Grit is getting back up after falling down but more than that it’s finding gratitude in getting back up again and using that gratitude to kick ass.
An article in The Atlantic argued that the secret to being “liked” for your grit and admired for it (which I guess, in a way, is a form of success…people, including myself, like being recognised and respected for our intelligence) is pretending that you don’t work hard. To not show your struggle and come out a doll.
That dude that binge-watches Netflix shows the night before his exam and still manages to get full marks? We love him. But that girl that slaved away, pulling an all-nighter, and regularly breaking school bags under the strain of all the textbooks that are falling apart in there from studying…. poor girl. Feel sorry for her. It gets to a point where if you’ve made this decision for yourself you’re the one who has to be fine with it. You can’t show struggle. You can’t show failure. People don’t want to see you working harder than them (or at least that is part of what the article argues).
As you grow older suddenly exams are something you’re choosing to put yourselves through…suddenly all this stress you’re feeling is a personal struggle. Like, dude. That paper was so hard…and if I crash and burn it’s not that I will feel like I’m the dumbest person in the whole class…it’s that I thought I opted in for extra education for myself and am 100% letting myself down now. What even is the future now, brah, when I can’t even keep the promises I make to myself?
I am going to talk about giving up on myself. When I realised that people could hurt me despite trying my utmost best to prove them wrong time and time again and prove my right to exist here I gave up. The struggle to try my best despite all the goddamn odds was no longer romantic but an ugly and futile pursuit. These couple of years I’ve realised that people will still hate me, I will still be at odds statistically, people will still maybe shoot me in the head in the future. The world is incredibly small and scary and a part of me is always scared of it.
I am always full of dread when I think about my humans.
Yet, also Wonder. I can’t believe I am here, and the possibility of a Romantic world appeals to me to no end. That humans somehow make this life more, that there is this extra Godly breath living inside each of us, that we have consciousnesses and perhaps even souls. That we are remarkable and formidable creatures…
I gave up. I didn’t care about what people thought about me, but nor did I want to try hard because I thought – for what? Isn’t struggle futile? Am I not always failing? Goddammit it’s hard stumbling through those first steps on a race where everyone’s sprinting ahead.
I’m picking up pace now. It’s not that you’re trying your best for your parents, or because you’ve been told to, or because you’re at odds because of who you are and desperately don’t want that to be the case forever. It’s not because you’ve realised excellence transcends limits of prejudice and setbacks, that – quite sensibly and obviously – success is where failure is only a stepping stone instead of a consuming fire.
It’s that you have to try your best for yourself. This year took a lot out of me – I don’t think I ever realised what working hard truly meant until this year. I had no idea what “despite the odds” entailed. Now I do. Now I am ready to work hard and be the best. Simply for myself, because I shouldn’t have to put myself through that gruelling failure without any victories at least.
Sometimes it does get overwhelming thinking about the future and about if I am really learning from my failures at all, and if I will be as overwhelmed – if not more – next year. However, those thoughts come in the small moments. I made the decision to pursue my education further, and while I had grown up thinking university was mandatory, as I grew older I was proved wrong. Taking A-levels – my ones as well – is something extraordinary to what is expected of me sometimes. This is not like GCSEs in which every child is feeling the pressure of exams. I don’t know how to explain this – apprenticeships and jobs are already happening. People have moved away from the day-to-day grind of school already. This is solely my struggle now. And because this is my decision I have the full power to take ownership of it.
I get to make what I will with my education, and I think that’s what I am keeping in mind the most. I have to try my best for myself, because this struggle is for me.
I have stopped giving up. Yes, people can hurt me. However what this horrible year had proved was that it hurts much, much more when you give up on yourself. When you stop trying hard. Is the struggle futile? I think not. I think, just daring to struggle in the first place is a mighty act of defiance – and so what if you end up dead because of it? This is best put forward in a quote I found from a Zen Pencils comic:
The real damage is done by those millions who want to “survive.” The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonising their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves — or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.