Part 2 of 3:
Women are strong. We’re resilient. Whether we know this of ourselves or not, we possess the amazing ability to succeed against staggering odds. We do. The trick is in recognizing this as truth and using it. Drive is defined as energy and determination that helps us achieve a goal.
In part 1, Strong Beginnings, I asked what makes for strong female characters. And what it is that makes us strong. Even when we have a good foundation, even with someone who believes in us from an early age, without drive, we flounder.
We all get tired. Worn out at the end of the day, the work week, maybe too many difficult days or weeks in a row. Sometimes we don't want to keep fighting the good fight, we just want to curl up on the couch with a bowl of ice cream and leave the laundry, bills, dishes, homework, fill-in-your-own-here, for another day. There's nothing wrong with that. Drive is the difference between waking up the next day with renewed resolve, or staying on the couch. Okay, we're all human. Maybe the couch is warm and comfy and faces the TV playing endless Friends reruns. Maybe it takes a little longer to rediscover our verve, our energy and determination. But when we do, or at least when I do, I find I am happy to see that version of myself again. I knew she was still there, she just needed a nap.
One of my favorite books is Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain. The book embraces the concepts in both part 2 and 3 of this series. That little book is dense with themes that apply to every one of us. Well worth the read. In terms of factors that contribute to strong female characters, and women with strong character, I'm talking about two specific things: Drive, and the Longview. We'll talk more about the Longview in the final installment of this series. For now, let me tell you what I learned from The Art of Racing in the Rain's Denny Swift and his dog Enzo:
Set a goal. Work toward it. Don't quit.
That's all. Deceptively simple yet incredibly hard. In order to follow those instructions, we have to find a way around countless obstacles. There are much bigger roadblocks than laundry on the highway to our goals. Nobody said this would be easy. But worth it? You bet. Because what's the alternative? The idea of not going for something we really want, a goal that we know is attainable, somehow, someday, eventually, seems kind of crazy.
I remember a saying from when I was a kid: "If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it." I'm sure it's a meme now. When I was 12, it was a poster over my dresser of a ballerina on pointe. At 12, I honestly thought it meant that one day, if I wanted it enough, I could be a famous ballerina. At 44, I know it meant something much more important (I figured that out a while ago, don't worry). Seeing that phrase every day of my tween years planted thoughts in my head. Thoughts about my future self, about that big, wide-open when everything will be wonderful because I will be a GROWN UP. What I wanted to be, what I wanted to do, where I'd want to do it, the type of guy I'd want by my side, and a little of how I'd get there.
Obviously, there's a long road between 12 year old girl wishes and adult reality. The road is fraught with danger, setbacks, rejection, naysayers, mother nature stepping in with an illness or worse, but we also encounter rewards, small miracles, little wins, HOPE, and the joy that comes with knowing we gave it our all. Goals change as we change. Drive isn't throwing every effort into becoming a ballerina when you're clearly a non-ballerina. That's something else--delusion, maybe? Drive is this: when we've tried as hard as we can, exhausted every resource, pushed ourselves beyond any limits we thought we had, and find we still fall short of our goal, we muster the strength to keep trying. As many times as it takes.