When the end of a year draws near, it’s inevitable to reflect on what has passed. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that this year has been challenging and dramatic. Global events alone- the passing of legends Bowie and Prince, Brexit, Trump, Syria- have been enough to leave the world in various states of despair. On a personal level, I faced several challenges including changing jobs and a home move which involved adapting from my beloved inner city lifestyle to the family centred suburbs. I developed adult asthma, and one of the biggest kick in the guts, my loyal cat, Onyx passed away.
After sharing some of my challenging experiences with a kind friend, she told me I must be a very strong person. This lead me to think about how I handle adversity. When I was in my early teens my parent’s business closed in the economic recession and for a few years, my family struggled financially. We lost and gave up possessions, school books couldn’t be purchased, and activities most kids take for granted, like shopping for clothes were unaffordable luxuries. In my twenties, I came down with chronic fatigue, which stole both health and years from me at a time when most of my friends were carefree and enjoying life. In my thirties, the break-up of my long-term relationship was a painful crossroad. At my lowest point, I would look in the mirror and see my face aging from stress and heartbreak. These experiences have marked difficult moments in my life when I have had to take a deep breath and start again.
My friend was right, I am strong but I didn’t start that way. My strength has been learned and developed over time. Overcoming adversity requires a series of small steps. The first step is a choice to lie down or stand up. Lying down seems an easier option but in the end, it may break your spirit. Stand up and the path won’t be easy but you can continue to step forward. My choice has always been to stand up and persevere. This comes partly from dogged determination, and also my gut instinct telling me that if I lie down I may never get back up again.
The benefit of perspective also helps. On my way into work, I sometimes stop at my local Seven Eleven store for a coffee. It’s not the best brew around, but it’s cheap and on an early morning it does the job. As soon as I walk through the door, the attendant greets me with a smile and a loud “Good morning”. I’ve seen him greet most of his customers in the same upbeat manner, and locals seem to like coming in for a casual conversation with their espresso. The other day I told him that I was a little stressed. His advice, “Why worry? If the outcome is the worst, then it is already happening and there is nothing you can do about it. There is no point in worrying.” Almost immediately I felt my tension subside.
Adversity is a part of life but it’s how we deal with adversity and the lessons we take from the experience that really matters. Having gone without in my teens made me less materialistic and appreciative of what I do have. My chronic condition forced me to prioritise my health and I now take the time to look after myself. My relationship break-up showed me that I can not only survive it but still go on to find happiness and contentment in life. Adversity has acted as a catalyst for me to realise my true inner strength and develop resilience against setbacks and disappointments. This year has been challenging but I am still here moving forward with each step. And if God forbid, next year is just as tumultuous, I know I will be okay.