You’ve probably heard the joke about the men being chased by the bear in the woods. When one stops to tie his sneaker, the other one looks at him like he’s crazy. But the man replies, “I don’t have to be the fastest… just faster than you.” As I progress through life, I’m convinced that is concept is the reason some people get through the programs and land the jobs and promotions they do. It’s how some people stay married as long as they do. They just stick it out. They simply show up, day after day, while others quit or move on to do different things. They outlast.
This life lesson was ingrained deeply in me as a child. So, so deeply. It affected every activity, every project, even a random whim to open a lemonade stand on a Saturday afternoon. My little brother and I were taught that we did not have to be the best. We did not have to finish first. We just had to finish. We absolutely had to finish. We were taught to outlast.
During one of our recent bedtime battles, one of the twins put up a particularly valiant fight. She lost her voice and I lost my will, but I couldn’t give in. I couldn’t give in to her anger and I couldn’t leave. I’ve done both in the past, but this time was different. She had clearly lost control, and she needed me to wait it out. I had to outlast her, to show her that I’d still be here to love her when it was over. I had nothing to say to her but I sent everyone out of the room, refusing to shame her. I felt this desire to keep the others from seeing her so vulnerable, so rock-bottom. Finally, she whispered that she was all done. And then she crawled into my lap. Because I was there. I hadn’t given up on her.
Society tells us over and over again that it’s okay to quit. If you don’t like your job, find a new one. Maybe it wasn’t a good fit. If your friend hurts your feelings, drop her. There are more out there and you didn’t need her anyway. If your kid pitches a fit in a store, give him whatever it takes to quiet him down.
I’m not saying that these are terrible suggestions. But I want things to be different. I want to be part of a generation full of women who know how to dig their heels in. I want to be faithful in my work and in my relationships. Sometimes, that type of faithfulness involves being super productive and forward-thinking. Other times, it asks me to hang on with white knuckles while the other stuff passes by. In those cases, I’m simply an outlaster.