A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about feeling helpless about our debt situation. Things certainly haven’t really panned out the way I had planned them two years ago when I was just starting my final semester in college. We’ve been constantly plagued by medical bills we can’t pay, and I’ve been left wanting when it comes to the usefulness of my college degree in helping me secure a solid job.
But honestly, I think the struggles have made us more resilient. Don’t get me wrong, it sucks. No one wants to deal with financial problems, especially when there’s a baby on the way. And at this point, we’re still in the thick of it with no end in sight (just added another $1,300 in medical bills! YAY!). But when all is said and done, all this adversity can beat us down, or we can use it to become stronger.
Shaking Off the Victim Stance
The only way that adversity came make you stronger is if you make it that way. Otherwise it can turn you into a “victim.” For the first 6 months after I graduated, I threw myself a pity party just about every day–excuses and sad faces and everything. I spent most of my time playing video games and reading. I was still applying for jobs and networking, but I generally felt helpless about the situation I found myself in, and started to second-guess whether or not I had the skills to thrive in a corporate finance job anyway. It took me months to finally become fed up with feeling like a victim. At that I decided to take that part of control that belongs to each of us and took a leap of faith.
I started this blog.
I had absolutely no writing experience before last August. I didn’t know the first thing about running a website, dealing with code or plugins or themes, or monetizing. But I knew the gods of money weren’t going to start making it rain on their own anytime soon. I was passionate about personal finance and I saw other people make money doing it. If I wanted success, I had to create it. Over the ensuing year, my blog turned into a platform to launch my freelancing business and I’ve been able to earn over $13,000 in my first year.
Looking back, I’m grateful I decided to take that leap. It was scary and vulnerable to put myself out there in a place I had never been before. Who the heck would want to read my stuff? But now, since I still don’t make enough from my day job to cover all our monthly expenses, I don’t even want to think about how crappy our situation would be. On the flip side, I also wonder where we’d be now if I had decided to be desperate enough 6 months earlier.
Ditching the Comfort of My Car
Another aspect of building resiliency and strength is when you seek out adversity and resistance rather than waiting for it to come your way. Recently, I’ve taken advantage of the close proximity of my job by riding my bike to work instead of driving. As you can imagine, even a casual 3.5-mile ride in 100-degree Texas heat isn’t something to look forward to. Add to that the seemingly constant southerly wind, and you’ve got yourself a workout. With my legs burning and my lungs exploding, sometimes I wanted to just collapse on the side of the road. It didn’t help that I’m
mildly mucho out of shape, an inevitable side effect of shying away from adversity.
But when I would finally make it home, I was always happy with my choice to bike. Because I didn’t just overcome the wind and the heat, I overcame myself. And as much as I wanted to give up, the very thought was an invitation for me to allow weakness to win.
Right now, I’ve replaced the biking with training for a 5k, but the same principle applies. I sometimes dread my morning runs, but I never regret it after I’m done.
It’s Nice and Cool in the Shade
Even in difficult times, it’s easy to just coast. “I’ll try harder tomorrow. But for today, I’m just going to throw a one-man Batman movie marathon and eat a whole pizza and a side of jalapeño cheese bread.” (I may or may not have done that recently. It was carbolicious).
But really, it’s nice to hang out in the shade, isn’t it? Take a break from hard things. It would be awesome if we could all just veg there for days. Just act like there’s nothing wrong. The coolness is refreshing, but if you stay long enough, it can numb you to the reality that it’s still hot outside. And the longer you stay, the more unbearable that heat is when you try to go back out.
It’s not always easy for me to consistently get up every morning at 5:00 a.m. to write. I miss reading on my lunch breaks. I want to have a job that pays me enough so my freelancing is just icing on the cake rather than the eggs holding it all together. Sometimes, it feels like I’m constantly out working in the sun without any relief. It’s good to take a breather in the shade now and then, but if you stay too long, it’s only going to get harder to function properly once you’re back out there.
Adversity and Success
It’s foolish for any of us to think that we can attain lasting success without a heavy dose of adversity. And for the most part, adversity is no respecter of persons. It comes in different shapes and sizes, almost perfectly tailored to help us to turn our individual weaknesses into strengths. The trick in making that transformation is in how we view the different trials and tribulations that we’re confronted with in our lives. If we view them as the enemy, it shouldn’t surprise us if we flounder in mediocrity.
On the other hand, if we welcome adversity like an old friend who challenges us to become our best selves, you can almost hear success whispering, “Any friend of adversity is a friend of mine.”
How has your adversity changed you for the better? How do adversity and success tie together for you?