A word I have found myself drawn to this year. I have spent a good deal of time thinking, writing, and talking about this word.
I have become cognizant of how it has become almost a part of my everyday vocabulary. With that, I don’t want to overuse the word and take away from it’s rich meaning. However, I have found that the more I use the word and think about the word, the more the meaning expands and deepens to me. It’s because every person I meet exhibits their own kind of resilience.
We all withhold our own kind of resilience—
It’s hidden beneath the scars we wear.
It’s in the wrinkles of life lived and wisdom waiting to be shared.
It’s the story written in the tears that have fallen down our face.
It’s in our laughter that has bursted out amidst our pain.
It’s in our courage we take to step out of fear.
It’s in our fight to do what we are passionate about, no matter how long that journey will be.
It’s in the persevering.
It’s in our weakness and in our strength.
It took a professor challenging me greatly to see that resilience really does surround me and that it lies within every person that we meet. We must look for it though— we must really see, hear, and care for someone in order to understand how they exhibit their own kind of resilience.
And on my last day of class with this professor I wrote this out:
Today I sat back in class and watched the quietest of my classmates stand up and speak louder than anyone in the room. I sat back and watched her allow her insecurities and fear fall as she confidently spoke out one of the most powerful poems I have ever heard. I sat back and was proud, encouraged, and moved. I sat back and was changed by seeing her claim her voice and the brilliancy that lies beneath it.
Today I sat back in class and watched one of my classmates bid farewell to his friend doubt. I sat back and watched the transformation of this classmate as he went from hiding in the corner of the class to standing proudly in the front of the room reading aloud words that reflected his reclaiming of his beauty and voice. I sat back and again, was changed.
Today I sat back in class and watched another classmate break free from the ghosts that have been whispering to her that she isn’t smart enough or good enough to be in our class. I sat back and watched her humorous side release as she stood in humility and in great courage in front of all of us. I saw her real self that had been hiding behind her mask of insecurity and gosh did her beauty strike me. I sat back and again, was changed.
Today I sat back in class and watched the most brilliant professor I have had say his goodbye to his times in the classroom as a teacher (though I have no doubt the rest of his life he will be teaching in some shape or form). I sat back and watched him read off his final reflection on the classes he has taught over the years. I sat back and watched tears roll out of his eyes as his voice chocked up all the way through reading off the last page. These tears that tell stories that I will never know and these tears that express what no words ever can. I sat back and saw his humility, deep care. And because of that, I sat back speechless. Thankful. Humbled. And again, changed.
And that small list of four people doesn’t even scratch the surface of the resilience around me. I could write about how affected I was by every single classmates cape-stone project. These projects that gave me such a clear glimpse into other’s true selves and other’s sheer beauty.
In that one class, we shared our lives with one another. We talked about our families. I actually learned about how many siblings my classmates had, which may sound small, but it brought us all to see our common ground. You sit besides strangers most of college and with that, you almost forget that the people besides you also have families and lives outside of that classroom. But, in this class, I saw my classmates also as children of their parents or sisters/brothers to their siblings. And that changed things in a simple, yet profound way. In that class, we also talked about our insecurities and we all, at one time, admitted out desire to be approved of. And with that, we all were surprised by how even the most confident classmates were also dying to be seen and approved of. We shared our fears, doubts, and wrestlings. We talked about the masks that we wear that claim “i’m fine” and then we talked about how some days, we really aren’t fine. We talked about some of the battles we have had to fight through in life. We talked about they “why”— why we are the way that we are. We shared our thoughts on religion, politics, and society. We argued. We had many disagreements. But we listened. We listened to one another. We were challenged to hear one another’s thoughts not from our own perspective, but from each other’s perspective… and at times that was hard. We didn’t always do this well. But we tried… our professor made sure that we tried. We were challenged to see the beauty within ourselves and then we were challenged to see the beauty in one another. We were challenged to not be strangers. We were not aloud to use our phones as a safety net and as a way to avoid engagement. Instead, we had to talk. We had to get to know one another whether we wanted to or not.
In that class, we were constantly pushed to be uncomfortable. And some days, I resisted. Some days I really did not want to be there. I did not want to be vulnerable. I didn’t want to have the hard and heavy conversations. I did not want to be challenged. I wanted to be a fly on the wall that could make it through a class without having to be called on. I wanted to keep to myself. I wanted to where my “I’m fine” mask. I wanted to be in a class where I didn’t know the person to left or right of me, because it feels much easier that way.
But man, I would have missed so much if I gave in to all my resistance. The discomfort was every bit worth it. The tears I cried after some classes were every bit worth it. The difficult conversations we navigated through were worth it. The vulnerability was worth it.
In that one class we simply (but not so simply) were led to see the beautiful, messy, and complex humanness of one another.
We saw our common ground that stood even amidst our great differences and disagreements.
And through seeing each other’s humanness, we saw one another’s resilience. We had the chance to see each other take courage. We had the opportunity to cheer one another on in that courage. We had a chance to become a community. And when we finally did, it changed everything.
The resilience became impossible to miss.
And everyday, we are presented with the same opportunities. We are presented with the choice to love one another. To really see one another. To be slow to speak and quick to listen. To learn from one another.
Because when we really see one another and when we really care to try to understand one another, we experience a different kind of understanding. An understanding that every human you meet has a story that is worth sharing and worth being heard. An understanding that dismantles the “us vs them” mentality. An understanding that brings us into humility and compassion for one another. An understanding that has the powerful potential to bread community and a new kind of unity.
My challenge to all of us it to seek out that resilience in those around us. And don’t forget to see your own resilience my friends.
And then write out the stories of what you see. What does resilience mean to you?