Written by Ben Walker edited by Taco Fleur
People in today’s society lack a point of reference for suffering. They describe being so tired that they just can’t get out of bed, are too sore to workout, or are to quick giving up when a task gets difficult. What people think is an exhausting ordeal is actually quite within their realms of capability. They just don’t truly know how tired they can be and still function. They lack that crucial point of reference.
My point of reference takes us back to football training camp, my sophomore year of high school. It was the middle of August, at the end of a two-a-day. I will never forget how our coach would signal the end-of-practice conditioning: *WHISTLE* “On the endliiiiiiiine!” You could hear the smile in his voice; I still get chills. Our conditioning that day was twenty “good” forty-yard sprints. “Good” meant that after each sprint, our coach would decide whether or not it would count depending on how hard the team as a whole ran. Lovely.
I lost count, but after what must have been close to thirty sprints, our coach blew his whistle and said we were done and could go home. But my suffering wasn’t over. I could hardly walk back to the locker room; I had to stop and take a knee three or so times on the walk back. I was that exhausted.
It took me until after college to realize how valuable that experience had been for me. I spent the first two years after graduation traveling the U.S. and Canada in a national touring musical; I’m an actor as well as a trainer. This tour often involved waking up at five in the morning, getting on a bus for eight to twelve hours, doing a show that night, and then doing all that over again the next day. This included a twelve-day stretch where we played eleven different cities and bussed 3,255 miles between Maryland and South Dakota. Not the cushiest travel schedule or method. What I found, especially during that twelve-day stretch, was that I was not having as hard a time as a number of my cast mates. I certainly was tired, and had a few extra coffees before those shows, but I wasn’t miserable; doing the show didn’t feel like it took much extra effort. When I tried to figure out why this was, I realized that I was never as broken, physically or mentally, as after that football practice. From that point of reference, nothing else seemed as bad.
I’ve been able to take this lesson and apply it to my everyday life. A long day of auditioning, a difficult workout, an extra work assignment that I wasn’t expecting. Are any of these going to make me suffer as much as thirty-plus forty-yard sprints in full pads at the end of a two-a-day in August? The answer is almost always no, so I just get on with it.
I encourage you, reader, to look back and see if you can remember that ultimate experience of suffering from your past. If you don’t have one, go out and find it! Your day-to-day challenges will immediately pale in comparison. You will take on tasks you didn’t know you could. And you will know when you are ACTUALLY too tired to get out of bed.
I’d like to leave you with this quote to ponder:
“Of pain. If it is past bearing, it makes an end of us; if it lasts, it can be borne.”
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 7.33
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