How to Embrace Your Challenges and Love Your Obstacles
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “challenge”?
For me, I immediately think “tough” and “obstacle.” But as I let the word sink in, I also hear “growth” and “opportunity.”
So I hate the word challenge and I love word challenge. The first time I really understood the power of growth through challenge was almost three years ago. Actually, it was the same summer I had started this lil ‘ol blog.
After an incredible study abroad experience my junior year of college, I embarked on my next adventure: a summer interning in New York City. But it was a little different from the galavanting I had been doing in London and around Europe. This time around, I was in a two bedroom apartment in Washington Heights (not exactly Sex in the City) with 4 other girls, going to an internship I dreaded, knowing almost no one, overwhelmed by the crazy, messy, dirty, loud, wonderful, scary city that is New York.
I went into the summer thinking it would be study abroad part two, but I quickly realized that I was in way over my head. My good ‘ol friend depression came to visit, I struggled to make any kind of impact at my internship, as a 20-year-old without a fake ID I felt restricted by my inability to enjoy the night life, oh and I was broker than broke trying to figure out how to pay for my last year of college.
At first, I blamed my problems on New York rather than leaning into the challenges (or opportunities) that seemed to face me at every turn. Nothing was familiar, every day I did something wrong, including but not limited to: finding out the hard way what the difference between a local and express train was, forgetting my dress shoes at home and wearing sneakers with a dress to work, staring at a computer blankly for an entire day in complete fear of asking for help or guidance on my internship project, somehow getting sucked into donating way too much money to a cause that I don’t even remember because I didn’t know how to avoid the solicitors on the street, getting lost in a grid system, falling hard for someone who I knew wasn’t right for me, standing in redonkulous lines just to get a bag of groceries at Trader Joe’s that I would then have to haul for 120 blocks and being cat called relentlessly until I learned the art of the “don’t fuck with me face.”
But as I look back at the summer, which at the time felt like a hot miserable mess, my heart smiles. Without it I never would have explored a city I now completely love, I never would have learned that I deserve to be with someone who is excited to be with me, I never would have learned what it means to share a tiny New York apartment just to make things work, I never would have realized that I didn’t want to follow the traditional career path for my major and I never would have taken that long run on a hot July today that inspired me to start a little blog called In it 4 the Long Run.
It’s a cliche old as time. You know this. Everyone will tell you that the tough shit makes you stronger.
But here’s the twist…
…you’ve got the first part down, you know you need the challenges in your life to make you the best version of yourself, but unlike my New York experience they don’t need to make you miserable.
The next step is enjoying the stuff that makes you sweat (literally and metaphorically). If I could go back to that summer I wouldn’t change anything but my perspective. Instead of wishing the 10 weeks would end I would have asked myself as I stumbled over and over again “what I am I learning?” “where’s the comedy in this situation?” (because trust me, I’d laugh at myself a lot if I were me today).
Let me challenge you to challenge yourself to embrace the challenge.
Haha, sorry I couldn’t help myself. What I’m trying to say is: be grateful for the obstacles in your life and try to practice enjoying the struggle DURING the process instead of just looking back. Because if you’re lucky and you’re driven then I’m guessing a whole lot of your life is going to be challenging. Why don’t we make it fun too?
What was the last time you learned something from a challenge?