“Chosen” Suffering

A little over a week ago, I was talking to my eighth graders about being a grad student. It was finals week for me, and I was a bit stressed. One of the girls looked at me and said, “Yeah, but that was your choice. You didn’t have to go to grad school.”

I told her that she was right, but then I told her that sometimes the sufferings and difficulties that we choose to bring into our lives are harder to bear than the ones that we don’t choose.

She looked at me like I was nuts and went back to whining about the potential end of One Direction.

But here’s the thing. Whether or not that student likes it, I often find that the difficulties that I choose are harder to bear than the ones that are pressed upon me. Difficulties that I’ve chosen are also things from which I could walk away. I could choose to leave grad school behind. No one is making me stay there.

But I want to be there. Yes, the time commitments are demanding. The work is not always easy. I have to work hard for this degree. And there are times when I question what I’m doing. I wonder why I’m putting myself through this. And the answer is that I want the degree that I’m pursuing. I want the knowledge that is available to be gained. But that requires putting forth effort and making sacrifices that I don’t always want to make.

On the other hand, there are difficulties that I’ve faced that I didn’t choose. My sophomore year of college, I had a case of walking pneumonia that went undiagnosed for far too long. (It was also an unusual case of it.) I didn’t choose that. And the treatment/recovery from it were difficult. But I didn’t choose it, and at some level, that made it easier. I wasn’t forcing myself to have pneumonia. I don’t know if I could have handled it if I had chosen to have pneumonia. It definitely impacted my life, but I would never have chosen it and I hope that I never do it again.

But I did choose grad school. Do I always love it? Uh, no. Will I be better for it some day? Yes. Is it better than pneumonia? Always. Is it making me a better person? Most days. Is it helping me to become the person that I am meant to be? Yes. Should I be doing it? Yes. Is it hard? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

So I press on.


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