Some days it is easy to feel like there is so much you need to get done. Some days are more exhausting than others, whether that be physically or mentally.
Everyone has hard days, and everyone also has days where they don’t want to do anything. Sometimes you might need to take time to yourself, and that’s okay. Sometimes it can be the weather outside that affects how you find the day.
Having a lot of work to do under the pressure of deadlines is something I have learned to manage over the years. But persevering isn’t just about the work you do or the achievements you have. It’s also one of the ways that we survive under difficult situations that are more personal.
I thought I’d write this more personal article as a change from some of the more technical material I like to put out. Really, my whole life has been about perseverance. Not just at school and university, but everywhere I have been and everywhere I will be as the rest of my life determines the path I take.
If you were to ask me how I continue to keep going under even the most exhausting or difficult scenarios, it would be a tricky question to answer. That in itself would take perseverance, which is the beautiful thing about that word. You can apply it to everything you do.
I could end the article here, but I would be mistaken to believe that talking about perseverance is as easy as a quick hundred odd word summary. I consider it an art in that respect. We take time to learn from our lessons, and the mistakes that we all make along the way.
Whenever I’m faced with a difficult situation, whether that be anything from discrimination to a tight deadline, the first thing I always try to tell myself is to remain calm. When faced with a situation within a group of people, it can be very reassuring if you’re a person that does their best to stay calm.
In episode 5A of SpongeBob, Squidward doesn’t stay calm but instead kicks the car in which they were travelling in, causing it to drive away, leaving them in the middle of nowhere with nothing but the pizza they need to deliver. When SpongeBob just suggests to deliver on foot, Squidward’s disdain and annoyance makes the situation difficult. It was a situation he could have controlled. In fact, that whole episode is perseverance in action.
But, some situations are out of our control, such as ScotRail cancelling their train services, or First Bus not running the last bus of the day. In fact, I remember taking long walks because I knew that would be the only way for me to get home from Stirling. I liked it because it gave me a chance to be with nature for a while, whereas a taxi would cost money I need to save, and energy from social interaction.
Reading on a topic or a subject beforehand can be really helpful. If I’m faced with trying to understand a situation that I have no knowledge of, or I want to learn about being an ally against injustice, I will spend some time reading up on material to become equipped with what’s going on. This has allowed me to rise above discrimination towards my autism.
I’m sure I won’t be the first to say I was bullied heavily at school. Yet, when I left middle school I was awarded the school trophy for perseverance. There are days when I think back to that event and question whether or not I deserved an award for simply trying to get somewhere in life. Should awards like that exist?
In hindsight though, the achievement is a product of perseverance. There was nothing I felt I could have done differently when faced with bullying, because I make decisions using intuition. Back then it wasn’t possible for me to read up on bullying, why it happened or why there was so much of it.
Therefore, to persevere in situations, I don’t like to just apply logic, even though I may be thought of as someone who uses logic. Intuition comes into it, too. And I get emotional, a lot. I think being emotional is something that everybody should be allowed to be, regardless of who you are.
There are days in which I feel like a failure, and others in which I am incredibly hard on myself. There are pressures which can sometimes be created from setting high expectations for myself. One part of me may say that I made such a big achievement, now I need to do even better. But the other part has to remind me that it’s not about trying to be better.
And I think that’s true in some situations. If you’re in a competition where the final goal is to win at the end, then yes, you need to be better than when you started. However, in a situation where you feel like you need to do better simply because of outside pressures just to achieve success, this is something I tell myself not to try and be better in, but just to do as I would do before.
In that sense I like to think of it as applying the process, and not aiming for the end product. In some situations I believe that having an end goal is good, but in others, not so much. If I were to set myself a goal that I then very easily achieved, but then wanted to do more because it wasn’t enough, and so forth, then was the process worth it?
Of course, rising above the discrimination I get on a regular basis is a bit of a different process, and not necessarily one to enjoy, but more to learn. These are lessons I’d like to teach my future children. We don’t have to enjoy a process such as perseverance but we can treat it as a learning environment through which we discover.
This is why I wouldn’t say it was worth getting over the discrimination I face. Situational awareness is something I try to teach myself too, for it is not worth getting over discrimination if it means that I don’t use what I’ve learned to help and support others. And sometimes those thoughts about how I’ve been treated are still there.
Situations in which I do feel it was worth it to go through the process are things like applying for a PhD, getting the interview, the confirmation and the big change of environment I would face from moving a physically long distance. This was determination to show the world I was capable of doing what I wanted, especially when others felt the need to tell me I wouldn’t be able to do it.
Learning perseverance is an array of data points that I apply to an algorithm and then run the code to get the end product. It is the determination that you all have which can be applied to whatever it is you want to do. For me it’s not about showing people that I’m better than anyone for achievements. Because achievements come in any size.
For instance, did you manage to eat something today, or drink some fluids? That’s an achievement. Did you get 50 words down on your essay which you were struggling with because of writer’s block? That’s an achievement.
Whether it be ten words or 1,000 words, you persevered. You achieved something, and that’s an incredible thing. If this were an award ceremony, I’d be giving you a trophy, too.
Small things make a big difference. Small personal achievements add to your life journey which you can then use to support and help others who are having a hard time.
The trophy I won wasn’t for myself. It was to show the world that I was capable not only of doing what I wanted to do, but to help others follow their paths as well.
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