“There is no normal life that is free of pain. It’s the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth.”
It’s hard to believe that the year is already half over. We crossed the half-way point in June, and as we turn the corner into the later part of the year, I once again come to terms with the realization that the year is not new anymore, and that life continues on as it always has, hurried and unavoidable.
When the year seems new, the canvas of my life seems fresh and untainted. I am unburdened; blissfully oblivious of how quickly time flies. I set goals and intentions for how I’ll live and how I’ll grow. I resolve to be better. The weight of the last year lifts for a moment, and I feel as though I can do anything.
Then I realize I still work, have responsibilities, and even baggage. Even my most low-key resolution – writing more letters to people I care about – is exhausting; I don’t want to keep sharing my worries with friends who seem to have it together. I tell myself I don’t have time to hand write letters- I’m just too busy. In short, I am sick of “trying.”
Some of you may be valiantly keeping all the promises you secretly made to yourself at the beginning of this year. Maybe you’ve eaten clean most days, or you’ve begun speaking to your mom again; perhaps you’ve given up smoking. But others, like me, are losing the determination to stick to our guns as hot July days tick by, thick with lazy summer vibes, and humidity. Our resolutions are quickly forgotten in the chaos of a monotonous 40-hour workweek, a bad case of strep throat, vacation plans, or the death of a loved one. Our best intentions are slowly getting beset by daily life.
To the people who feel like this year has already gotten out of control, who once again feel stagnant in their quest for a better self, who feel overwhelmed, who realize the brevity of the days, I’ve got a heavy but hopeful message: Mistakes and steps backward can be a necessary part of the journey, and change does not happen all at once.
In his book, Warrior of the Light, the author Paulo Coelho writes,
“He [the Warrior] often finds himself faced by the same problems and situations, and seeing these difficult situations return, he grows depressed, thinking he is incapable of making any progress in life.
‘I’ve been through all this before,’ he says to his heart.
‘Yes, you have been through all this before,’ replies his heart. ‘but you have never been beyond it.’
Then he [the Warrior] realizes that these repeated experiences have but one aim: to teach him what he does not want to learn.”
It makes sense that the majority of people don’t want to learn hard things through trial and error; it leads to disappointment and frustration. We desperately want for life to be normal or easy, for good things to magically happen to us. We are a reactionary species, and most recently a society which values instant gratification. Rare is the person who pursues gradual challenges or change.
To assume I will still have friends, if I never reach out and put in the effort to connect, is leaving a lot to chance. Most likely the results won’t be good. If I want to love my friends well, I better choose to be a more intentional friend by reaching out to them in tangible ways, every single day. Yet, because this change of self doesn’t happen overnight, I end up feeling like a garbage friend when I realize I haven’t touched base with certain people in over a month. Am I wasting my days? Why can’t I seem to get it together?
The “day-to-day” is messy, agonizing, and just down-right tiring. We are constantly faced with challenges and often don’t do what is ultimately best for us. We mess up. This is when those feelings of inadequacy start to creep in. We beat ourselves up for not being better than we are. But guys listen up: Personal growth has no timeline; there is no deadline to meet.
I believe that in the telling of my greater life story, misadventures lead to deeper self-awareness, clarity regarding our personal priorities, and give hopeful hints in answering some tough questions. What do I prioritize? What led to the failure I experienced? These rough times lead to the change I so desperately seek at the beginning of every year. The daily challenges are what make up a life that is consistently striving “for more.”
More purpose. More. Adventure. More growth.
In writing this, I hope to not only myself, but others too. While embarking on a mission towards a better self is risky, to never take the first steps because it will “take too much time or effort, would be denying ones’ self of the incredible opportunity to make the kind of change that instills itself in the soul and holds on forever. By wrestling with my tendency to give up making the effort to connect, I am building stronger will that can translate to other areas of my life. I may not always want to be vulnerable with people when writing to them, and maybe I’ll chose happy hour over writing a letter, but at least I am trying. Only by trying, even if there is a possibility for failure, can we grow steadfast in our intentions.
Do not think of this year as a sprint towards a better you, think of it as one leg in the long marathon towards a more fulfilling story for your life.
We all learn at different paces and through different methods, so as we head into the latter part of this year, simply resolve to grow. Don’t give up this year as a lost cause. Set intentions and fail, knowing that one day you will not make the same mistakes and the goals, which once seem so unreachable, will come into view. I want to own and create a magical and empowered personal story for myself, one “letter to a friend” at a time, and so I will press on toward greater intimacy with those I most love, with the hope that this task that seems so challenging now, will one day be a concrete part of my ever evolving story.
“…we find ourselves trying to remember the good times and trying to forget the bad times, and we find ourselves thinking about the future. We start to worry, thinking “What am I gonna do?”, “Where am I gonna be in ten years?” ….. in the end none of us have very long on this earth – life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night, and when a shooting star streaks through the blackness turning night into day, make a wish…Make your life spectacular.”