On Endurance

Sometimes the strongest people are the ones who love beyond all faults, cry behind closed doors, and fight battles that nobody knows about.

Pardon me as I take a bit of a departure from the usual rhetoric of my blog. I’ve been itching — really, dying inside — to be able to lift the veil of what I’ve been willing to share here. Sometimes, things seem so pixel perfect on the surface, and perhaps they have been packaged as such. Just know that is there is always more than meets the eye.

Endurance. Endurance. Ironman is an endurance sport. What’s business does a designer, a once pageantry performer, a once cheerleader, a once obese 33.3% body fat sporting non-athlete have in training for such a feat? The marathon, however difficult and painful, wasn’t enough. My insatiability for pain — the self-inflicted, non-violent type — overrides any sort of logic at this point. I design, for a living. I design software. I design experiences around that software. I design around expectations, goals, and desires. I design to help business achieve its goals. I design to help people get what they want. I design to soften the friction between implementation and planning, although I love both. I try to bridge that gap.

Training for Ironman requires all of those things. I design my plan, based on my research, aggregation of data and feedback. There are assessments and benchmarks to take and meet along the way. I design my training, I design my travels, I design my experiences. There are logistical concerns, financial concerns, scheduling concerns, well-being concerns. Those are the concerns on the top of the surface that seem most superficial and easy to deal with.

What isn’t easy to deal with is what’s going on inside. My 29 years of personal-narrative collection. The events and times that plague me. The decisions I haven’t yet made. The parallel universes in which my past and future decisions all play out. The things I’ve yet to see and experiences I’ve yet to live through. There’s so much behind me and in front of me. But, what’s really inside?

There’s a lot of angst. A lot of anger. A lot of sadness. In the same vein, there is a lot of happiness and solitude, gratefulness and contemplative contentment. I’ve endured and I’ve survived. I’ve lived through more than a decade of sexual abuse. I’ve lived through rape in my adult life and the personal tragedy and emotional fallout that results from that. I’ve been attacked on two different continents — on both coasts of the United States and in a foreign country. I’ve seen evil in the face. It has eyes, it breathes, like me. By all accounts, things could’ve turned out terribly for me. I could be dead. I could be unhealthy. I could be diseased. But I am free of all of that because I’ve endured. I am still plagued by flashbacks and triggers but in all senses of the word I am a survivor. I’m not a victim. Being a victim is a state of mind. I am a survivor of my circumstances and they have shaped the person I have become. I can’t wish away the past but I can deal with the hand I’ve been dealt.

Plenty of times in my life, I’ve reacted to trauma and sadness and anger and confusion in the exact same way — I put my head down and I get to work. I get to work on solutions that can dig me out of the hole I find myself in. Don’t like the way I jiggle? Go for a run. Don’t like how much money is (not) in my bank account? Pick up another freelance client. Don’t like my job? Get another one. Don’t like my school? Transfer to another. Can’t stand a “friend”? Dump them. I hate the feeling of stagnation to the core like I hate nails on a chalkboard, a fork on ceramic plates, and interrupting incoming messages while tapping an important email on my phone. In retrospect, this is the classic definition of endurance. Relentless forward progress. Finding the silver lining, no matter how terrible things seem. Knowing that there is always a way out. Understanding that inaction is stagnation, and stagnation is death in real-time. “To endure is to expose ourselves to the world, to others, to the ravages of time and effort. (Jeff Edmonds)”

My heart is heavy. I feel like my life can go in so many different directions. Every possibility yields a parallel universe yet I’m only granted one life to live and one shot to get it “right,” whatever right means. Things like the Boston Marathon tragedy shake me from my usual hustle-bustle to remind me of that. I feel a silent somber for those who have directly suffered because of it, and my heart goes out to those who are quietly affected: those who are silently suffering, those who can’t seem to make sense of what goes on, those whom pain is triggered by stories and photos and videos of violence and gore like what we’ve proliferated through the internet. What I’ve read and seen and interpreted has effected me deeply and I’m trying to make sense of it. It’s the convergence of all of these events that have periodically unfolded in my life.

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls.

I endure because I know no other way than this. Throwing in the towel is not an option. Quitting is not a possibility. It never has been — in school, in my career, in my quest for happiness of the non-fleeting kind. Every step I have taken has been carefully calculated. My internal scars are camouflaged as a relentlessly optimistic outlook, a tough exterior, a will to endure, a goal to be unbreakable. I have suffered and I’m not scared to admit it. But I will endure, and so will you, because after all, you have an untold story too.

All in all, I have it really good, given my circumstances. There is so much beauty and wonderment in this world. There is still so much to learn, so much to experience. I’ll never stop trying. I’ll never settle for anything less than best. It’s not an option for me, and it shouldn’t be for you.

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