Nothing has been more inspirational to me than experiencing pain. Be it moments of losing a loved one, rejection, struggling, or falling short- pain has made my skin thick and my armor strong. Many people use pain as an excuse to why they "can't" do this or that; however, my faith in HIM- my belief that we sometimes have to walk through the pain to feel the joy- is what keeps me moving forward when my escalator in life wants to take me backwards.
Nothing is perfect. I can't think of one relationship or experience in my life that has been perfect. With that being said, I can think of many relationships and experiences in my life that are priceless. I can pinpoint the moment that I understood who I am; understood what I wanted to be known for- the footsteps of what I hope to be my legacy. It was the simplest of revelations, which made me a believer that little moments can often turn into some of the biggest moments of your life...
July 1999, I was at Mammo's house. My older cousins wanted to walk to the corner store, and I didn't have a dime to my name. I walked anyways in hopes that one of them would give me a dollar to buy something. When we arrived at the store, we all went inside and I watched as everyone raided the aisles. Candy, chips, soda- you name it and they had it. I stood by the door because I didn't have any money. Everyone got to the register, placed their items on the counter, and begin walking out with their bags. I remember wanting one thing that day: a Mrs. Baird's Apple Pie. They were always on display in the front of the store. As I stood and watched everyone checkout with their items, it became very apparent that no one was going to offer to buy me anything. As we walked back to Mammo's house, I lagged behind watching everyone walk with their bags of goodies. At first, I felt pitiful and angry; I almost began to cry. But, for whatever reason I held back the tears.
When we got back to Mammo's, everyone sat down on the porch and begin to eat their snacks. I didn't say a word- I even pretended to laugh at their jokes as they talked about various things. Finally, one of my cousins asked if I wanted the rest of their chips. For a split second, I could feel myself grow happy. Before I knew it, these exact words came out of my mouth, "No. I'm good." I didn't mean it; had no idea at the time why I even said it. Of course, I wanted the chips. I realized years later that my pride held me back. I didn't earn those chips; they weren't a reward for anything I'd done. They were simply someone else's "sloppy seconds"- "leftovers".
To this day, I refuse to take anyone's seconds. It doesn't anger me not to be given anything, it simply makes me work harder. I didn't know it then, but I realized in the summer of 1999 that you can't expect anyone to feel sorry for you; you can't rely on pity to get ahead. You have to work to have anything, and if you wait on "seconds" and "leftovers" you'll never get ahead.
My cousins may not remember that day, but they will recall that I begun to ask them what "WORK" I could do for them to earn money. Whether it was washing dishes, cleaning the bathroom, or folding clothes- I learned how to work to earn "the all mighty dollar". As silly as it may seem, every now and then I'll go into a store just to buy a Mrs. Baird's Apple Pie. It reminds me that hard work pays off.
It's all about the perception of that experience. I could've wrote this post and changed the whole perception to seem like a victim; as if I were treated poorly. But, that's not the case. My cousins unintentionally taught me that you have to earn your share; your piece of the pie. No one has to hand you anything.
There's no obligation owed to me by anyone. If anything, I'm forever thankful to my struggles- my GROWING PAINS. It takes a lot to break a mindset that accepts hardships, rejection, and falls (not failures) as opportunities to learn- to GROW. Even in the most hopeless of situations, I may shed a tear- I may even collapse in a state of hopelessness for a second- but I will not give-up without TRYING again and again.
There is a fighter within all of us; an inner strength of determination that pulls us through the worst of times. Although it is not ideal to be down and the solution is not always the outcome that we desire, there is a will and a way in every situation; we just have to find the will to find the way. Remember this: GROWING pains are simply pains needed to GROW.
Many people wait to celebrate living; they wait for special occassions like Christmas, a life changing event, or their birthday. To truly LIVE, a person should be able to look back on most of the days of their life like a great poem- a journey of legendary moments unique to them. I continue to find two things to be true about life: It is what you make of it and how you live it that makes it beyond special.
We can never be certain about what's in store for us from day to day; what hurdles we will have to leap or moments that can potentially change our life. The only guarantee we have is the gift of life in every breath we are blessed to take; that means every breath that happens every second in our life is a blessing. To me, that entitles us to always have something to be thankful for. If you are a cynic, always seeking the very worst outcome, nothing will ever matter or awaken you enough to change the course of your life. Nevertheless, if you are someone who believes that life is an opportunity in itself to be epic- to be better than average, to explore endless opportunities of those opportunties- then you can understand what it means to LIVE EPIC.
The degree of success from person to person often differs. A lot of people do not mind losing as long as they lose by a small margin; while others don't value winning unless they scunk their opponent. These "games" taught me that an opponent is measured by skill and weakness; what power you give someone over you versus the power they actually have. A skillful opponent has always taught me something that made me grow, and a weak opponent has always reminded me of something that I did or should know not to do.
For many men the journey of life is about how they stand-up to any man standing next to them. However, the difference from man to man is what they do to get ahead or measure-up to the next man. This, I believe, is the same for most women but on a different scale. Many women may measure their success by the success of their man, but forget the singular image of themselves. The difference is being able to say what "WE have" and what "I have" in a relationship. The point is that people have different expectations in life. Our "quality of life" is not one image of the white picket fence and the pictureous Cosby Show family, it's a cluster of several different images unique to the eyes of the beholder. At the end of the day, people have a choice of what defines their life.
The amount of energy we expend on absorbing others worries or engaging in pointless competitions like the men talking at the gas pump, often hinder the progression in our life. I realized that the best thing I can do for anyone is to invest the very best of me into ME. It doesn't mean I have to cut everyone out of my life or stop caring, but it allows me to focus on controling things that are within my power and release the things that are for others to control.
To this day, I can remember my most epic Spades and Dominoes games: 1.) the first time I beat my Godfather head-up, and 2.) the first time I yelled "roll call" with my mother and grandma as my opponents. These were strong opponents. They challenged me, they made me think for myself, and they helped me grow.
We only have ONE life to LIVE. Define what "living epic" means to you.