I Was Truly Challenged When...

Honestly, life is hard. I think it’s important to BE challenged (otherwise life would be awfully boring), but of course “challenge” can be defined very differently depending on context. A marathon is a physical challenge. Races are physically challenging. Teaching four classes in a row is sometimes physically challenging even if it is also quite enjoyable at the same time. Other things are mentally challenging. Applying for a graduate program is not an easy task, nor is completing a dissertation. These are the kinds of challenges that shape who you are.

Finally, we have emotional and spiritual challenges. These seem to be the kinds of challenges we would rather do without and involve real suffering, like experiencing a serious illness or surviving the death of a loved one. For example, both of my remaining grandparents died within a year of each other during my freshman/sophomore year of high school. This felt unfair both to my siblings and me but also to my parents.

A very trying time for me—and something that still affects me—is the suicide of my cousin Ian a couple of years ago. These kinds of challenges are difficult to put into words. Sometimes I think the only good that comes out of challenges like these are that they make you have more empathy for other people and—assuming you can cope with the loss, which is frankly not always possible—force you to make the most out of each day you are lucky enough to be healthy and alive. You never know what someone else might be going through so show them compassion and understanding.

I think too often in today’s culture, people tend to be self-centered in how they are judgmental and jealous of others. (I think you see this a lot when people evaluate each other on social media—“Why is so-and-so flaunting their Fiji vacation photos?” etc.). Everyone has their own challenges and it’s so much better to be supportive and HAPPY for one another in our even small successes.