You can’t get through life without running into the hard and the mean. The hard and the mean; the selfish and the thoughtless; the tragic and the petty; the tough and the deceptive. They all lurk around our lives, hanging on with tenacity until we beat them back.
The fact of the matter is, the vast majority of the people in my life are tough because they’ve had to be. They have fought battle after battle—usually when they had no other choice except to get through as best as they could. I know there are people who give up and give in, and that is its own tragedy—believing they’ve somehow been kicked harder than anyone else, believing that life is only unfair to them.
The odd thing is, I don’t think we recognize the tough within ourselves. I know I don’t. I am a soft person, an emotional woman with a tender heart. If I have to fight for something, I know how I feel inside, the dread of taking a stand. But, I do it. I may be soft, but I won’t give in when I know which path I have to walk.
There is so much, within ourselves, that we just don’t see. We define ourselves by the most obvious: our careers or the adventures we’ve taken or our relationships. We don’t spend time understanding that we have an infinite supply of attributes and qualities that have been honed and shaped by years and experience. We are infinitely complex creatures—and capable of so much more than what we see in ourselves.
A friend of mine recently retired and is struggling to understand if he still has value in the world—if he is worthy of love. If he is not applying his impressive intellect to a complex issue, if he is not assisting businesses with overwhelming strategic challenges—then who is he? Where does he fit in?
Yet, I look at Roger and see nothing but infinite possibilities within him and within this new life stage opening in front of him. Yes, he has an incredible, flexible mind that sees layers when the rest of us see one-dimensionality. There are so many ways for that wonderful mind to continue to discover the new, in vistas he has not yet explored. But he also has a depth of character seasoned and scarred by years of the good and the fair, the hard and the mean.
It is incredibly scary to start a new season in life, whether that is graduating from school and seeing the baton passed to you, or entering a committed lifelong relationship or navigating a career. Or, in Roger’s case, setting that aside and finding a wealth of time to discover the patina he’s acquired, and how to use those gifts in ways he’s not yet imagined.
There is comfort in a career, comfort in being able to so easily define ourselves. It is comforting to have structure, to understand the pattern of the days and weeks and months ahead, to have an expectation of what they all might look like.
Walking my path to health was a path of self-discovery, a time when I could finally understand and appreciate all that makes me the person I am. And yet, it started when my career unexpectedly ended and I was filled with deep grief and insecurity. Each fragile first step was fraught with a quagmire of emotions, but I did this because I knew I had to. And, the further I went, the more I did, I realized that no one had underestimated me as much as I underestimated myself. I found my infinity.
Seeing and believing in your own capacity, the richness of who you are, the infinity of you—makes the infinite possibilities in your life ahead rich with promise instead of a frightening landscape of unknowns. You start with your own being, your own worth, and then find the path that looms the brightest.