I have always loved stories of people who overcame setbacks. There is something quite inspiring about a person who has been knocked down by life’s challenges and somehow finds the determination to get up and try again. History is replete with tales of seeming losers who became winners. The secret to their eventual success seems to be in having a willingness to keep trying even when things appear to be hopeless.
Who among us has not had life crushing setbacks? We all know someone who lost a parent as a child or lived in poverty growing up. We’ve heard of the athlete who got a chance to perform in the big leagues and then sustained a career ending injury. We know about people who thought that they had found the love of their lives only to end up emotionally shattered by a failed marriage. We probably also can relate tales s someone who appeared to be lucky in life and on the cusp of realizing amazing dreams only to watch them shatter in an instant due to circumstances beyond their control.
I know a young lady whose life-long goal has been to become a doctor. She is a brilliant woman, but somehow her college experience was more difficult than she had thought it would be. When she applied for medical schools she received rejection after rejection because her grades did not meet their requirements. Not to be discouraged she took a job as a medical scribe in a hospital. She learned medical terminology and impressed the doctors with whom she worked. They encouraged her to attend graduate school and get an advanced degree in Public Health, and so she did.
With maturity and experience added to her bag of talents she stood out as a student and graduated with honors. More work in a hospital caught the eye of doctors and nurses alike. When they heard that she still wanted to become a doctor they urged her to continue her quest and promised to give her outstanding references. To her great delight she was finally accepted into a great university, but fate interceded once again to thwart her plans. The grandmother who had raised her became seriously ill and she felt a responsibility to care for her rather than leave her on her own.
The disappointed woman reluctantly gave up her spot in the school, explaining that she could not in good conscience leave the person who had devoted her own life to being a loving and encouraging caregiver to her grandchildren. For the next year my friend balanced her job in public health with the task of nursing her dying grandmother. All the while she believed that when the time was right, she would one day get another chance to go to medical school.
As it happened the university that had accepted her was so impressed by her character and devotion to family that they offered her another opportunity which she readily accepted. This summer at a much more advanced age than the other members of her class, she will begin her studies in medicine. By the time she finishes all of the required steps she will be well past her mid-thirties, but she is unconcerned that her start will be late. She feels certain that she will one day be ministering to the sick and saving lives just as she has always hoped.
I am in awe of people like this young woman. Instead of lamenting the setbacks that befell her, she kept her eye on the prize. Like the tortoise in the fable, she understood that greatness does not usually come quickly. It requires patience and hard work. Every time she got pushed down, she got back up and dusted herself off. When some people told her just to accept that her dream would never happen, she refused to listen. She found alternative ways to get what she wanted.
We often look at a successful person and comment on how lucky he or she is. In truth there is sometimes an element of being in the right place at the right time for some people, but for most it is hard work that gets them where they wish to be. If we watch them in action and analyze how they do things we will no doubt realize that they get to work early, stay late, never stop learning and don’t allow defeats to derail them. They are focused on being their very best, accepting critiques and changing accordingly. They build relationships and work as members of a team, valuing all people. They are often tired but exhilarated by the challenges that they overcome. What may look like luck is more likely good old fashioned determination.
Life’s disappointments and losses are definitely gut wrenching and pretending that they do not leave scars on those who endure them is unrealistic and cruel. Everyone has to heal from traumas and that always takes time, but it does not mean that all of their hopes for happiness are over. New love, new opportunities, new joy can come at any age but we won’t realize them without effort. Each new day gives us one more chance to try again. The climb to the realization of our hopes may be long and treacherous but we will never get there unless we begin again and again.