Tuesday, March 28, 2017

resilience: or, embracing the struggle

I have been thinking recently about the passing of Patrick's friend and former co-worker, Jim Horan. Jim was one of those people I am always attracted to. He took long walks in the wilderness only to plop down on a break to read Virgil. He played guitar and wrote letters. He sang and laughed and spouted wisdom every day. His daughter recounted an anecdote: One day in class an athlete was gooofing off. He stopped class, "scholar athlete or dumb jock? Choose now. It will effect the rest of your life." This is the kind of person Jim was. Making everyone better, but by their own choosing. Scores of students recounted stories in the wake of his passing, with a theme emerging: he always implored students to 'embrace the struggle.'

These words have been ringing in my ears for weeks. Here we are, in a foreign country, knowing nothing of the culture and customs, attempting to start a new life. It sucks sometimes. We can't communicate at times, even though we know the language. Everything here is different. People here live with the doors open and bugs fly in. Everything is jimmy-rigged. It's a DIY kind of country. But, in Jim's words, I am embracing the struggle.

Why? Why do this? Why not just go back to a place I know that's comfortable and clean and nice? Well, because I value resilience. And if you saw my post recently about this topic, you'd know that these little annoyances are likely necessary steps in embracing resilience.

Well, what is resilience really? The ability to bounce back? To deal? To just roll over and allow bad things to happen? I try to model my conception of resilience off the idea of ecological resilience: " the capacity of an ecosystem to respond to a perturbation or disturbance by resisting damage and recovering quickly."

The disturbance is this new country. But not just that, it's bugs and weather and new things. It's the struggle. And resilience is resisting damage in the face of struggle and recovering from it. It is embracing the struggle. Not being a victim of circumstance but a survivor of it. Empowered by it even. I know this intuitively from learning Spanish. Each time I feel uncomfortable, I get better. I grow in ability, simply by putting myself out there and failing a little, I become stronger, more capable, more resilient in language use.

So, I do it. I wake up and I deal. I survive. I grow. I embrace the struggle and I become resilient. 

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