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(verb) to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counterinfluences, opposition, or discouragement
This is one of my favourite words: persevere. I keep it in my pocket, ready to draw out when I need it, much like a pat on the back, or a hug from a friend. I use it nearly every day, and it serves me well. It forms the core of wisdom I offer when I am called upon to share. What have I learned in my fifty-odd years? To persevere: one step followed by another - to keep going, no matter the setback, no matter the weight of discouragement in my knapsack. I get tired, certainly. Or I change course. But with every breath I pull into my lungs, I persevere.
Perseverance isn't the same as endurance. Endurance, to my mind, suggests a static immovability. Perseverance involves some degree of engagement, and effort. It requires one to reach out beyond oneself and to commit to that next step along one's way. Perseverance invites one's soul to participate in the adventure of being alive, rather than hanging back and allowing life to wash over like a wave of water.
I have an old friend who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. She's undergoing chemotherapy, with all its attendant side effects: fatigue, aching bones, hair loss. Not to mention all the stress and grief and fear of what may happen if the treatment fails. Let me tell you about my friend: she makes me laugh, without fail. She makes perceptive and witty social commentary, drawing connections that I wouldn't – couldn't – spot myself. She mimics lines of dialogue from films and lyrics from songs, trotting them out with smashingly clever timing, like a comic missile landing in unsuspecting conversations. She posts every Mommie Dearest meme that the internet has to offer. Needless to say, her attitude toward her predicament draws on this wellspring of sass, and she perseveres.
I have another old friend who has been juggling a succession of personal losses with unwanted family caring responsibilities and a hefty practical workload. We've been talking about her visiting me here in the UK for years, but the space simply hasn't opened up for her. There is always some barrier in the way. This friend faces all her life's challenges with a cheerfulness and generosity of spirit that leaves me in awe. She too perseveres – with grace, and grit.
And yet another friend inspires me: a single mum with a young son and a job in Higher Education to which she commutes several hours each week. Not to mention the research projects she oversees, the journal editorship she undertakes, and the book she is writing. This friend faces a bullying work culture, an imploding HE sector and the relentless pressure of raising a child on her own. Does she get discouraged, and exhausted, and fed up? Yes – and she perseveres.
So what has all this to do with Unpsychology? Well, the Unpsychology project has always been concerned with how we meet this world of complex and potentially overwhelming challenges. And the creative work we do is a labour of love, volunteered around busy lives that are already full of commitments and competing workloads. In a world of culture wars, lecture circuits and personal branding – a world in which ideas are judged by their sexiness, and feted as solutions – Unpsychology lives in its own quiet corner of the internet, persevering. We offer Unpsychology as a gift: the digital issues are all free, and so is membership in this community. New voices are invited, and welcomed. All the richness is shared among friends.
Perseverance reaps its own rewards. It allows one to grow and to participate fully. It provides a space whereby one may unfurl one's wings and fly. The next time you feel overwhelmed, or despairing, or cynical, try reaching into your pocket and pulling out this word: persevere. It really does work its own kind of magic.
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