Adversity. Thinking of that word brings to mind my grandparents’ generation, the generation of toilers that developed into adulthood during World War II, that saw every social and world phenomena from Civil Rights and the Cold War to Feminism, Hip Hop, and 9/11, knew the kinds of hardship that younger generations may never fully conceptualize, being very familiar with adversity while simultaneously not being of it. For this reason, the generation born into a Great Depression was not a generation of the downtrodden, but of great and substantial character.

The funny thing about character is that it’s easiest to get under the most trying circumstances. Character is the result of facing a challenge, disregarding the success or failure in the possible outcome, and accepting the value of personal growth instead. It’s understanding that when taking a leap of faith one of two things will happen: you will find firm ground to land on, or you will be taught to fly.

What’s the need for the character achieved through toughing out adverse situations? Easily I can say the need for character is likened to the need for energy to complete a workout. Everyone occasionally goes through a rough patch, and everyone needs to have the stomach to get through them. It’s a universal thought: no matter how charmed one’s life may seem, its not always going to be smooth sailing. 

I’ll use myself for example. I was elated to become Miss Chicago 2009, devastated to lose my grandmother a week before state competitions, and terrified to compete for Miss Illinois on the evening of her funeral. My father said I could have easily dropped out and no one would have though the lesser of me. And for the one time in my life, I probably wouldn’t have been too hard on myself if I had opted to sit out, too. But something told me to stick it out, despite everyone who told me, “Imani, it’s not supposed to be this hard.” 

But who ever guaranteed me that it was supposed to be easy?

Nine times out of ten, the things in life that are most valued come out of the roughest circumstances: the beautiful pearl held tightly in the mouth of the clam, the rarest jewel that must be excavated form the deepest caves and mines. Anything worth getting is worth fighting for.

The purpose of this blog is not to be an advocate for masochism (LOL), but to repeat something that my father emphasizes to me all the time: people tend to steer away from difficult things to avoid possible pain, but it’s the difficult things that challenge us to grow. Adversity makes us stronger. Pressure makes us think quicker. And only dead things don’t grow.

In closing, I encourage everyone to pursue their goals no matter how far fetched they may seem. Please don’t be discouraged by the possible pain of rejection, but instead, be welcoming of the possible journey. No, I didn’t become Miss Illinois that night, but I was the best that I could be ( and nabbed a Top 10 spot). For a girl reaching for the moon when it seemed all too far away, landing amongst that stars never felt so good.

Imani Josey

Imani is a writer from Chicago, Illinois. After graduating Howard University in Washington, DC, Imani received her Masters from Northwestern University. Sometime during all of that studying, she danced professionally for the Chicago Bulls as a (Luvabulls) cheerleader, and won the titles of Miss Chicago and Miss Cook County for the Miss America Organization, as well as Miss Black Illinois USA. Read her short story “North” in the forthcoming Hidden Youth anthology, out November 2016 by Crossed Genres.

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