The Most Difficult Challenge No One is Talking About
Challenges are a fact of life.
Actually, they’re more than that. Much more.
Challenges are as crucial to the human experience as oxygen, or getting dumped. The challenges we face throughout life - and how we respond to them - are what make our stories unique.
They’re what enable me to identify as Kenneth, and to understand what characteristics, experiences, and beliefs are encapsulated in that identity.
Challenges are with us from the day we are born, struggling to breath and to feed, till the day we die (likely in the same circumstances). They’re what enable you to develop a sense of self, of fulfillment and belonging.
Challenges are what push us to our very best, and what bring us to our knees in humility. They're interwoven into everything we do, wherever we go, and truthfully, they are what make life the grand journey that it is.
Some challenges in life are merely obstacles, like navigating rush hour traffic or figuring out the “right” way to get someone to leave you alone. Others shatter your existence, like losing a child, or a parent.
But there’s one particular challenge, which falls somewhere in between these two, that I believe is one of - if not the single most - difficult challenges that each and everyone of us faces.
It’s not some catastrophe or other dramatic event. On the contrary, I think the fact that we are each in control of this challenge is the very reason why it’s so difficult!
And that challenge is patience.
Patience is the most difficult - and possibly the most destructive - challenge that every one of us faces.
Because it’s so painful to wait? No. Because it’s so painful to get through.
When we struggle with patience, we’re not waiting for dessert after a fine meal. That would be lovely!
When we’re struggling with patience, we’re fighting every instinct and habit in our brains and bodies to sit still while our minds - our thoughts, our desires, our fears, our pasts, our presents, our futures - overwhelm us until we crack.
And this happens every day.
As a kid, when your mother says you have to wait until after dinner before you can eat a cookie, your world is in shambles! All you know is that you’re in pain, and that cookie is the antidote to your suffering.
Enter puberty. The world is your haunted oyster! God bless it.
You need patience to get through school. Patience to get through another parental lecture. Patience for your body to stop changing so fast, so that you can finally regain control over your own skin!
You need patience to get through each day, when life feels like a soap opera, and you’re everyone’s least favorite character.
As we get older, that patience becomes a bit more real. A bit more painful.
We know we’re supposed to be in control of our own thoughts and actions, but it takes everything in our power to hold on to that control as different parts of our world begin to crumble around us.
It takes patience to tell ourselves over and over again that it’s only temporary. That this pain, this confusion, this crazy, unintelligible phase in our lives, which we have no idea how to handle, is just that - a phase.
We go through a continual struggle with patience to say, “It’s okay, Kenneth. It’s not permanent. You’ll get through this, and everything will be fine.”
We know this is a challenge. We know this one of the greatest challenges! Because so many don’t make it through this period.
Many lose control - or fear losing control, and so they take things into their own hands, only to lose it all.
It’s not easy. But those of us reading this, we’ve made it through some dark times, and we know we’ll be able to make it through more.
But the challenge doesn’t stop there. We still struggle with patience - constantly.
We have to be patient as we grow into our careers, and deal with the injustices of the world, and learn, and gain the experience necessary to actually be where we want to be.
We want to run at a full sprint, but we still have our training wheels on.
We want to do everything we can to be better, to find a quicker way! And we end up in the same spot we started, just a small step further.
It feels like a waste!
It takes patience to be at the bottom of the pyramid, trying to climb your way up and make a difference. It’s a struggle to not go insane!
Maybe you have kids, and they test your patience every friggin’ day of your life. But you love them more than they will ever know.
And then you get more responsibilities at work. And more. And people are driving you crazy!
You struggle with patience to keep your cool, and to keep your head down, because you know this career supports your family - and your retirement.
You’ve worked so hard to get where you are. You've taken years off your life from stress!
But you have to be patient still. Otherwise you’ll let everyone else down - your spouse, your kids, your coworkers, your boss, yourself.
Patience is a significant daily challenge. And I think it’s one of the most difficult challenges everyone faces simply because of that. Everyone faces it!
Everyone has to use - and inevitably struggle with - patience, every day.
On some days, it’s for what we feel is a rewarding cause. Patience with children to help them become better-abled adults, or patience to keep holding off on vacation to more prudently use our money.
Other times it’s dark.
Patience is the one thing that can keep us going when it seems as though there’s no other reason. And the lack of patience in a case like this can make those closest to us suffer for what we've done to ourselves.
Patience is our most difficult daily challenge. And until we recognize it as such, we can never start to regain the control we so desperately need to make it through each day.
Just as importantly, once we recognize others’ patience, then we can truly help one another.
I can be more empathetic, because I finally see what you’re going through.
When we understand that trying and waiting are pieces of the human condition that we all play with daily, we can begin to help each other, and be there for each other, and support each other.
With understanding, we can improve. We can all work together to at least lessen the burden of this challenge.
And I think that opportunity, to understand and to be there for each other, is wonderful.