“You like the struggle more than the progress,” she said, referring to a pieced together quote I’ve come to cherish and return to often. Truth has a way of hitting heaviest when it’s succinct.
I sat reflecting upon that moment at a cafe across from MSU’s campus in East Lansing. I was using their outdoor patio, chilled, my clothes wet from cycling in the rain. I could have driven. But I chose not to. My only regret was not packing along a dry pair of pants. There are certain things that I have done or am doing that lend credence to what she said that evening. And I’m not going to pretend that there’s a simple reason behind those things.
For instance, for over a month now I’ve been telling people that I was going to write about sleeping in my car. I’d tell them that it would be better to write something clear and concise and then direct them to it, in order to save time and evade misunderstandings. I told two coworkers just that today. But I’ve changed my mind.
I don’t completely understand why I choose some of the struggles that I do or cling to some of the pain that I do. There are words that I can bring up that are true and defend certain actions- simplicity, solidarity, faith, frugality, self-discipline, trust, sustainability, freedom, minimalism- but they don’t completely encompass or express what is.
I’m going to paint something further with two broad strokes. I choose it because:
There is something in the struggle.
And there is something beyond the struggle.
Something in it: It’s choosing to live. I can feel it. The negative ramifications of my choices and perceived effects upon my own value come strongly and frequently. These are easy to fall into, but altogether serve as a beneficial reminder than I’m not simply following. I’m confronting something.
Something beyond it: It points beyond itself. It’s made whole by something that has yet to occur. It’s fulfillment is not completely encountered in the present. This has much to do with why I can’t fully explain it. I don’t know where it leads.
I walked briskly towards the Refugee Development Center this afternoon, a bike with two blown out tires at my side. As I strode, a bearded African-American man appeared in front of me. He was bundled up and washing the store-front windows in the November cold. He asked how I was. I said “fine, thanks”and asked how he was doing.
The truth of his response was audible as the word passed beyond his lips. The winds quieted, and I continued my walk.
If you have the ability to be contented in your circumstances, and offer perspective to others, you have much. Words may not always be the best way to explain why. You may not need to defend your actions; maybe only persevere. I can’t explain why this man was as he was. But it’s what I want. The ability to show something; to have something to offer. Something more than empty words and rhetoric. Progress?