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Five times I’m grateful I kept going and the one time I’m grateful I gave up

A lot of times, we’re tempted to just give in and stop pursuing something. For rest, for peace of mind, for anything. It’s sometimes the easier way out of a challenge, one that seems too daunting. We’ve all been through some trials where the odds seemed impossible and some of us have emerged from those challenges even stronger.

Here are five instances I’m grateful I kept going and the one time I was grateful I gave up.

5. Sports

In all my teams, I was bullied, picked on, or ostracized in some way. It was confusing why I was being treated that way when I never sought out any enemies or made myself stand out. I tried my best to blend in, put my head down, and put in the work to get better. But if I made one small error, I was a nuisance. I would be locked out of team meetings and would be the one to apologize. And it was always disheartening. At many points, I wanted to throw in the towel and give in, walk away from such a stressful environment.

But I persevered and put in the work as honestly as I could. I worked hard, studied the game, and it gave me a full scholarship to my dream school where I excelled. I helped out my parents since they didn’t have to pay tuition and ultimately proved I was strong in the face of those who would try to tear me down.

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4. School

When it came to school, I was sad to know that I wasn’t as naturally gifted as other people. I really had to put my time and effort into studying, something I didn’t always want to do, especially with an athletic scholarship. I was constantly exhausted from training and still had to run to my classes every day. At one point I thought to just cruise along and get passing grades to be able to save myself from sleepless nights and early morning training. But I knew that I was in my dream school to learn above all–student before athlete. So I buckled up and worked through it.

It felt good to excel in academics alongside doing well as an athlete. Being on top of my studies while juggling a sport was a confidence booster I didn’t know I needed, one that I was glad I had. I helped my teammates, did my homework, passed papers, and recited in class with a hunger to learn. And I’m glad I didn’t just resort to cruising along.

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3. Art

I loved art as a kid. I would paint, draw, do whatever I could to create something with my hands. But as I got older, my family members began to criticize me for wanting to take it as a course and wanting to make it my career. It was painful to hear how much they belittled what I loved to do. I couldn’t believe that they kept comparing me to my cousins or family friends who were becoming bankers or doctors–“real” jobs.

For a while, I got into an art slump. I couldn’t draw without feeling guilty. I couldn’t paint without feeling small. But with the help of artists I looked up to, I picked my pencil back up and started again, dedicating myself to creation. I’m not the best and I certainly could’ve been better by now if I hadn’t taken my hiatus, but it felt good to know that I was improving still.

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2. Writing

Writing was another thing I loved to do ever since I was a kid. I was pumping out poems and short stories as fast and as often as I could, wanting to make worlds and narratives come to life. But this was something else that was heavily scrutinized and questioned by my family. One tutor even asked me: “What are you going to do if you’re a writer?” And honestly, for a while, I didn’t want to consider it as an option anymore. I wanted to toss away all my poems and dive deep into the sciences instead to try and prove myself worthwhile.

When I reached high school, however, my teachers saw the rawness in my writing that they could sharpen into talent. They encouraged me to keep going, to keep at my craft. I came out with a book at the end of my fourth year in college and I would never have done it if I folded under the pressure.

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1. Making friends

I’ve always been a little shy and awkward and, because of this, stuck closely to people I knew from elementary even if we had nothing in common anymore. I was afraid to go out there and bare myself to more people because I didn’t want to be rejected, as I had been time and time again. I often thought of just secluding myself and pushing everyone away as people would always leave my life and take everything with them, even people who told me they’d be my friend forever.

I’m still in the process, but I’m not giving up.

I know there are truly kind people out there and that they’re going to be there for me as much as they can.

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And the one thing I’m glad I gave up on: Trying to make you love me again

Two years ago, you decided to exit my life after trampling all over me. I was left with amber bottles of beer and taking too many sleeping pills to try and stop crying. You took everything I had, used it, abused me, and left me for dead, saying you couldn’t take a relationship right now. It was like I had been filled to the brim with the ocean and I suffocated every second.

I was desperate and truly wanted you to choose me again. I gave you what you wanted, I took the verbal beatings, the cruelty, how you took advantage of my vulnerability for sexual favors. I would cry whenever you wouldn’t say you loved me in moments you used to. I kept pushing and pushing and said I would always be there. I remembered how you would say you would always love me–and it made no sense that you no longer did.

Anytime you needed something, I was the first to do it. I would let you kiss me whenever you needed and let you leave whenever you liked, even if you didn’t bother to say goodbye. I would wait in silence for days for you to speak to me. And when you did, nothing else mattered, even if the way you talked down to me made me seem small and pathetic. I took it all, desperate for you to love me again.

I even took it when you made fun of me for holding on so much when all that time, you had already found someone new. When you were done with me, you’d go to her. Even after you said you didn’t want a relationship with anybody. And still, I wanted you to love me.

I dated other guys, all of whom were also awful, and I never forgot about you. There were places I couldn’t visit anymore, things I couldn’t do. I was sick, terribly, and it was all because of you.

One day, I walked into a therapist’s office and unpacked it all. “He abused you,” she said, and I cried one last time for you. That was the moment I knew I had given up on trying to make you love me. And I have been happier since. I still get nightmares and still panic, the trauma of your existence in my life a stamp on me forever. But I no longer crave your love.

And I am grateful.