One year ago, give or take a week, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Cancer had her in a chokehold and pain slithered by her side and every single night she could hear it whisper “Mine.” I watched her suffer for months as she had literal burn marks from the radiation on her chest; I saw the true epitome of pain through her. I endured hours of lectures what to do in the case of her death, how to pay the bills, how to handle her will, and how to handle life insurance. There was no time to dawdle in self-pity and all I could do was to just keep moving on. Perseverance is usually looked at as having a certain nobility in the act of moving forward in difficult times, so you’d think that this word would only be reserved to reward heroes in storybooks. Think Odysseus as one prodigious example. Supposedly, one can only persevere if they have enough strength to do so. Surely a lowly human being like myself could never attempt that feat! That’s obviously how I was able to swallow the fact that billions of cancer cells were consuming my mother. The complete definition of perseverance is “a steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.” Another way perseverance is described is “continuance in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation”. However, I think that’s complete crap. Perseverance isn’t a mixture of poetic words romanticizing struggles with good outcomes. Perseverance is definitely not just being some fairytale hero or whatnot. Perseverance is getting over whatever you think sucks about your life and moving the frick on with it.
Perseverance, again, is simply the act of having the drive inside yourself to leave the past behind and to keep breathing. Because once you let go of that drive, that passion, that fire for not merely surviving, but living is when you have fully given up. Philip Chow, high school teacher and motivational speaker extraordinaire, is one phenomenal example of the concept of passion. He grew up as a somewhat typical teenager, maybe with a bit more money than others, but typical enough. Frighteningly, that all changed in 2007. You see, when recessions hit, they hit hard. Much like a stab in the heart or a kick to the balls, that once happy teenager’s stable life took a turn for the painful. Whacking his parents’ bank account to shreds, they were forced to move back to China, but that young man’s future still stayed in the United States. That young man suffered homelessness, starvation, and humiliation. Mr. Chow lost his full ride scholarship to UCI for not being able to reach the requirements from not sleeping or eating. Pretty horrible, am I right? Woe is all he knew. But wait, what about perseverance? Ah, yes, that lovely term. He did not lose his drive. He did not lose his passion. And most of all, he definitely did not lose his fire. He is alive. He is alive and living and breathing and creating visions for young adults all around. And why is that? Oh, I know! Because he was able to mature like a normal adult and move on with his life. That’s right. He could have just put his life in a Dumpster and watch it rot away for years, but no, that is not what he did. What he did was work incredibly hard for years during college to manage to get where he is now. He has used his past tribulations as a trampoline—in other words, he put them under his feet and bounced off of them to jump to his success. Now as a happily married biology teacher inspiring young adults with his past, he managed to find utter and complete bliss in the world by creating his own happiness through achieving his own success.
Perseverance really is not simply moving on without any pain. The concept of perseverance is the perpetual desire to keep pushing forward. That doesn’t mean pushing forward goes without pain. Imagine pulling a wagon full of watermelons up a steep hill. And yes, I apologize that this is an example of pulling forward instead of pushing, but it’s what best get the point across. Anyways, when you pull those watermelons up the hill, no one can say that it doesn’t hurt. Not one normal human being wouldn’t say they’re struggling while accomplishing that huge feat; however, if one must do that, one would be persevering through that trial. Now replace those watermelons with other concepts such as divorce, the loss of a loved one, or being robbed. All of these experiences summon several blinding amounts of pain into your life. Anyone experiencing these things would agree with the statement that it hurts about as much as giving birth without the anesthetic. In regards to this realization, it’s very pertinent that it’s okay to roughhouse life while persevering. It’s okay to complain and it’s okay to have heartache. Point being is that struggling is part of perseverance, but it’s the end goal that matters. How can you persevere through something that doesn’t hurt you? There can be no joy without sorrow and no sorrow without joy. One will never know the beauty and freeing ability of pure euphoria without being pulled into the dark and suffocating pits of complete and utter anguish. If one “persevered” by not feeling any emotions and by just staying alive, how is that moving on through trials and adversity? Persevering is ultimately accepting your own struggles, wrestling around with it, and fighting for a while until you come out of the ring alive. Perseverance is painful and perseverance is rough, but it’s not always just about being tough and having enough strength to shoulder through life. It’s also about accepting your own fate, and then merely elbowing through life as that is much more effective.
To put it bluntly, perseverance is like burning in hell, then coming back out and saying, “Oh yeah, I’m fine.” Why? Because perseverance is the act of moving forward without any regrets and without looking back. It’s quite the painful process when in the act of persevering, hence the burning in hell. Also, it’s quite prevalent as to why persevering is difficult when you’re homeless without any help and without any idea what to even do. Without sugarcoating it, perseverance drains you quite a lot. No one needs the pretty flowery quotes saying, “It gets better” or “Live strong”. People are allowed to struggle and people are allowed to feel the intense heat of trying to live a life. But, even though persevering is quite the mind-boggling fight, after you carry on with your life, you will walk with a thicker skin that has grown over the gaping hole in your chest. After all, what’s burning in hell without the fire?