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  • Writer's pictureJulie Love

Doing the Impossible

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

From the Archive: November 2021

I have a confession to make. More and more I feel like an imposter. I offer support and guidance to school staff, but the thought keeps circling in the back of my mind: “If I were still working in a school, I couldn’t do what they are doing.” And I feel guilty, an absolute hypocrite. But recently, another thought has followed: “Of course you couldn’t. But if you were still there, you would do it anyway.” Because that’s what those in the fields of education and health do: we face absolutely insurmountable challenges, impossible expectations… and then we do them. Because there is no other option.

We worry that noticing something is overwhelming or impossible will, understandably, lead to giving up. Well, yes – it is generally not ideal to look at a challenge and think, “Well, that’s certainly not going to happen.” Instead, you narrow your focus, set a closer goal to aim for, and start. Once you reach that bend in the trail ahead, you choose the next landmark to head towards, and the next… and that’s how you climb the mountain, rather than by looking at the peak, lost in the clouds above you.

Unfortunately, we often carry that minimization with us afterwards, telling ourselves that we must have been exaggerating the size of the challenge, “making a mountain out of a mole hill.” Instead of complimenting ourselves for an amazing accomplishment, we take the opportunity for one more round of self-judgment.

We do this to others, as well: “See, that wasn’t so bad. I told you that you could do it.” We think it’s encouraging to tell people that the insurmountable is totally surmountable, that this shouldn’t feel overwhelming. Among religious people, this often comes out as: “God never gives you more than you can handle.” Which strikes me as a rather mean thing to say to a person currently in agony or despair (and not a very nice depiction of God, either). What’s generally missing is the second half: “God never gives you more than you can handle, without also sending you the support you need to do it.” It might be inner strength you never knew you had, it might be a community of supportive people around you; more likely than not, it’s both. But if you’re being told this problem isn’t that bad (unless you’re some sort of wimp), seeking help feels like proof that you’re weak, rather than an integral part of the process.

All of you are facing a constant barrage of absolutely impossible challenges. And the fact that you go ahead and do them does not in the least make them less objectively impossible. You are doing impossible things every day; give yourself (and each other) credit for that! You manage what anyone on the outside with half a clue would honestly view as “thank goodness I don’t have to do that; I never could.” You do this through a combination of being stronger than you thought you could be (stronger than anyone should have to be), and by finding out what support is available, and asking for it.

Some days are better than others. Some days you are incredible forces of nature, some days you collapse into puddles of exhaustion, and some days you step back from the fire a bit but support those who are still in the thick of it. But whatever type of day you’re having, every day you are still absolutely amazing. Recognize that.

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