Last weekend I celebrated my birthday. Another year, and the start of a new decade in my life. Every year in the week before this auspicious event I like to think back on the past year: the things I’ve experienced, the special events, new friends, accomplishments. This year while looking back I found it easier to come up with challenges and hard experiences than lists of moments I felt successful or goals I achieved. I wrote them along with the soaring moments. Acknowledging the hard times felt just as significant as remembering the beautiful ones.
I kept coming back to my list, sure that I was just missing some of the highlights. You don’t spend every day of your life trying to maintain a positive perspective and reframe those automatic negative responses, only to have the summary of your year peppered with struggle. I came to the realization that all of those tough times and impossible situations were successes. My challenges are my success.
I made some really hard decisions this year. Walked some unfair and dark roads with people I love. Pulled myself forward three steps and immediately fell back two. And in this time of reflection I decided to let myself count those as successes.
Would I rather have a Year in Review with line after line of once-in-a-lifetime experiences and obvious, praise worthy accomplishments? Maybe. Once in a while, sure. But this kind of year, the rough, muddle your way through, fight for every win type of year feels more valuable. More authentic. More successful.
My point in all of this is: when you’re muddling through, fighting for what you need, feeling lost and unsure, may this be a reminder that you’re doing it. You’re making success. You’re living your life and doing your best and when you come out on the other side, you will have created an incredible victory. It sucks right now. It’s awful and painful and annoying and frustrating and why can’t it just change in your favor for a while? But when you look back, see the achievement in the process. The strength in the struggle. You made it. You held on to your love and your passion and your empathy. You helped others, and made life better, and learned more than you thought possible.
Those stupid, irritating times will keep on coming. There will be soaring, beautiful, trumpeting victories, and there will be weeks on end of feeling like crap as you slog through. Do your best to remember that day by day, the slogging and sucking and struggle is a soaring, beautiful victory too.