When did struggle become a dirty word? It seems people are afraid to say they had to work hard for something, or that there were obstacles. Everyone is always competing for best and prancing around like some proud peacock. “I barely had to do homework and got 4.3 GPA.” “I don’t even have to work out to look this good.” “Everything in life just comes naturally to me.” [Insert condescending laugh here.]
But why is any of that something to brag about? And why do people think they can talk big and not have the world see right through it? What’s wrong with things not coming naturally? What’s wrong with falling? I would think the person who falls and picks themselves up only to finally succeed is the bigger person.
I admit my faults (and I have many!). I am terrible in math and had to have a tutor in high school to help me through Algebra II and Pre-calc. He barely hung in there through physics though. I played softball throughout my childhood and sucked at running, so I learned to hit the ball far, or to do a mean bunt, so I had a smidgeon of a chance to make it to first base. I took the LSAT twice to get a good enough score to make it into the law school where I really wanted to go. In that same vein, I took the bar twice. I’m not ashamed at that. I’m proud of myself for not completely falling apart when I didn’t pass the first time (despite almost every single one of my friends passing) and studying hard enough to make it through the second.
I feel like not admitting struggle or failure or hardship makes those experiences seem dirty. And that in turn, makes it harder on other people who aren’t perfect. They feel even worse about themselves if they screw up.
You may be wondering what brought along this rant. I’m just tired of looking to people for inspiration and them trying to pass everything off as easy. I watched a Youtube video of a girl folding up her wheelchair to put into her car so I could learn how to do it. She claims it was the first time and she glided right to her car, bing bang boom, put it away smoothly in 1 minute. The first time I tried, I ended up a sweaty, tire-marked, crying mess because it was frustratingly difficult. Now that I’ve been doing it for several weeks, I’ve gotten the hang of it, though I usually still end up sweaty and tire-marked. Those things seem unavoidable. But, I felt like I wasn’t good enough because I couldn’t do it as easily as her. And after my own experience, I question whether that really was her first time. If it was, kudos for her. But why phrase things that make other people feel bad if they can’t do it as well?
The one that really irks me is Amy Van Dyken-Rouen. I keep seeing interview with her where she claims that she’s not really had any mental breakdowns because she is just so happy to be alive. If that is true, then I am 100% genuinely happy for her. But, I 100% genuinely do not believe her. Being in a wheelchair sucks. Having your mobility taken away from you sucks. Learning how to function in a world meant for people on two legs sucks. Is it all bad? Of course not! But to not admit that it sucks is a bold faced lie!
I think that I am a pretty positive person. I think that I am able to look at situations and find the good in them, generally speaking. But to say that having your world ripped away and completely changed in a matter of moments is not hard just doesn’t seem believable. And pretending otherwise does a disservice to people who do struggle. When I was in the hospital, after spending a week in ICU, the psychiatrists came in and wanted to give me anti-depressants. It was normal for them for people to freak out. In fact, I think they were worried because I wasn’t depressed. (I tried to explain the difference between suckyness and depression, but all they ever responded with was “Pill?”) What worked for me was having the most amazing priest in the history of priests come by my room several times a week to let me just vent and cry. And then I would be ok and return back to physical therapy and my attempts at positivity.
When I got home from the hospital, adjusting to daily life was hard. Having to rely on care takers to get me places was hard. Having to rely on the hubs to help me shower or go out in public after he had a long day at work was hard. I felt like such a burden. And that is difficult for an independent person. That’s difficult for any kind of person. But I worked through it. Now that I have my independence back, I struggle with my wheelchair. And I still struggle through PT. And I still struggle with simple things like putting my pants on. A few weeks ago I fell to the floor in a public restroom while trying to transfer from the toilet to the chair. That was tough. (And so incredibly disgusting!!!! I’m still washing my hands just thinking about it!)
This isn’t a pity party. This is just meant to show that life isn’t easy. Life is full of struggles. And when people try to play it off like it’s easy for them, it makes the rest of us feel bad. That’s what creates depression. There’s no shame in admitting that things are hard. There’s no shame in saying “Yeah, that sucked, but I’m getting through it!” Maybe being truthful makes the better person.