I have long delayed writing in public about this topic. It felt like I would show weakness and that would prevent me to find a new job. It still does; stating that I don’t understand the idea of persistence, at least from the explanations I got so far, sort of implies that I am not capable of it and that I am a poor choice for almost any occupation.
At this point, it’s not my main worry anymore. I have tried for a long time to simulate persistence, usually just enough to be believable, but my acting always failed in some detail or another, and I have moreover been labeled as faker. When I managed to play it well enough, it ended up in painful cul-de-sacs, where that very persistence took me way off the roads I would enjoy, and even backfired at me.
I remember very vividly when I took the conscious decision to keep fighting a given battle. That went from reading a book until the end even if I didn’t like it, to continuing my PhD, looking for software jobs, staying in a staggering relationship. I braced and kept walking. That’s what I learned to do, that’s what I think others meant when they said: you have to persist, even when results don’t show up immediately, because they eventually will. I remember the emptiness in my heart growing bigger with each milestone I achieved on those paths, feeling a vague, stormy warning that I was on the wrong way, walking every day further away from myself. At some point I gave up and took the decision to quit an increasingly painful path.
Technically, most were suicidal choices: I left one safe road after another, especially involving my career, so that I made myself an unsellable horse. I have a CV that is a patchwork of so many disparate topics, that recruiters and interviewers first ask what sense do they make all together. They always ask, one way or the other: can’t you make up your mind? My answer is: no, because that’s not the point. My search is not on the magic topic of my life, but on the magic way I can work on anything, therefore each experiment makes sense to me, even if just helped me to understand that that was not my way.
I remember feeling so light, and so indifferent to how wrong I could be, each time I decided to abandon one of those paths. I think that it means something to me, even if it looks crazy. Such craziness is excused when it leads to noticeable accomplishments afterwards, it is even cherished as a sign that these people are as human as everyone else, after all, or even that those crazy choices were a proof of their genius. This is not (yet? haha) my case, I have no ambition to become famous. For now I am just crazy.
So, persistence. I have never needed it to reach my previous goals: I never felt I needed to use will-power to achieve something. Either I was able to do it and did it, either I was not, and I learned it, or I didn’t do it at all. Maybe I never had the opportunity to practice positive persistence. Maybe I have applied persistence to problems that didn’t benefit from it and now I unjustly blame it.
Do you want to bring your opinion on this? I’ll keep the discussion flowing in the comments with much interest.
Update: I just found a post from thehobbitbadger that expresses concern over the media’s love for perseverance stories – totally worth reading.