It is a new year, and like everyone else, I consider my options for new beginnings.
LET’S BE HONEST, 2020 WAS A BUST. I for one am rather eager to leave it behind, and with it the infinite insecurities it introduced to my life. Typically, I avoid New Year resolutions as they often turn into six-week-old excuses. However, I saw a post online that really resonated with me.
Marriage is hard, Divorce is hard. Choose your hard. Obesity is hard. Being Fit is hard. Choose your hard. Being in debt is hard. Being financially disciplined is hard. Choose your hard. Communication is hard. Not communicating is hard. Choose your hard. Life will never be easy. It will always be hard. But we can pick our hard. Pick wisely. -Devon Brough
What I appreciate about this quote is the simplicity in which our power is implied. Within the challenges we face as individuals, partners, or parents, we are imbued with ownership for the way we participate in our own lives. Choose your hard. This is not meant to undermine external events that mark pivotal moments in our lives — loss of a loved one, an illness, or layoff, etc. — however there always remains the choice how we react to these events.
The common phrase in my household, “Life is only ten percent of what happens to you and ninety percent how you react to it.” — just now — bounces from my lips. I say this a lot when trying to help my kids explore their reactions and impulses. Never forgetting, being a kid is tough. As a child, you don’t get to dictate your own schedule, you are at the whim of a parent’s agenda and constantly at the mercy of tyrannical siblings.
Disappointment, frustration, and heartache happen to everyone, young and old, I remind them; how you choose to react is completely up to you. It doesn’t matter that you are a kid, you have the power to determine how to move forward.
At the close of a year which, for millions of people, was marked with unfathomable loss and hardship, it is a challenge for me to spew silver linings rhetoric. The events that will place 2020 in history books are not for the faint of heart: hundreds of thousands of Americans dead, millions out of work and without benefits, families divided, and children experiencing hunger as they fall further behind academically each day; this is a tough scenario — for some seemingly impossible.
Life is hard, but there is always the possibility to let the hardship lead to a place beyond the struggle. For many, the answer led to record-breaking attendance at the polls; for others, the answer has been advocacy and outreach programs. Americans are looking to participate in our lives once again.
Action versus Inaction
My life is a set of two lists. I accept the challenges in the first list, so I don’t have to struggle with the difficulty of the second list. Eating right, exercising, and self-care are all active choices in my first list that help me design a lifestyle I desire; they help me avoid the hardship of poor health and well-being in the second list.
My first lessons of choosing my hard were back in college. As a grossly unprepared 18-year-old freshman, I didn’t have a clue how to manage my finances. Each semester came crashing on top of me, threatening to bury me alive. I scrambled and down-right hustled to buy books and make rent. My cash flowed unpredictably as a breeze, but the stress was a violent alarming squall — keeping me ever worried that this will be my last month I could afford to stay at the university.
It wasn’t until I learned how to make and adhere to a monthly budget that I found my way out of the struggle. Every penny had a purpose. I chose to take action and find a path toward stability and my degree. The journey was desperate and tough at times, but having found a way out of the hardship shapes the image I have of myself today: a resilient and resourceful woman.
There are times in adulthood when the choice of action or inaction is no longer so simple. Relationships can challenge our long-formed habits and baggage: to teach an old dog new tricks often requires some soul searching. It’s within the construct of relationships that many people feel the most unsure of themselves. Somewhere along the way, we convince ourselves that love means sacrifice. We sacrifice for our careers, our families, and our partners in some shape or form. Foolishly, throughout the years we often find we give up too much.
It is not so much the inability to say “no” in relationships, but rather a lack of confidence in recognizing healthy boundaries that pose the most common challenge. I recognize similar self-doubt echoed in myself at times. I wonder where did we pick up this notion that something has to be lost when we are in a relationship?
There is an immediate implication of powerlessness — of being at the mercy of the relationship’s gender roles, timetables, and expectations — that is confounding. Choose your hard is a call to participate in your life on your terms. It enables us to actively engage in the path we choose for ourselves especially within our relationships at work and at home; to slough off the roles handed to us by others.
As we all look for new perspectives in 2021, this year I will consciously make the choice to run toward the hard I want in my life. To empower myself and design the lifestyle I desire. No excuses.