As much as I try to be a purist in terms of using words and phrases that would actually fit into an academic essay I find myself falling prey to the cultural revolution that is internet slang. I no longer cringe much when I hear people yell out the words, “That is cray-cray,” nor do I find myself innocent of using the term ‘legit’ in place of ‘legitimate’ when the latter should do just fine. That preface was an explanation for the title of this particular piece. Despite its interjection into miscellaneous conversations by various people many do not qualify, “The struggle is real,” as an accurate way to commiserate. Yes, it expresses an emotion or rather expresses one’s inability or lack of desire to convey a feeling. By stating that “The struggle is real,” one makes a blanket statement that is sometimes in direct reference to a situation but can also refer to all of life at the moment that said conversation is taking place. I am using the phrase in reference to the latter way.
July was a struggle. I wrestled with my motivation, my ambition, my relationships, and myself (surprise, surprise – last month was a period of deep self-reflection). August feels like a breath of fresh air, maybe that is because third year is starting up soon and I’m looking forward to having a real routine again. On the other hand maybe I’m simply getting a better at handling the curveballs life has been throwing me. I’m learning how to better open myself up to these new experiences, be they painful, exciting, or something in-between. I’m getting better at embracing the ‘struggle.’ I think that the ‘struggle’ I often hear referred to is code for life itself. On the one hand I find myself thinking, “Well, of course it’s a struggle. Nothing good ever comes easily.” I’m normally thinking that way when someone else is telling me about his struggles. That is not to say that I feel that individual struggles should ever be dismissed – while I might not feel as miffed as my friend whose Starbucks gold card has 2014 on it instead of 2015 (her favourite of the two number series’) – I will listen to her talk about it. Even though I cannot exactly empathize with her I will listen to her because her concerns are valid. At least to her they are so they matter to me on a basic level because she’s my friend and I care about what upsets her. When another one of my friend told me that he’s building an intersection and that he’s extremely excited about the project I listened to him talk about it, not because I particularly care about construction but because he’s excited.
I think that when people say “The struggle is real,” that they are looking for acceptance, validation, and most of all – an open heart and mind. My HUMSCHUMS and I love to pick apart our various schedules from our work hours to extracurricular involvement to class work we spend a decent amount of time processing and outlining our various commitments to each other. Some might see this as complaining and sometimes it may stray into that territory; however, most of the time it’s just a way for us to verbalize our emotions through words. Instead of saying that you’re exhausted in this day and age one is more likely to say, “I worked a late shift last night that went until 5:30am and after work I did that sociology reading.” In place of being overly frank we compete with our routines and our schedules – we compete for the sympathy and compassion of our peers. We push ourselves forward because we know the truth – the struggle is real – we are struggling every single day of our lives. Now that statement likely appears presumptuous to many people – you might be thinking what does a white, middle class, woman who is attending university know about struggle? The response to that is plenty. I normally shy away from particular issues when I speak with my friends and privilege is definitely a touchy one because I know that I am privileged. I am conscious of what I have that others don’t. Sometimes it makes me feel awkward, out of place, and unsure of myself because really why me? Why should I be living this life and not someone else?
The answer to that is in the hands of a much greater power than anyone on this Earth. The truth is I don’t know why I’m here exactly – I haven’t pinpointed my particular ‘purpose’ in life yet but I hope that I’m well on my way to figuring it out.
Back to struggles, in my mind if someone considers something a struggle in his or her life then that thing is a struggle – point blank. It is valid to him or her so it should be treated as such. Now there are limitations to this thought process for example if a friend of mine finds herself ‘struggling’ against the fact that she cannot own a monkey as a pet I would humour her and then try to direct her interest toward legal and domesticated animals, like puppies. Just because you cannot relate to or empathize with someone’s struggles does not mean that they are automatically invalid. Barring the ridiculous, and even those ideas can have merit, struggles are a part of our lives. In fact, they are probably more acceptable and visible than they have ever been simply because people are backing up the statement that “The struggle is real.” I struggled this summer, my level of procrastination skyrocketed when my life was shaken up rather violently by a reality check and now it’s dipping as I find myself re-centring in my new world. Though I might have aspirations of being a language purist I don’t think that I will be hanging all of these hip and new phrases out to dry just because they don’t comply with grammatical or syntactical conventions.
My parting thought for you today dear readers is that you never know why someone is acting the way she is so give her the benefit of the doubt. Allow her a positive space where she can unburden herself from her struggles and accept beyond all else that those struggles are real. By accepting her problems and experiences you validate her feelings, though one does not require validation from anyone else to continue one’s existence in this world it’s never a bad idea to be a good friend.