My last day in Budapest has arrived, and my time here is quickly slipping away. In 2 hours and 47 minutes I will be on a train to Zurich, likely crying at the incredible home I’m leaving behind.
But that’s life: c’est la vie. Things end, and we must – at times – move forward even when we really don’t want to. Even when saying goodbye feels like the most unnatural thing in the world.
I was afraid, upon making the decision to go home – as temporary as it may be – that I’d ruin everything I’d worked so hard to accomplish. Most importantly, I worried that I’d lose not only the physical reflections of my growth, but the much more critical internal workings of my personal progress. I feared that I’d lose my mindset, my new found positivity, which has been the ignition to all of the blessings I’ve experienced over the last year.
I knew I couldn’t lose this gratitude I’d been working hard to obtain, for if I did, I knew I’d surely lose all of the blessings that arose as a direct result of it. I wanted to keep my current perspective on the world and my life, regardless of the twist of fate that had been thrown my way, which many may see as failure.
But when it comes to life, failures only exist if we allow them to. If we choose not to view our “failures” as such, we can – perhaps – find the vantage point to see what they really are: opportunities. What many people consider failures aren’t really that at all. They’re opportunities disguised in monstrous outfits, resembling failures closely, but offering much more positive opportunities than most recognize: a chance to regroup, to grow, to expand, and to figure out what we really want.
We all have these moments of “failure,” you see. They’re the bumps in the road, the breakups, the divorces, the flat tire, the upsets in our homes, the problems of a loved one, the negativity of a friend, the heartbreak of a sister, the delayed flights, the missed trains, the lost wallets, the lost jobs, the calls from the debt collectors.
Everyone has these issues. Every. Single. Person. On. This. Planet.
No amount of money or status or success can void these problems from one’s life. But these so called problems need not be viewed as such. We need not think we are doomed or bad or unworthy at the hands of these situations. We need not see our loss or our troubles or our misfortunes as failures.
Regardless of what the problem – or situation – is, we always have a choice. This is the ultimate choice that will allow the ‘situation’ to either become a failure or an opportunity in your life. So ask yourself: Is this really a failure? Or is this an opportunity for growth?
Many people opt for choice number one, not because they want failure in their lives but because their vision is so limited that they can’t possibly see around the looming shadow the problem creates and into the light of its possibilities. Because they choose failure, they accept the problem for what it is. That’s life, c’est la vie, they say, practically rolling over and letting life squash them (just as I did earlier, myself).
Having the strength to accept something for what it is, and move forward relatively unscathed takes courage and is very commendable. But there’s something even better, which most of us don’t even realize when we’re presented with a range of problems in our lives.
There’s something called tenacity.
Tenacity is defined in the English dictionary as “the quality or fact of continuing to exist; persistence,” or “the quality or fact of being able to grip something firmly.”
When I was a little girl, I had a pony named Stanley. Stanley was a black and white paint, as they’re called, and he was named after the popular park in Vancouver where he used to exist as an entertainment factor for children: Stanley Park. I was six or seven when Stanley was brought home, and you can imagine my excitement: a pony just for me!
I loved the guy instantly. He wasn’t too much taller than me, and since I was naturally timid and afraid of horses even though I’d been surrounded by them all my life, I figured Stanley would be my perfect companion to finally overcome this fear. To make my parents proud.
Well, as it turned out, Stanley wasn’t as calm and easygoing as he first displayed. Stanley, though he appeared to be “fixed” when he was purchased by my dad, actually had a hidden “male part” which caused him to suddenly turn wildly aggressive, conniving, and downright rude, leading my parents to believe he must have been tranquilized at the time of the sale. Stanley, as it turned out, was a serious flight risk.
But, Stanley was still my pony. And I was still obliged to ride him.
So on an early morning, when it was still dark out, I saddled up Stanley and prepared for the five hour journey that rested ahead of us. I followed behind my dad behind his horse – was his name Larry? – and constantly yearned to be on that brown easygoing character over my black and white unpredictable Stanley. My sisters followed behind, each on their own horse, laughing audibly at Larry’s incessant passing of gas and specifically at my misfortune for being the next in line. I didn’t really mind though, for being closer to my dad – to safety – helped calm my anxieties.
I must have known what was set to occur, though, for – as if my Stanley was on a pre-set ticking time bomb – he spooked and took off on me every hour, on the hour. The situation I remember the clearest on this five hour ride occurred when we were passing through a dry, rocky hillside and came across wild horses. (You might be wondering at this point where in the world you can entertain a five hour horseback ride and come across wild horses, to which I will answer with a place you’ve never heard of: Silverspring Meadows, Canada, ie. My dad’s larger than life farm.)
At the sight of the wild horses, Stanley naturally decided he’d rather be one of them than one of us, and persisted to run wildly across the rocky land, persisting with all his might to throw me, ignoring my attempts to halt him with my pulling on the reigns. My dad and sisters were yelling at me from behind, jump off, jump off, let go!, and though I wanted to listen to them, the sharp and jagged boulders beneath Stanley’s hooves presented a problem.
Eventually I found the courage, and let go, tumbling into the dirt and miraculously missing the scattered rocks while Stanley left me behind without a care, galloping forward to meet his new friends. My dad was angry. He caught Stanley quite quickly, returning to our group, at which point I knew one thing was for sure: I had to get back on Stanley.
This happened five times over during this five hour ride. I was scared to death each time I had to get back on Stanley, but something inside of me – perhaps tenacity – refused to allow me any other option.
By the end of the ride, I was covered in dirt, my hands were tired from pulling on the reigns, and my cheeks and glasses were encrusted in dried tears. But even though I emerged from the ride a whole lot dirtier, physically and literally, I realize now that this was my first accomplishment in the tenacity department. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had emerged from this ride emotionally and mentally stronger, for which my parents now had new – and unexpected – adjectives to describe my character: determined and fearless.
Just for the record, mom and dad, I wasn’t fearless. I was shaking every second throughout the ride, my stomach in knots at what I knew was about to occur yet again, about to pee my pants each time one of Stanley’s ears perked up. But I didn’t allow my fear to overcome me; instead I remained determined.
This story of my six year old self reminds me of one thing: at the hands of a challenge, of something that scares the wits out of us and presents a giant possibility of failure, we have a choice. We can allow the fear to overcome us, and refuse to get on Stanley again. Or we look Stanley square in his eyes, and keep climbing up on him until he surrenders. We can choose to take the problems he’s presented to us, and come out better and stronger because of them. We can see Stanley as not an incessant problem in our lives, but as a consistent opportunity for growth. An opportunity, yet again, to harness the strength within us, and to overcome the fear.
So when life throws us one of its unexpected opportunities masked as failures, we can look at it, acknowledging it for what it is. We can accept the situation, the new requirements that the opportunity monster has brought into our lives, and we can move forward with it.
We can say with all the gusto we can manage: C’est la vie.
And then we can march forward with determination, strip the opportunity of its monstrous costume and leverage the meat of the thing to conquer the world.