One of the defining moments in my life was when I realized, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” In October of my final year of high school, a number of us caught mononucleosis from a schoolmate at a party. I went down for the count. From October through to February, I didn’t attend a single class. Until then, just copying out a few notes tired me out so much, I had to nap for 3 hours to recuperate. Just having the lights on exhausted me. Never had any illness slain me this way. Finally, sometime in March, I started to struggle back to school on a very part-time basis and tried to keep up. One teacher would not cut my any slack, and I had to have his assignments in on time and write his tests along with my classmates. For the rest of my classes, I was about 2 weeks behind my deadlines. It suddenly dawned on me that I might not complete my year, that I may have to repeat this last year all over again. The rest of my friends would go onto university without me, and I’d be stuck in high school one more year.
For the first time of my life, I was motivated. For some reason, this struck fear into my heart. Perhaps the fact that over the years, my father, in frustration and running out of inspiration about how to motivate me to study and complete what projects I had started, would ask, “do you want to fail a year and see your friends pass you by?” Nothing before had lit a fire under me the way this situation did. I had cruised through all my schooling with sporadic, undisciplined stabs at studying; I had treated figure skating tests and competitions as playtime, not the least bit concerned about whether I succeeded; I had goofed off instead of practicing piano and working towards my music exams. All in all, I had led a pretty laid back life, unconcerned about which direction I was drifting. I was not the image of a winner.
Suddenly, I did a 180 degree turn. ON A DIME. Despite my fatigue, I stayed up night after night, working through the wee hours to get through my studies, to catch up, to pass. I’m not sure whether it was part of the process of healing or the long hours that made me even sicker. I hung on. It was agonizing. I wasn’t sure whether the fatigue from the mono or from my new self-imposed schedule was worse. All I saw was a looming deadline and not enough time or energy to absorb my work and churn out the necessary tests or essays. My boyfriend didn’t quite understand: at first I had been too sick to see him at all and now I was too crazed to spend any time with him. I was determined to make it through to graduation. And I did. After having missed over 50% of my classes, I went from cruising along with an unremarkable 60% average to graduating with straight A’s and zooming into university. I did better than most of my fellow students who had attended class the entire year.
This was an epiphany in my life, on many levels. The first is: don’t quit. Don’t ever give up. When you think you cannot make it to the end of the marathon, squelch that thought and keep going. Focus on nothing more than putting one foot in front of the other. The second is: your past performance is not a death sentence. Begin where you are and work steadily at your goal. And the third lesson is: you will fall down in life. When you do, pick yourself up and continue. Everyone fails somewhere, somehow. Look at Edison: he tried 1000’s of ways to make the light bulb. If he had given up after one attempt, or even 500, it would have been a lot longer before the modern era had artificial light. Look at Abraham Lincoln: he was born into humble circumstances and he had to struggle for many years to earn a living and to learn to read, write and do basic math. Yet, he was determined to surpass these obstacles. Not only did he become President of the United States, he is considered a founding father of the US, and his image is on their legal tender.
Just like in boxing, stumbling or falling down is not failure. Staying down is. It’s your persistence, your constant and determined effort that breaks down hurdles and leads to success.
When the world says, "Give up,"
Hope whispers, "Try it one more time."
Consider the postage stamp:
its usefulness consists in the ability
to stick to one thing till it gets there.
Nobody trips over mountains. It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble. Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain.
When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.
~Franklin D. Roosevelt
The greatest oak was once a little nut who held its ground.
He conquers who endures.