Let me be the first to say that I believe heart and soul in the power of perseverance. I busted my tail through several college degrees, always studying hard to get the most out of the experience. I worked for a start-up company where long hours and imminent deadlines were the norm. I powered through those days, learning a ton in the process. Now with a 1-year-old child, I’ve had all the stereotypical experiences that define new motherhood: sleepless nights and constant worry. These experiences have helped define me and I would not trade them for the world.
That being said, they are not the only things that have defined me.
I used to believe that anything worth doing involved struggle. That you had to put forth 110% of yourself and push, push, push or you weren’t trying hard enough. I came to this conclusion partially because so many good things in life have come to me by hard work.
The idea that good things involved struggle extended to my first marriage. We started dating during college and married in our 20s. We floundered as a couple on many levels: how we communicated with each other, our goals in life, the way we dealt with conflict. I saw this struggle as yet another challenge, something to overcome on the obstacle course of life.
Unfortunately, the longer the struggle went on, the more miserable I became. I threw everything I had at that relationship to the point of ridiculousness and overcompensation. After trying so hard for several years, I changed. I lost interest in things I used to love. I didn’t care about things that used to mean a lot to me. I didn’t like who I was. I remember thinking that if things continued, I’d look back at my life full of regret, but I told myself it was all part of the struggle. That eventually through perseverance things would get better.
In the end, struggle didn’t save our marriage. Newly single, I braced myself for more hardship. Either I would be alone for good – something I dreaded – or I would find myself back in a similar relationship defined by conflicts with no resolution. In my mind, the divorce confirmed the fact that life centered on struggle.
Then I met my current husband. His philosophy that love is a choice not only changed my perspective, but also changed my reality. With him, I do not struggle. We feed off each other in a harmonious way, building a relationship that is 10 times stronger than either of us left to our own devices. At first, I held my breath and waited for conflict to define our relationship. It never has, not even with the life-changing introduction of a baby girl.
My husband made me realize that many good things in my life don’t involve struggle. I have many fantastic friends who have always been there for me. I enjoy spending time with distant family, even if all we do is chat and eat whenever we get together. I cherish the moments I can go for a long run and meditate. I enjoy good health. I get involved in causes that mean something to me. Looking at this list of great things, I feel at once silly that I took these for granted and relieved that I don’t have to constantly struggle for life to be great.
So first, know that I respect the power of working hard to get what you want. I still try to put forth my best effort in all I do. But I also know that it’s okay to relax and enjoy the moment. That sometimes the best things in life come from a lack of conflict that makes us feel at peace with ourselves.
Photo by Angelo González