I was sitting in the library at my university, desperately trying to complete my assignment and yet I was making little, to no progress. My patience was starting to run low and I didn’t have much time to waste either. I became very frustrated with myself and started to draw in negative energy, which was slowly sucking out the little bit of motivation I had left in me. Whenever I feel frustrated, I read or write. It sure doesn’t help time-wise in a situation where an assignment is due, but it does set my mind straight and I believe when the mind is right anything is achievable, regardless of the current circumstances. So I would like to share three lessons I learnt from Michelle Obama in three parts, on the importance of overcoming adversity in her graduation speech to the D.C. College Access Program.
- Don’t ever, ever shy away from a good struggle.
Just the word alone makes me cringe. ‘Struggle’ is a term that brings negative images to my mind. It also stirs up fear and somehow, when I think of, or hear the word struggle, I immediately think of pain too. Personally, if I had it my way, I wouldn’t want to ever struggle with anything because I have been there before, emotionally, physically and mentally and know what it feels like. Struggling in these areas is not good for the soul. However, when I take a step back to think about the lessons I have learnt from those moments of struggle, I have to admit that it may not have been the best experience but it taught me so much. My past struggles have either taught me something about myself that I needed to work more on, or it taught me to pay attention to other people. In a nutshell, what I learnt from Michelle Obama was that life is a constant journey of ‘success and struggle’ and ultimately, we get to define what we choose to focus on from those two elements as they occur.
“Life is an endless process of struggle and success, struggle and success.” -Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama suggests that during our time in college, we are not just learning business or biology or sociology. We are learning how to survive and thrive no matter what life throws at us. The lesson she suggests we continue learning is to never stop struggling, “because that’s how you got to college in the first place, you struggled for it and when you got there you struggled even more”.
Now maybe the concept of struggling to get into college may not ring true for some of you but for me it does. After high school, I didn’t get accepted into college straight away. I didn’t meet the required grades for my course and I had to do a year of bridging courses. It was a tough phase in my life and I resented it. The things they taught me during that year seemed elementary and irrelevant. It was a mission waking up every day, just attend an English class or worse, a computing class where I was being taught the basics I already knew all over again. I was angry with myself and felt very silly because while I was now practically doing my ABC’s and 123’s again, most my friends were enjoying university life, or so it seemed at the time.
One year later, I finally started university and I was navigating my way through how university life operates, in terms of what the lecturers looked for in assignments and how to ace them. To my surprise, I found myself thanking my year of foundation studies. Had I not spent that year preparing for university, I’m not so confident I would have transitioned as smoothly as I did. It turned out those baby steps were necessary after all.
“So struggling isn’t a bad thing. It is not a sign of weakness — in fact; it’s a sign of growth. It’s a sign that you’re expanding your capacity to handle the hard challenges that you will inevitably face throughout your entire life. So don’t ever, ever shy away from a good struggle” -Michelle Obama