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Pay Your Dues

You have to assemble your life yourself – action by action.  And be satisfied if each one achieves it’s goal, as far as it can.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

I wrote an entire blog post alternating between English and French to practice my French.  But I relied heavily on Google Translate to accomplish the task, and frankly it felt too much like cheating to me to publish it.  I’ll attempt it again another time, but with me slogging through it, not by typing an entire sentence and having it translated for me.  Handy tool when you really need it, but there’s no soul in that.  And no satisfaction when it’s done.

There’s value in the work.  Learning by pushing through the challenges.  Becoming better over time.  I learned that rowing in college.  Bloody knuckles from getting pinched on the gunwales when the boat suddenly tilted to port (likely my fault for lunging too far out).  Bruised back from catching an oar handle of the starboard rower behind me (from bad timing on one or both of our parts).  Blisters upon blisters on the hands (a necessary evil, for as you harden your resolve through thousands of strokes your soft skin must adapt too).  All of it is paying your dues in blood and sweat and time.  Maybe a tear or two on those especially cruel rows when coach would have us turn around and do it again.  But the work payed dividends, and changed me in the process.

And so it is with other work we must do.  Lingering projects that won’t finish themselves.  The blessedly passé commute to work.  You know sometimes it will suck, but get on with it already.  Working when you don’t feel like it.  Cleaning up the dirty dishes and cleaning the bathroom and washing the clothes and weeding the garden and picking up the branches after a windy night on the edge of the forest.  And it turns out the mind stops protesting and you get into the routine and you see the finish line and push on through until you’re finally, blessedly, done.  Until tomorrow.

And that’s life, one task at a time, repeated.  Sure, a little rest and relaxation is nice too, but the mind and body weren’t built for sloth.  We all need to get on with the work at hand.  And so I try to move, try to keep up with things, try to make the most of the time at hand, and save the little life hacks like using Google Translate for when I really need it.  There’s value in the work, and we know it instinctively.

We all know people who skate through life, not doing much, talking a good game, telling the world how much they’re doing and how important their contribution is….  but in your gut you know they’re full of it.  Really, you don’t have to look too far for a great example of that.  But that’s not us.  We pay our dues.  Look at the pictures of nurses with scars on their face and the backs of their ears from wearing a mask all day, every day.  Who are we to complain when the world is full of people paying a tougher toll than us?  Do the work.  Pay your dues.  Even when you feel you’ve earned the right to relax a bit, pay your dues anyway.  We’ll all be better for having endured.

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