The Gift of Adversity

Among the many privileges of being alive, is that peculiar human ability to look into the past and study the lives of great men and women who have gone before us; to cry over their flaws, admire their strength, laugh at their naivety, rejoice in their victories and yes, identify with their losses. It is a privilege that all who desire to better their lives should engage in from time to time. In my doing so, I have observed a common thread that weaves through the tapestry that is their lives-adversity.

Defined as a difficult and unpleasant situation, adversity is not one those things that we look forward to (like a hot cuppa tea on a rainy day). Yet, it is the one thing, more often than not, that gives the impetus to want to succeed. It is not a pre-requisite for success. It is a necessary ingredient.

I am a first born. Unlike my siblings, I have seen my parents at their worst moments; the times when putting food on the table was more important than what kind was laid, when the roof over their heads was porous to the elements of nature, when their choice of clothing was wanting, when bills drew sighs and when they struggled to give their children the best of education in spite of their meagre earnings. Through these trying periods, never at any one time did my siblings and I get the impression that we had reached a dead end. My parents kept on moving. Sometimes they ran, sometimes they walked briskly. Sometimes they plodded. All in all, they kept surging forth.  In retrospect, I realise that those moments of adversity made them who they are today. They were patient through them. They did not nag and if they did, we never caught them in the act. They embraced adversity and lived to tell the tale.

I compare myself with my parents’ kind, and I find myself wanting. I realise that my attitude along with that of my generation towards adversity is appalling. We nag at the slightest bump on our road to success. We want in a day the things that took our parents a decade to attain. We deem most jobs being below us. We view adversity as a preserve for the less privileged-an experience confined to the slums, Jua kali and wherever it is that people living on less than a dollar a day are to be found.

It is no wonder that the character of those who have “made it” easy, especially in the current crop of the Y generation, is wanting. I have found most to be haughty, condescending, peevish, and whatever other ill adjective the Queen’s language avails. 

I have chosen to take the path less trodden. I will embrace adversity. I will learn from it. I will look at it in the eye and tell it, “You will not win over me. You may seem like you are but you will not. I will prevail. By God’s grace I must prevail” Then I will gloat when I see it turn its back, tail in between its legs and walk away, waiting for another opportune time to visit. And should Providence have before me two gifts of adversity and pleasantry. I will choose the former, for then I shall grow wiser and consequently avoid the trappings of pleasantry that so many of my peers have fallen into.