Quiet. Picture a quiet little girl looking out of her classroom window, imagining a fantastical world, an escape from reality. She was a fair curly little girl with chubby cheeks and round eyes. People would often pinch her cheeks and say “so cute”. This hurt, she hated it, but endured it nevertheless. Yes, she endured and she was good at it.
The little girl, I will name Curly, endured nightly nightmares. She endured her father’s and grandfather’s alcohol driven outbursts. She endured that putrid stench of fear and dysfunctionality within her household. Yes, she endured in silence.
Don’t worry, this is not a story about doom and gloom. It’s not even about perseverance. In fact, quite the opposite. Tonight, I’ll tell you a story about Curly, the girl who fought the monster. Its name is Endurance.
Endurance is defined as the power of withstanding an unpleasant situation without giving way. But it is a good thing! You might argue. So, I’ll tell you the story and you decide.
You see, alcohol and violence go hand in hand, it’s a match made in heaven, or rather, hell! Curly was born into this kind of maladjusted environment. And unlike alcohol and violence, her parent’s relationship was like oil and water or better yet, lemon and more lemons…it was sour. The girl thought that sour was the definition of normal. She thought that a father is to be feared and pleased at all costs, that grandparents are supposed to be meddlesome and judgmental, and that mothers are shields from the violent attacks of both parties. Curly was always in survival mode. She tried to be perfect at everything. She was as compliant as modelling clay. She also avoided confrontations like the plague. Curly took the backseat in her own life. She simply just endured.
Things took a turn for the better when her mother finally decided to break free. She and her kids eventually moved into a new house. A separation process which involved court cases, something the local tabloids devoured and treated as a scandal. They endured the public’s disdain.
Her mother’s courage trickled down to Curly. For 10 years, she endured life. Now, outside the depressing confines of her old house, she took her first courageous step to actively participate in her life. She joined a science conference in Cebu with a few other students and a teacher. It was a breakthrough since she just coasted along wave after wave, year after year of school, surviving.
After that, she developed a habit of excellence in school. Which translated to academic accolades up until College Graduation. She failed to see that she again has started befriending her endurance monster. Her emotional baggage drove her to strive for perfection. Perfection meant acceptance, perfection meant worthiness, perfection meant endurance. Be perfect or die.
It took another major turn in her life to knock her to her senses. This time, it was an unplanned pregnancy. It woke her up. Her drive for perfection and acceptance brought her to this situation. She was now responsible for a life. Curly realized, she had to get rid of this endurance mentality and live a mindful active life where she was the driver, not the passenger. Curly knew befriending her monster again would produce another generation of disturbed individuals.
Fellow toastmasters, you probably already know that I am that little girl. A large part of my life was driven by survival. I learned that what drives you, defines you. If you are driven by the desire to survive, then survive you will. But it doesn’t mean you live a quality life. I needed a quality life for myself and my child. So I learned to ask important questions in life such as, Mandy are you thriving? Are you making conscious decisions, and not allowing your history, background, previous traumas to decide for you?
I am glad to say that ever since I hit rock bottom with my pregnancy, I started to pick fights with my monster. We still engage in a boxing match once in a while. This tug of war between enduring and mindful living is a lifetime battle. But I must say, I have quite a few trophies to show for already. I am once again an active member of TM. I am actively homeschooling my child. I have travelled and showed my art to the world. And I am consciously working towards making more of my dreams come true.
So let me ask you this, Did the new normal introduce you to my friend “endurance”? Stop! Don’t shake its hand. Put on those boxing gloves and fight for a great life.
About the author: Ms. A is a Toastmaster and a practicing visual artist and educator. This was her icebreaker speech for the new Toastmasters Pathway Program. Visit www.artlifeamandafe.com to know more about this artist.