persistence

(noun)

: the quality that allows someone to continue doing something or trying to do something even though it is difficult or opposed by other people

: the state of occurring or existing beyond the usual, expected, or normal time

At work, a friend asked if I would tell my story of persistence for a social media campaign for recent alumni. He said, It is always helpful for young people to see in their role models evidence that none of the many paths to success are perfectly straight or flat.

Do I persist? Am I a role model?

Recently, someone (who didn’t know that I had attended Smith) worried aloud that because a young women we both knew had attended a women’s college, her mindset was “the whole world is out to get me.” As if that was all her education had amounted to. I didn’t believe it, not for a moment. It stung. Still. Without claiming that the whole world is out to get me, I think my education and life experience has taught me that a genuine thriving existence does not come without bravery. That if we seek a spiritually good life, there will be people and cultural expectations that stand in our way.

DO I persist? Have I persisted? What lessons to I have to share? I think maybe just platitudes that are true enough but will become truer when I’m older.

Last week when I was driving someone else’s car through the foothills of Denali, I tried to buy a cup of soup from a grocery store but my credit card was not approved. Before I could protest, the man behind the counter bought it with his own money.

And yesterday, aware that I had exactly the right amount of money in my bank account to pay my rent but no more, I found it peaceful to pass all the taco stands and coffee shops and thrift stores and beauty salons because I couldn’t go in. I was only walking; I didn’t have the money to do anything but walk and hum and it was nice because I am lucky enough to have enough to eat and persist.

And everyday when I go online to read the kind of beautifully crafted essays and stories I sometimes fear I’ll never be good enough to write myself, I get lost in the writing, and forget how far I have to go. That’s what good writing does — it gives you no space for envy. I can find magic/hope/reason for persistence in good writing.

And last week my sister and some friends bought plane tickets to see me at the very moment I was thinking how much I needed them and how many people have helped me get to where I am.

For me, persistence means becoming vulnerable to other people’s kindness. It means noting that silver lining is most visible in the dark, and there is always inspiration to be found. Persistence means acknowledging what you do have, and coming to terms with that real human paradox of being so alone but also so not. As in, you can’t persist without other people, but mostly you’ll find persistence in yourself and what you have and what you know and what you care about.

And truly I’ve gone through a portion of my life not caring as much as I should. I’ve felt alone and I’ve felt stupid and I’ve felt unloveable and I’ve felt cowardly and I’ve worried that somewhere deep down I’m a bad person. I think persistence is feeling all that and also loving anyway, recognizing that bravery comes in so many forms, and trying everyday to find goodness in yourself, and in the people you love, and in the people you don’t.

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