I grew up as a somewhat reserved, but generally happy child. My parents have enabled me to develop empathy through their love and warmth, conscience through their personal example. School was adequately challenging, but never too difficult. The choice of university was natural due to our residence in Haifa, the choice of faculty obvious due to the comfortable employment prospects it offered in the future. Being fortunate to never experience any serious hardships, I have lived along a straight path of obvious choices and easy answers. But life lived easily has one inherent shortcoming: it doesn’t teach you the value of struggle.
Last autumn I took a vacation with my girlfriend to Rhodes. On the third day we took a bus to the local water-park. After having fun for a couple of hours on easy slides, we climbed on the highest one, and Yulia said that she wanted to go down this slide. She has done this before when she was younger, but she was not sure she was up to it now. I guess she wanted to prove herself that she has still got that audacious spirit of her younger self. But looking at the steep slope of the slide was enough to make us both cringe: it was very high, unpopular with other visitors (we were the only ones in line), and if that wasn’t enough, the slide was called ‘Kamikadze’. Yulia was struggling: her almost irrational need to take on this challenge was confronted by a natural, instinctive fear. And standing beside her, I was torn apart. What was I to do? To encourage her that she could do this or to console her wounded pride, and convince her that passing on this idea was the mature thing to do? Eventually choosing the first, I gently tried to show her my confidence that she can do this. After 15 minutes of hesitations, false starts and failed resolves, she gathered courage, and screamingly jumped into the slide. Minutes later she met me on the other side, smiling, with happy tears oh her cheeks. Hugging me, she whispered words of gratitude for helping her going through it. In that moment she was truly happy.
Yulia’s struggle was with her nature. Her instincts demanded safety, her spirit demanded realization. She was not adrenalin-driven with reckless courage, she was compelled by a truly human trait to overcome and achieve. Through overcoming her nature and fulfilling the call of her spirit, she has achieved self-respect and got closer to her true self.
What is this ephemeral “true self”?
- This is that person that you can become – by utilizing your potential, embracing your heritage, detecting your calling. Having no musical ear, it’s pointless to dream of becoming a recognized musician.
- This is the person that you should become – rising up to the challenge of your circumstances, coping, not escaping from life difficulties, taking responsibility for your well-being and the happiness of the people around you.
These days I am increasingly inclined to think that only through struggle are we able to achieve our true selves. Human struggle can wear many forms: struggle with yourself – overcoming fear, doubts, procrastination; struggle with nature – overcoming external hardships, which eventually translates into overcoming yourself; struggle within society – overcoming perceptions and prejudice. All of these have one thing in common: its stretching yourself, pushing the boundaries of what’s easy, familiar and possible. It’s doing that additional push-up, it’s holding your tongue when your parents annoy you, it’s writing that additional line despite exhaustion. It’s through these daily, little struggles that we become more resilient, generous and true to ourselves.
So what I wish for myself and for you my friends is the ability to recognize the transforming power of the struggle. While we may fall, fail and even quit, we shouldn’t think that it was all in vein.
The struggle itself…is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy – Albert Camus