What if we all got everything we ever wanted? What if we breezed through life without obstacles? It would be nice. But let’s face it, that’s not the life many of us know, especially those of us who take risks. One thing is for sure: The struggle is and will always be real, whatever that so-called struggle may be.
For me, the struggle was moving to Los Angeles on a wing, a prayer, and a savings account that I would nearly deplete before breakthrough came. Did I expect adversity? Hell yes. But, did I expect reaching a breaking point? Eh, not so much. The good news is that the struggle will not last forever. For those of you needing encouragement, here are ten life-altering lessons I have learned from my struggle.
Everyone’s struggle is not the same. But everyone’s got one.
At times, I felt like the universe actually had a personal vendetta against me. As I grew and met more people who opened up to me, I realized that no one has a perfect life. But trust me, everyone struggles. Where you struggle financially, someone else is struggling emotionally. Just as everyone has a unique journey, your struggle is exclusive to you. I am not saying that you should find comfort in knowing that others are struggling too. It is simply a mere reminder for you to never feel less than due to your set of circumstances. There is also no need to feel like an outcast.
You have complete control over two things: your actions and your attitude.
It’s so easy to wallow in self-pity. It’s even easier to become cynical and/or pessimistic. It can be extremely difficult to remain positive when you feel like your life is in disarray. But the truth is, you have little to no control over your circumstances, but complete control over your reaction to them. Alter your attitude and adjust your actions to combat your environment. This is your only defense against the struggle. Lose the negative attitude, or things may never get better, and when they do, you won’t even notice or appreciate the progress. I used to get so upset about going broke until I started to look at things differently. Instead, I began to be grateful for things being as good as they were. Am I really broke, yet, I would ask. I would reassure myself. I could skip buying a few meals out, and still afford to eat well by shopping smart for groceries and meal prepping each week.
It will always get worse before it gets better.
Don’t be surprised if you get hit with obstacle after obstacle. In fact, I’m not even going to sugarcoat it. I have never had a struggle that did not escalate. I learned from a close friend when I embarked on my graduate thesis journey. She told me, “You’re going to cry. Just expect it.” The same goes for any challenge. No matter how adamant I was about overcoming, no matter how much I persevered, it always got worse before it got better. You’re on the battlefield, so it’s only right to suit up. It’s like every epic fight in every superhero movie known to man. The hero gets his ass whooped by the villain, until that glorious moment when help arrives and/or he exerts his last burst of energy to defeat the enemy.
If you don’t have any, you will by the end of the struggle. This is my number one takeaway. To a certain extent, feeling worthless saved me from a life of feeling like I was somehow “better off” than others. It’s just like the infamous Beyoncé quote, “My torturer became my remedy.” If you grew up being called “princess” by your father and never had to fight for anything, I can’t wait until the day that you go through something. I’m literally sipping my tea as I write this, because this is a real thing. To be honest, living in St. Louis did not challenge me. That’s why I left. Los Angeles is one vast, humbling place. I’m no better than the man begging on the street. What some of us fail to realize is the fine line between sanity and insanity. I never thought that I could experience symptoms of depression and anxiety. One year ago, I could not predict that I would have a therapist. I didn’t think that I could be in poverty because I was so educated. I’m here to tell you, humble thyself. If you don’t, then your struggle sure as hell will humble you. We are only human, so let’s act like it.
If you’re in it, you have the strength to handle it.
After I experienced an emotional breakdown and bruised my knuckles from punching my bathroom floor, a friend sent me this quote.
Despite it all, you’re alive, and sometimes, your only mission is to simply survive. I promise you that everything will work out. It always does. So, hold on.
Asking, “why me” is counterproductive.
I had to learn to stop asking myself, “why me.” You are only going to feel worse if you continue to victimize yourself. Just know that everything you are going through has a greater purpose. I actually started thanking God for my struggle, because I just knew that I had been chosen to endure and that my breakthrough was going to be grand. It sounds farfetched, but trust your struggle. Focus on what’s next. The hardest times will bring about the happiest moments of your life.
So is comparing yourself to others.
The absolute worst thing you can do during your struggle is compare your life to the likes of others. They are not you. They will never be you. They will never possess your frame of reference. Focus on your journey and overcoming your struggle. Who cares if such-and-such just got engaged? I’m pretty sure they couldn’t care less about you eating canned tuna for lunch because you can’t afford the finer cuts of meat. You better savor that tuna and be grateful for every meal.
You have to pick your battles.
Relationships may be attacked during your struggle. Anger my be displaced. You may experience insensitivity from those in which you confided. You will be fragile, feeling as if you’re walking on eggshells with everyone in your life, and they will be standing by, just waiting for you to explode. I advise you to pick your battles. Don’t waste your energy on the petty things. Become comfortable with the lack of empathy. You’ll be fine. You’re a tough cookie!
Preserve your soul, by any means necessary.
Self-love is vital. Do what you have to do to take care of yourself. Take plenty of “me time.” You’ll need it. There is no greater love. For me, it was going to the beach to reflect and write. Some days, I just needed to sleep in. Other days, it was ignoring texts and going hard on job applications and blog posts at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.
You will rise, but only when it is time.
The struggle does not last forever. The glory will come. If you’re reading this, your breakthrough is near. If you feel like you’re at the end of your rope, you won’t be dangling for much longer. I have to stress that destiny happens when it absolutely needs to; I have no further explanation. I’ll spare you the philosophical rant about how the universe always knows exactly what it is doing and how there are greater powers at work. Just know that I have learned from experience, and so will you. Keep living. You’ve got this.