I need help. Someone, please swoop in and tell me what to do with my life. I feel powerless. I want to give up. Why is it so hard to live.
These are just a few of the doubts and fears I have had to face on a consistent basis walking through the dimly lit existence people so willingly call life. It has without biased humbled me in respects to believing that the world is just waiting to be conquered by the whim of my sporadic unsolidified motivation. Even though the struggle of failure is real; seeing beyond the immediate pain of my daily monotony, there is a grand scope of strengths and knowledge delving into the depths of my being, uninvited, unseen, and dispersing nutrients for the journey ahead of me.
One subtle encounter that changed my life came from a simple email I received from a man I respect. I had reached out to him because I had just reached a milestone in my project that was exciting to me. He responded with some simple encouragement and then at the very end of the email this line was inserted. "Don’t let up. You are Sisyphus pushing the rock up the mountain every day. Learn to enjoy that grind."
That simple statement resonated within me like an echo in a canyon. I could not shake it. I then started to read more about this Sisyphus character to which he had referred because I did not fully get the context initially. Without having to dive deep into Greek mythology and trying to explain it shortly, the gist of it is this. Sisyphus in certain accounts had deceived some godly beings and was cursed to pushing a boulder up a hill eternally.
When reading the accounts of this epic mythological character from the past, I could not shake the fact of how much I felt this was a perfect image of masculinity. Now I am not referring to the deception part. I want to focus on the curse of pushing a rock up a hill eternally. I have yet to find a better parallel for this topic. You see masculinity and being a man is work; constant moments of needing every ounce of strength to stop the world from crushing you. I do not remember a season of my life where I was not forced to express fortitude on levels which I did not know I possessed. Every day of life I encounter makes me feel more and more like Sisyphus than I would like to admit. I guess an example of this in my life would be an excellent idea.
It's story time!
In the early years of my apprenticeship as an electrician, I was beckoned to a large commercial printing facility because the lights in the office were not functioning on a level which was enlighting. So there I was an inexperienced apprentice greener than the grass outside trying to fix a complex issue that my brain had yet to grasp. I spent an hour or two poking around trying to find what was broken and attempting to problem solve. Finally, I thought the issue which had left me puzzled for some time was about to be conquered when.... BOOM! I had shoved my needle nose pliers in a place they should not have gone. A huge spark blinded me and instantaneously shut-off power to over a quarter of this massive facility. Printers were stopped halfway through their printing process, the office computers were shut down, and a vast majority of people were just standing around watching me. This undesired crowd of spectators did not help the incoming tide of insecurities and feelings of helplessness.
I felt so overwhelmed and underqualified to deal with the issue at hand which had now grown into a small catastrophe that seemed insurmountable. I panicked and instantly called my brother/boss who I was apprenticing under at the time and spilled the beans of my failure. I was hoping that there was some way he could impart the years of his experience through the phone and make the issue seem like an ant on the sidewalk so I could just step on it and have this painful ordeal be over with. Alas, he was over an hour away geographically, and I was transfixed on my own with the office manager asking me questions that I had no answer to. The rock which I was pushing up the hill had crushed me.
This small yet significant defining moment of my life is something I will never forget. I didn't quit. I conquered that son of a bitch. As adrenaline and guilt were pumping through my veins, I systematically broke down the issue and figured out what the problem was and resolved it. I could not let my failure stop me. I fixed it hours later and felt as though I had walked from the ends of my existence back into this word similar to a warrior who walks back into the civilian world after a battle. Even though the rock had rolled over me and went back to the bottom of the hill, I made the choice to start pushing it up again and to this day, any failure great or small is less likely to overwhelm me like that fateful day in my past. It taught me that even when I am devastated, hopeless, and feel like nothing; if I just start pushing that rock back up the hill and don't give up, I will make it.
That is masculinity to me. It has little to do with not failing, being prosperous, stable, secure, or perfect. It has everything to do with being willing to not give up in the worst moments of life. To refuse that the struggle is over. If I have learned anything it is this. No matter what happens keep pushing.
Sisyphus was eternally cursed to pushing a boulder up a hill. I am starting to believe that as a man I am similarly bound. It is a life that will constantly demand strength from me that I have already perceived does not exist. Taking one day at a time appears to be such a profoundly realistic and healthy way to live. After writing this article, I feel my perspective on life and failure still changing. I love this process, and I would not trade it for anything.
Will you join me men and pick up the daily struggle of not giving up so we can push the rock up the hill until the end of our days? I would like to know what you think of this parallel. Please take the time to comment and share this article. It would encourage me.