The old adage "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again" is never more apt or useful than it is when we are trying to make some changes that will improve our lives. Instant success is wonderful, but few people who lose a little weight keep losing it and then keep it off. Magic results that make us glad we tried something are wonderful, but magic results rarely, if ever, just happen overnight. More than likely, the path from point A (our starting point) to point B (where we want to end up) is littered with broken glass, unmarked detours, naysayers, stumbles, setbacks, dark clouds, delays, failures, tears, frustration, anger, roadblocks, temptations to quit, and every other negative and heartbreaking event that can influence us to just quit, give up, stop trying. "Why does it matter?" we ask. After all, we've been fat for years and we're still alive. Or, "I never have been able to do this or that or succeed at anything that will help me improve, so why would I think I can succeed now?"
The first step in following today's task, keep trying, is to throw out all the garbage. Collect all of the records of negativism and self-proclaimed failures that you keep running through your brain and haul them to the trash after you smash them to smithereens. Say good by to naysayers and tell them, thank you, I love you, but I am pursuing my own course now and I no longer need your constant reminders about what a failure I am. Hold your head up, as my wife keeps reminding me, and look the future straight in the eye. Sweep the broken glass off the pathway, toss the detour signs, throw all of your inclinations to just give up down the garbage disposal, turn it on, grind up your sour and now worthless roadblocks, and go on your way.
While working my way through college, I almost gave up several times. One quarter (we were on the quarter system, not the semester system) I just quit going to class and earned 14 hours of technical failures. It took me another three years to clean up those grades and raise my average so I could get into graduate school. I started work at 11:00 p.m. with a six foot dust mop cleaning the main gym and then the locker rooms, walked 15 blocks in wintry subzero weather to the phone company where I was the janitor, walked home around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. and tried to get up for 8 or 9 o'clock classes. I was tired, and some times struggled to buy a can of soup or a can of beans for my next meal while my classmates were all eating at the cafeterias or frat and sorority houses. Why not quit? Why not just give up? I wasn't sure I wanted to major in agriculture anyway, since my main interests were elsewhere.
By fall of that year, I was back in gear. I still had no financial help from any one and was wholly dependent on my ability to juggle several part-time jobs, usually janitor jobs and scrubbing bathrooms, but I was ready to go again. And then I never quit again, not ever. After I married, my wife and I worked together to get through another four years of college with two master's degrees and a Ph.D., and again, between the two of us, we made our own way without a penny of debt. And yes, I even had a part-time janitor job while working on my Ph.D. at the University of Michigan and yes, I was still cleaning bathrooms.
I remembered, from time to time, the words seared on my brain by an elementary school teacher who told my parents, "Dwight starts lots of projects, but he never finishes anything." Well, I had to show her a thing or two. I hope that you will choose even a few changes that you want to make in your life and pursue them with dogged determination. If you don't like the changes in my list, make your own list. But do something. February is whizzing quickly away with one week and one day gone into the history books. Keep trying, write in your journal, choose two or three changes to make and then start on them with renewed determination, and keep on trying. Good luck, from the Curmudgeonly Professor.