and serene and satisfied with my lot, proud of my past self for not giving up. I’m going to have a system of support around me – friends, colleagues, a partner maybe (if I get really crazy with the happiness).

In short, I’m going to be okay. I see it. I feel it there, just there, just beyond my reach, and if I just keep trying, just keep reaching for what I want, I know I can get there, I can, it’s just…

It’s hard.

It’s hard to remain convinced that what I see is real, it’s achievable. I can get everything I want if I just keep trying. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to spend all my life trying and trying and trying, and it’s never enough, no matter what I do, because regardless of persistence or resilience or talent, I just wasn’t born in the right place, to the right family, knowing the right people. That would never happen.

Right?

But at the end of the day, do my doubts even matter? Because, hell, maybe my doubts are correct. Maybe my vision of the future is a lie that I tell myself to make these meaningless work days go by a little bit faster, these constant rejections feel a little less final. But either way, I think I need to live as though this vision of the future is real. I need to pretend that I can be big and stable and happy, so long as I just keep trying. Because at the end of the day, I know that I can’t give up now. If I give up, then that vision of the future is guaranteed to be a lie. If I keep trying, then how can I know for sure?

So I’ll keep trying. And I’ll keep telling myself that that picture in my head is what I am going to be. Because that’s what I want. More than anything in this world, that is what I want.