When I was a freshman in college, my parents flew me home for my birthday in October. They had rented a wonderful cabin for the weekend in Central Oregon, and in front of the fire, over a glass of wine, they couldn’t wait to hear all about my fall semester adventures.
At which point I burst into tears.
I told them how miserable I was, and how much I hated it. I was lonely, lost, and wanted to come home. Now.
After a long moment, my dad quietly said, “Tell you what. If at the end of spring semester you still feel this way, you can come home. Stick it out until then.”
He was asking me to endure what felt like an impossible situation. Not forever. Just until the end of the school year. I didn’t like the idea, but I did it. Probably no surprise, but by the end of the year you couldn’t have pried me away from school with a crowbar.
Endurance is a quality that can only be cultivated by enduring. By sticking with it when the going gets tough, we develop staying power. Continuing to grind our way through, we hit the pay dirt of inner grit. By tolerating the discomfort, we become tenacious.
My dad didn’t give me an out, he gave me a light at the end of the tunnel. And the only way to get there was on my own two feet. Finding my way through that long-ago tunnel of endurance then, has served to remind me that I can do so again.
When we find ourselves in another tunnel, in the midst of what feels like an impossible situation, it’s time to find a light, no matter how dim or distant, and with dogged determination, make our way there.