Making Progress in the School of Hard Knocks (Learning From Challenges)

School of Hard Knocks

Life isn’t just a bowl full of cherries. Most of us will definitely experience events or even periods of our lives that will challenge us in not so pleasant ways. These less than pleasant challenges often bring frustration, sadness, pain (of various sorts), and maybe even occasional trauma, as well. Few major challenges are ever forgotten. Sometimes I look back on mine and strangely appreciate the education and positives they’ve eventually brought me. So are they altogether bad?

Every so often I’ve had to enroll in a new “course” in dealing with hard knocks. Some previous “courses” ended, while others overlapped. Certainly I’ve found it a relief when one ended, and like college classes, the relief can be even sweeter if I feel I’ve earned a high passing grade. But some “courses” are especially grueling and seem to go on far too long. Or what can be equally demanding is having a really heavy “course load”, and feeling desperate at how to manage so much at the same time. In the past, I’ve even had literal college semesters when I’ve wiped the sweat off my brow and exhaled, being glad I finished just satisfactorily, instead of exemplarily.

I’ve had to learn important things about dealing with others in my life. I wasn’t lucky enough to have a gift for being well-liked by everyone. Part of my education was to learn acceptance that this would continue to be the case, at least to some degree. Another part was learning how to be a better communicator, giver and diplomat to others, without sacrificing my true self. And if this still didn’t work, though it may hurt to be rejected, sometimes rejections are for the best. For we all have places and people waiting for us where we do belong, and where we will feel at ease. One must search for them sometimes and yet other times they find us. Changes over time within ourselves, can also make a difference.

When I was a child and young woman, my mother would constantly say “Patience is a virtue.” It used to drive me crazy, and I’d do my best not to have to wait for what I desired. But some challenges don’t afford that option. One extreme example has been recovering from the worst of my bipolar disorder. Never have I had to endure such pain, frustration, lack of control, humiliation, sacrifice, and rejection as I have during the past 13 years. The first four were particularly taxing! I’d feel like I finally caught a break, and then “Boom!” I’d find myself below square one all over again.

climbing the mountainTo describe my bipolar journey these last 13 years, I used to use the analogy of slipping down the side of a mountain, again and again, as I struggled to hoist myself or scratch and claw my way up to reach the top. Again, I had to learn acceptance of my current situations, but also how to find pleasure in my current spot(s).  And yet, I wouldn’t let myself lose hope of seeing and experiencing the world from a higher vantage point. So very very slowly, as I can, I inch my way upwards. It takes time, and again, lots of patience. As I ascend, the world takes on a new and interesting view. I again take pleasure in my current environment. If and when I ever reach the top, I don’t know, but at least I won’t see my journey as worthless or for naught. All I know is that staying at the bottom for too long is not an option. Deliberately digging a hole even further down, to jump into, would be a ridiculously sad decision.

graduation capOh how one can learn from challenges! I sure have. And though challenges don’t always make us feel like better people, I am happy to say they have for me. I think my mind has opened up more fully, that I’ve become more compassionate, less self-centered, and even less afraid of what awaits me. Perhaps I haven’t yet earned a Ph.D. from the School of Hard Knocks, but I know I’ve qualified for a few Masters Degrees.

What are some the main things you’ve learned from your major challenges in life?

7 thoughts on “Making Progress in the School of Hard Knocks (Learning From Challenges)

  1. Karen Horsley February 6, 2018 / 5:38 pm

    I have learnt empathy, I always had a degree of empathy, but my struggles have increased it tenfold. I also can feel empathy towards myself, an appreciation of the difficulties I’ve lived through. I have learnt that I am important, that my needs are important and that looking after myself is necessary.

    There’s a lot of truth in the saying ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’… It does in so many ways.
    Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight February 6, 2018 / 6:08 pm

      Thank you so much, Karen, for sharing that! I can relate. I think that so often before my diagnosis I felt like a woman on my own island. After my bipolar diagnosis, it was important to connect with others with my similar challenges. I even looked at people who may not have a diagnosable illness in a new light, and became more sympathetic.

      Thanks for adding the great quote!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nel February 6, 2018 / 7:48 pm

    I can’t think of too many challenges I struggled with in life. I mean at one point I was really shy and would speak quietly all the time and then one day I don’t know, I just changed and now I’m the complete opposite. I I can think of pretty clearly though is being in a position of management and trying to juggle being someone’s superior as well as their friend. It’s a fine line. And I also had to learn the subtleties of being too honest sometimes especially in the workplace. It’s definitely a constant learning life process. Awesome post, Cindy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight February 6, 2018 / 7:53 pm

      Thanks, Nel! I’m glad to read that you haven’t had any severe challenges in your life so far. I hope it stays that way. Definitely being a supervisor can be tough, I know.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lizardin Bain March 18, 2018 / 1:32 pm

    I’ve learned that everything is relative and depends on the side of things you’re standing, thus, sometimes, your biggest loss turns out to be your biggest victory.

    Liked by 1 person

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