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As many of you know, Rachel and I went on a 10-day Euro-trip a few years ago, and it was absolutely amazing. We explored ancient castles, ate incredible food, and went on so many walking tours that I’m now in need of new sneakers (including a Harry-Potter-themed tour of Edinburgh because, obviously).
Traveling back home, though, was … less than amazing.
After waking up before 6am and sitting through an 8-hour flight, we got in the longest customs line I’ve ever seen.
For nearly 3 hours, I lugged my heavy bags through endless weaving lines of people, feeling like I might get stuck in that warehouse-sized, fluorescent-lit beige room for the rest of my days.
Not anticipating this long of a wait, I hadn’t eaten much on the plane or stopped for a bathroom break (despite the several cups of orange juice I’d accepted from the flight attendant), so I was ill prepared for the marathon I’d unwillingly joined. Plus, because of the time difference, my body thought it was 10pm, even though it was only 5pm back in the States.
On top of the physical discomforts, I’m also a Highly Sensitive Person, which means that I tend to get overstimulated easily by masses of people. So standing in line with thousands of people — including crying children having temper tantrums (and who could blame them?) — felt like the sensitive person’s equivalent of nails on a chalkboard for hours on end.
The whole time I stood in that line, I remembered two mantras I’ve used to get me through challenging times in my life and played them on repeat in my mind:
“This won’t last forever,”and “you’ve made it through harder things than this before.”
THIS WON’T LAST FOREVER
When you’re in an uncomfortable situation, it can feel interminable — like you just might get stuck in that situation, feeling miserable for eternity.
That’s how I felt in that customs line. It’s also how I felt for the entire year and a half that I was at my last full-time job. I was unhappy every day in that place — the environment was draining (borderline toxic), I was bored out of my mind by the work, and I didn’t feel connected to the people there.
There were so many days at that previous job where I felt utterly trapped, like I might never escape that place.
But a small, quiet, wise place inside me knew the truth — that it wouldn’t last forever.
I would remind myself that this was just a temporary stop along the long trajectory of my career. I’d imagine how I would feel on the day that I walked out of that building for the very last time, knowing that finally this phase of my life was over.
Even though these uncomfortable moments in my life felt like an eternity at the time, looking back I have the perspective to realize that, not only did they eventually end, but they really didn’t last that long in big picture.
Three hours in a customs line is nothing in the grand scheme of my life. Barely a blip.
A year and a half at a job I hated is a bit longer, but even that was relatively short compared to the full expanse of my lifetime.
Even hardships that last significantly longer — challenges that last for weeks, months, even years — will eventually end. The one constant in life is change, so there’s no way your life will continue to look and feel exactly the way it does now.
You won’t feel like this forever.
YOU’VE MADE IT THROUGH HARDER THINGS THAN THIS BEFORE
As I was waiting in that horrendous line, trying to ignore my physical and emotional discomforts, I reminded myself that I’ve made it through much worse than this.
I’ve survived the grief of loved ones who have passed, and the heartbreak of relationships that ended, and the pain and uncertainty of health issues with no clear remedy.
If I could make it through those things, this was nothing in comparison.
More than likely, whatever you’re going through right now isn’t the hardest situation you’ve ever faced. So if you’ve survived through worse, then you have what it takes to make it through this, too.
Even if what you’re going through right now is the worst you’ve ever experienced, it’s certainly not the first challenge you’ve come up against in your life. The strength and resilience you’ve built up through all of your previous struggles has prepared you to handle this, too.
RESILIENCE = SELF-TRUST
While I wouldn’t wish discomfort or misery or hardships on anyone, I think there’s a hidden gem buried for each of us in the most difficult challenges we face: the self-trust we gain from building resilience.
It’s why people who have experienced extreme hardship — deaths of loved ones, serious health issues, traumas, etc. — say that they feel fearless, with a renewed vigor for life, on the other side. They’ve proven their strength and resilience through that terrible experience, so they trust themselves to handle anything else life throws their way.
Author and speaker Glennon Doyle has instituted a family motto that she repeats to her kids (and herself) when things get tough: We can do hard things.
I love this so much. Because life isn’t ever going to stop putting challenges in your path. You’re never going to be “done” with hardships or uncertainty or discomfort or fear or despair. But when you can trust yourself to do hard things and be resilient in the face of challenges, it all feels a lot more tolerable.
And one more thing…
THERE’S BEAUTY IN CONTRAST
After what felt like one of the longest days of my life (and possibly was the longest day of my life, considering I’d gained an extra 5 hours due to the time difference), I was overjoyed by the simplest things once I got home: eating a hot meal, taking a shower, and curling up in bed.
If you can endure a bit of discomfort, then comfort feels all the more luxurious.
If you’ve been in despair, you open yourself up to greater levels of joy on the other side.
If you’ve lived with uncertainty, then you can appreciate clarity like never before.
Going through hard times gives you the perspective to fully appreciate the best moments in life.
I’m not saying you have to like being in a challenging situation or pretend to have a positive outlook when you’re in the dumps … not at all! You’re absolutely allowed to feel upset or frustrated or disappointed or overwhelmed when you’re in the thick of it.
To deny those feelings would be to deny your humanity.
But hopefully it helps, even slightly, to remember that whatever challenging situation you’re in right now is building resilience, which is ultimately building self-trust. And that’s going to serve you for the rest of your life.
Plus, this won’t last forever … I promise.
What mantras have helped you get through tough times in your life? Share them with me, in the comments!
Kristen (& Rachel)
Don’t want to go through the tough times alone?
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