The Struggle is Real

Struggle is a necessary ingredient in a  life worth living. The life of every child that’s born naturally, begins with a short journey filled with struggle that takes the little person from the safety of mommy's tummy to life in the outside world and life concludes in similar fashion, as the natural process of aging winds down to a slow struggle to let go. And it appears to me that every significant event in between is marked with struggle. The struggle is real. Unavoidable. However, there are a few ways to temper the struggle but it’s nearly impossible to eliminate. Temper it if you can but embrace it for all you’re worth when you must. 

    Sometimes we unnecessarily increase the amount of struggle in our lives through bad decisions. I did exactly that in the summer of my fourteenth year. Here’s the story:  

My cousins invited my brother and me to go swimming with them down on the Natalbany River. That little river was muddy and better suited for catching catfish but in the summer it was the coolest spot in town. That little swimming hole was in the curve of the river and about 50 feet wide and too deep to touch the bottom. I stayed close to the bank where it was shallow because I wasn’t a very good swimmer. Almost all of my cousins were older than me and much better swimmers so they swam across the river and back with ease. There more I watched them the more I wanted to try that. I wanted to swim across the river to the other side and then back again. But I was scared. Right before it was time to go home, because the sun was getting too hot, I made up my mind. When my oldest cousin made the call to leave, I made my big announcement. I shouted to everyone in our little group. “I’m going to swim across the river and back again!” They all just stopped and stared. One of them tried to talk me out of it, while several said it’s too late today, and my brother, Ronnie tried to stop me. He said, “Don’t do it Douglas, you’ll never make it.” But I didn’t listen, that decision almost cost me my life. I swam across the river about half way until I got tired and every stroke became harder than the last. I could hear my cousins yelling to keep going and my heart beat louder and louder in my chest. The struggle was real. I finally made it to the other side, grabbed a log near the bank and sucked in two lungs full of fresh air and held on for dear life. I felt the surge of victory in my soul but it was short lived. About that time all my cousins who were not as impressed with me as I was, started yelling for me to come on back to the other side. And that’s when it occurred to me, “I’ve got to swim back to the other side.” I looked across the way towards my cousins who were waving me in and let go of the safety of the log and began my journey home. I never told my cousins how close I came to drowning. I just pretended it was easy as pie and I could do it anytime I wanted. So we all laughed and picked up our stuff and started walking the mile or so home. I’ve learned a few lessons about life since that summer day in 1977, like don’t make things harder than they have to be and sometimes you have to just keep swimming. 

Doug McAllister