I was recently asked by a friend to think of five internal qualities I like about myself.

After a few minutes of deep thought, I concluded that my taste in music isn’t so bad.

I recruited my dad to name a thing or two that’s good about me, to which he answered that I’m not a quitter.

I suppose this is true, for the most part.

There’s a danger (although most don’t realize this) in not knowing when to quit, and knowing when you should.

Fortunately, I usually know the difference, and am in tune with myself enough to know how to get out of those situations. Another good quality about me.

This morning I was struck by a quote I read, but have no name to give credit for (I tried Googling it, so whoever owns this phrase, please don’t sue me): “There is a dignity in defeat that cannot be found in a victory.”

So, so true. You can win with humility, but there won’t be the same sort of grace there is in realizing “Yes, this is a loss, but I am not defined by it.”

It’s not an easy truth to believe, however, because everybody loves a good underdog-to-top-dog story, including me. It’s why I’ll go back and reread some of my top hero and heroines’ sucky-to-success stories when I’m looking for that much-needed boost of  motivation.

J.K. Rowling—love that woman. Even though I get annoyed that she keeps throwing curveballs in the Harry Potter plots NINE YEARS after the series ended.

Second to the Bible, the HP series is the world’s top bestseller. But before Harry Potter was born, Rowling was a single mother, unemployed, impoverished, suicidal and feeling quite alone in the world. But she kept chugging through the first draft of “The Philosopher’s Stone” on an old-school typewriter and was rejected by multiple different publishing houses. It wasn’t until the daughter of the final publisher took a look at Rowling’s book and demanded another one to quench her reader-thirst. Six novels, eight films, two theme parks later, and the rest is obviously history.

It’s always a good story–proving them wrong, coming out on top, looking at your nemeses in the eyes and saying “I did everything you said I couldn’t.” It’s the reason why we like to get amped up to “Eye of the Tiger” as we seek out better jobs, boyfriends, or a gym membership.

But the difference between that real, genuine motivation versus “feauxtivation” is realizing that you can’t always win. The well-intentioned, go-getter advice to “Make today your b—h!” and do something that makes you happy is not always helpful, especially if you don’t even have the energy to get up, or the energy to even WANT to get up, at the 90% risk of falling down again.

Not quitting is good. But sometimes quitting is the right thing to do, even if it doesn’t feel like it. There’s a chance it’s the universe telling you to make a change, or to focus your energy elsewhere.

For a girl I knew, her failures were pointing her to change her major, even though it may have seemed like the coward’s way out. After failing a number of her science classes—prerequisites for getting into her dream med school—she took it as a sign that maybe, just maybe, she should take her studies in a different direction. Which is probably for the best—I wouldn’t want to be on the operating table of a doctor who barely passed the test for a medical license.

For another, it was trying to make a relationship work that was simply doomed to fail. More than just long distance, if the person you fell in love with changes entirely (for the worse), it’s hard to keep those same feelings you once had because they’re not the same person anymore.

For me, it’s usually trying to impress people whose opinions I know deep down will never be relevant anyway. As I’ve become in better tune with certain vibes I get from others (as well as the vibes I give off), I’ve learned to gauge when a certain situation just simply isn’t in my best interest.

I’ve learned that it’s best to walk away when: a) I can sense them hearing, but not listening to me, b) I can more easily find reasons to leave than to stay, and c)realizing deep down that if I threw away my phone, it wouldn’t mark their world much differently.

Winners never quit and quitters never win, so the saying goes. But I have remind myself, what is my objective in trying over and over again at something that seems to be a rigged game? If the answer is trying to impress or prove I’m worth something to someone else, I’ve already lost.


On the Tracks

On the Tracks pic.jpg

While on assignment yesterday, I drove towards an intersection that happened to pass over some train tracks.

A couple cars behind the tracks, I quickly sped up once the light turned green. But almost as soon as the signal turned green, I slammed on my breaks when it suddenly turned red. Unfortunately for me, I was stopped right over the Metrolink rails.

I’ve written and referred to enough news stories pertaining to rail safety, thus my mind immediately went to images of time-pressed drivers disregarding/pummeling through the crossing gates that come down when a train is approaching, as well as the small handful of people who’ve parked their cars on the tracks in suicide attempts.

I fell into neither one of the above categories and thought it somewhat unfair that I might meet the same fate as those other drivers (although I knew it would be rather unlikely that that would be the moment a train would decide to pass through whilst I was in its path).

Once the light did turn green again, I relaxed my grip on the wheel and proceeded to my destination.

Still, it’s a bit unnerving to know that if I had been fated to a head-on collision, there would’ve been nothing I could do about it unless I acted quickly—I couldn’t move forward or backward with the other cars blocking me in from both directions. I supposed I could’ve done a Mission Impossible-type tuck and roll out of my car, but depending on how panicky I might’ve been, that idea might not have occurred to me.

I didn’t really dwell on this minor ordeal until later in the day. In that fleeting moment that I thought I was helpless, I also realized that there was an almost disturbing sort of comfort in knowing that there will be things in life I can’t change (but hopefully one of those things isn’t being stalled on the railroad tracks).

This summer, I’ve suddenly had to contend with a number of stresses which, if they had been distributed a little more evenly instead of all at once, I would probably be much better at juggling them. Sadly I don’t get to pick and choose, and most of them I have no control over.

The rational side of me realizes that these are things I simply can’t change no matter what I do, but most of the time, I’m restless—much as I would be while trapped in car about to be destroyed by a locomotive.

And perhaps the occasionally less-than-motivated side of myself (because we all have one) is secretly relieved that I nothing I can do will make these things go my way. It sucks obviously, but it’s kind of like taking a final exam and knowing (hopefully) you’ve done everything you can; the result is determined by a higher authority.

As I watch friends and other loved ones transition into new seasons of life, I’m simultaneously happy and anxious, as I’m left to wonder when it’ll come my time to move on as well. For now, however, I must be content with the now, because now is where I’m supposed to be. When it’s not, I’ll be ready to run.

As I turn the page of my calendar with the dawn of each new month, I know I can’t stop time, either. We’re all aging every second and the fact that each of us will run out of seconds is inevitable. As hard as it is to cope knowing there are people in our lives who are closer to running out, I know it’s simply a part of life.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also come to realize that there are people who walk into our lives but exit almost as quickly as they entered. I’ve heard it said that while we might’ve expected them to stay around for a longer time, their presence—or better yet—their unexpected absence, plays some role in our life journeys. I can’t say for certain I know the reason for these sudden exits right now, but perhaps I will soon.

And as I’ve gotten around more, I know, I know, I KNOW I can never control how I’m seen, although it’s a hard concept to swallow. For the most part, only I will know what sort of person I am, and where I can’t see the good, maybe someone else will.


Toxic Hope

Poison apple

Hope is a weird paradox. It’s something we’re told we can’t possibly survive without, yet it’s one of the things that can also kill you if you’re not careful.

I tend to be a cynic and therefore more often view it in the latter light.

Yet it’s something I’ll always go back to—sometimes stupidly so—even though I know just how hard it will kick me to the ground once I realize that that one certain glimmer of hope I’d been holding onto was just too much to believe in.

I don’t know, though. Some days, I’d like to think something good just might happen when I least expect it. Maybe I’ll consider it a good day, for reasons other than that I didn’t think about how I’m getting older every minute. Maybe I’ll get that sincere apology I never got. Maybe I’ll receive “anonymous” flowers. Maybe today I won’t need an umbrella. Maybe today I’ll wake up, happy to see the sun shine through my window. Maybe today will be the day I feel more than just “fine.”

But I know that day isn’t today. To be quite honest, I’m not sure if hope is more often my savior, or slow-killing poison disguised as a sweet medicine.

Some people think holding onto this hope is child’s play. In reality, I’d say it’s one of the hardest things not to let go of.

I find it though, in the strangest places, where I was never looking for it. Sometimes it’s a song I used to love and had forgotten about, other times it’s the preview to an upcoming movie and today it was a simple “thank you” from a middle-aged couple I held the door open for. I wouldn’t exactly say I felt happy when I experienced those things, but maybe the thought of how they might’ve changed someone’s day just slightly for the better makes me want to believe that perhaps tomorrow, someone will do that for me.

Tomorrow’s another day. Another chance for the sun to illuminate through the clouds.