When I was in graduate school, my thesis--a memoir about my divorce--earned distinction. It was an awesome award, but when I turned it in, I wasn't hoping for anything like that. I was simply terrified. Writing that book was the hardest thing I'd ever done. In it, I admitted that I didn't want to be married. I shared all of my bad choices during the divorce. And I wrote about my deepest, most intimate fears, thoughts, feelings, and desires. By the time I got published in the Wall Street Journal, I had almost given up on freelancing. I'd grown tired of rejection (or worse, never hearing back). The system felt rigged, and I didn't understand how I could have a graduate degree in writing and still struggle with "making it work". I pitched four ideas before the editor said yes, and when I wrote the article, the editor had a lot of edits. Like, a lot.
When I decided to become a writing coach--something I knew to be a calling--I struggled for over a year to simply get started. I'd made plans and outlines and it all made sense on paper. But when it came to finding and connecting with writers in the wide, vast world of the Internet... Holy. Cow. One more thing that brought me to my knees before I figured it out.
But here's the thing. With every struggle, I did figure things out. I worked through my fear. I learned to share vulnerable stories and connected truly connected with readers as a result. I learned to shape story ideas for magazines and saw myself in print. And I learned that no wasn't a rejection of me, it was a reflection of fit.
I used to think that if I was really strong, or really smart, or somehow better than I was, I could bypass the struggle. Now I know that I don't want to.
Strength and courage don't spare us from struggle. They grow from struggle. Hope, too. Hope, I recently learned, is not an emotion or some form of wishful thinking. It's a cognitive response to struggle. To realizing that we can meet challenges and rise above them.
It seems fitting to remember that as we enter this season of gratitude. It's easy to give thanks for the good in life. But this year, I am also grateful for the challenging parts that shaped me.
Your struggles are not weakness. They are a sign that you have said yes to a life of possibility. You have paid attention to the desires in your heart and gone after them. There is strength and courage in that.