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Losing Pillars of Strength


For someone who’s entire life seems to be based on the focus of going beyond the accepted borders to strive for excellence. It is easy not to put trust in the negativity that those around you expel. A Chinese proverb says, “Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it,” and if there are certain individuals who you know will be naysayers to your cause, your best bet is to avoid them at all possible cost. Unless of course, they were once positive about your ambitions and insisted on offering you encouragement during the difficult days. Last summer, I ran into such a teacher who for years before insisted that I would go far in life. She gave me every possible encouragement that she could muster and four years ago I was incredibly grateful. Starting out on my own and attempting to get my bearings as well as get directions. This summer however, she offered no such encouragement. Instead I found her cold, harsh, negative. Her own life had been degraded in recent years and she found it necessary to do the same for anyone else she came across, including me. Where there was once warm support and encouragement, there was now fatalism.

After class one evening I found myself hiding in a brick garage off of Tottenham Court Road, the hot tears running down my face and spilling over my eyes almost uncontrollably. Among other things I could think of to do, I finally rang up a friend of mine who was sitting at home watching television and told her of the confrontation. “She told me I would be better off living in a home.”

“What! In what context?!” I explained the situation saying that the altercation finally ended with her stating that the best bet for me would be to only work for the disabled population for the rest of my life.

“Is it true?” I asked, fearing the response.

“Of course not, don’t be stupid.”

I once asked my pastor when a person can tell the difference between perseverance and plain stubbornness. He explained that in the first, your closest friends and loved ones will encourage you. In the second, when those that know you best begin to question your motives and actions you know its time to take a step backward and reevaluate the aim of your self journey. I always took this advice as wise and solid but then that night, huddled on Tottenham Court Road, I realized something else. Sometimes, in the course of your journey, the people that you assumed were closest to you actually stopped traveling by your side a few miles back and they are no longer your top advisors or safe places in which to store confidence. They are in fact, no longer with you.

Sometimes the goals of a person don’t need to change, the entire system needs to be reevaluated.

It’s always shocking when someone you thought was constantly going to be supportive and there for you says, “Thus far will I travel with you on the road, but no further.” Either they no longer have the energy to encourage you or they disagree with your choice of destinations, perhaps they have come into their own crises in life which are causing them to reevaluate everything. Regardless of the reasoning, of course at first all you feel is abject betrayal, the idea that this individual was going to be a pillar of strength for your cause and now has backed out. Then, you have a choice…stay with the person as they have stopped traveling down your path in the hopes that eventually they will begin moving again. Or, leave them there and keep going, not waiting for the fallen pillar of strength to reassemble. Here you find the test between the value of the relationship and the value of chasing your dreams. Sometimes one more costly than the other, and often times you cannot have both.

A relationship does not necessarily have to end when such a person decides they can no longer support you. But, I have made the conscious decision to end a few as I did with my teacher on Tottenham Court Road that evening. I can’t speak to her reasons for insisting that I change the course of my life. I’m sure in her mind they were the humane ideas to express. But I know, that I can no longer depend on support from her. Often times we are unable to stay where we lose our friends and we find that the dream drives us forward even when they insist that they will not come with us. Sometimes such people do get moving again and we welcome them back, but often times the split is permanent. That evening I knew that such a split had occurred, one in which the divide would be permanent. And all I could do was come out of the garage, fling it over my shoulder, and head further down the road by myself. Hoping that somehow, my old teacher and I would cross paths again.

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