You Have to Try

“Just… isn’t giving up allowed sometimes? Isn’t it okay to say, ‘This really hurts, so I’m going to stop trying’?”
“It sets a dangerous precedent.”
“For avoiding pain?”
“For avoiding life.”
Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl

I’m finished with my first semester of teaching in another country. First semester, already done. I cannot believe how fast the time is going. As a result of 2016 coming to a close, I thought I’d go ahead and write a post about this year.

About a year and a half ago I graduated from university. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with myself. I fell into a spiral of depression and anxiety, became convinced that life would be empty for me. I stopped writing, stopped trying. Didn’t make plans for after graduation as I watched my friends file off to grad schools and future careers. I gave up essentially. It seemed easier that way.

Somehow I managed to dig myself out. Found a job, even if it was part-time and not great pay. I did some writing, even if it wasn’t anything really serious, and I just pushed myself to try even if it was hard, even if I was scared or frustrated.

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Ziplining at Zip the Snake in Twin Falls, ID

I’ve had a lot of people tell me how much they admire me for going to teach in another country. How brave and exciting that sounds. How impressed they are with what strength that  must have taken. And while I want to accept their praise, part of me is hesitant, because to be honest I was scared setting out, and because I’ve continued to be scared most of the time. And because there have been moments I’ve wanted to quit.

My habit in the past has been to give up when things get tough. I remember trying scuba diving as a child and giving up the moment I became frightened of the water pressing in on all sides. I remember refusing to go to dances in university because I worried I’d be uncomfortable. I recall refusing to submit novels to publishers because I knew I’d be unhappy if I was rejected. France has been no exception. I’ve had several times where I’ve thought about just throwing in the towel.

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Trying Palinka in Budapest

I ran across the Fangirl quote above while on Goodreads today, and I just thought to myself how again the words from this silly young adult novel continue to be applicable to my life. They continue to remind me that I shouldn’t just give up even when I want to, and that’s something I’m continuing to learn.

As the year comes to a close I’m having a look at my “brave things” list I started keeping a year ago. I find it’s a good way for me to remember all the ways that I’ve been strong in the face of adversity. All the ways I’ve refused to back down in spite of pain, or fear, or discomfort. Some are simple things like going to social outings when I was feeling anxious, making an uncomfortable phone call. or trying a new food. Others are more exciting: riding a camel, ziplining, or traveling to six different countries all by myself.

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Riding a camel in Tangiers, Morocco (future post to come)

My New Years resolution? I have to think of some more specific ones, of course. Probably a reading goal of 90 books since I read 80 this year. Maybe I’ll try to write another novel. Maybe I’ll aim to be healthier and exercise more. However, the big one I have is to try to have more brave things on my list next year. To keep expanding and pushing and trying even when I’d rather not. To keep pushing myself into life instead of avoiding it as I too often do.

So Happy New Years to my readers, friends, and family! I hope you’ll think about being brave as well, and continuing to try. Don’t ever give up. There are better things ahead, and you’ll find them if you just keep trying.

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Traveling around France for a year

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