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  • Writer's pictureJonathan.Crabtree

I could have given up, but I didn’t…

The New Year always revives a sense of urgent ambition for meto accomplish something great in the unknown and optimistic days that lie ahead. Even before New Year’s Day, I decide which goals to pursue and how I want to accomplish them. With the fading memory of incremental personal growth in the rear-viewmirror, I enter the New Year with a clear vision with a phrase and not a word like some.


This is my phrase: I could have given up, but I didn’t. So, here are a few thoughts on not giving up that I learned in 2022.


I look back on last year and think, ‘There were so many times I could have quit because it was too hard and just gone home.’ But, I didn’t. I kept moving. I read one more word in a book I didn’t understand. I wrote one more sentence that I’ll most likely delete tomorrow. I took one more step, even if it was small, towards my PhD, and I didn’t give up. Now, there have been many, many, many times before when life, or the task at hand, was just too difficult and I gave up. Probably too soon, and that’s my point.


This PhD has been the most challenging task, and definitely most ambitious to date – besides moving my family to the U.K. I believe no one will have to work harder at this than me, because I know myself too well. I am out of my comfort zone. I am out of my league. I am in over my head. I am willingly in a wilderness without a functioning compass to guide me through, and this is not the first time in my life, nor will it be my last. I could’ve given up last year, but I didn’t.


I now know that in these great perilous moments is where the best growth occurs. Growth walks a fine line between life or death; sinking or swimming. My first year and half in seminary, I wanted to give up and go home. In fact, I cried tears in my mentor’s office. Not long after admitting to him much I missed the previous season, I realized how much growth I experienced in only a year and a half. Add this story to countless others and my recipe for growth is to take one more action, even if it’s minor or incremental. In challenging times, we can go back to what ‘once was’ or we can grow forward to ‘what is’ and ‘what is to come.’


Another thing I’ve learned about not giving up and growing forward is this: Don’t compare yourself to others [and their perceivable growth.] While comparing ourselves to others may inspire us to live or do better, it can also make us feel like we’re not as ‘successful,’ thus leaving us feeling insecure. I’ve really learned this by telling it to our 10-year-old daughter. She is an ambitious dreamer, and I admire that in her. The problem with being an ambitious dreamer is that dreams can sometimes remain just that: dreams. When we see the success of others, particularly when it’s in our area of interests and expertise, we feel insufficient about our own growth. We then lose sight of our dreams, and seemingly, our goals. This has been really tough for me to tell our daughter, as well as hear it for myself. However, it’s been the most enlightening piece of awareness in all of 2022. I am me. I know my skills. I know my ability of engagement. I know what I have to offer the world, and it’s unique. There were many times I could have given up last year after comparing myself to others, but I didn’t.  


Now here’s the irony: It’s the first few days of the new year, and I have yet to enact my plan to accomplish this year’s goals. I could give up, but I’m not. I won’t, and I don’t want you to give up, either. The growing disappointment of not even beginning to achieve my goals is really enough for me to abandon them altogether. I could give up, but I won’t. I have two reasons why I won’t.


First, I know that I’m in the ‘middle’ of what ‘was’ and what ‘is to come.’ It’s a weird place to be, because I can see both the fading past and the blurry future. The fading past recalls my life as comfortable. While comfort could correlate with peace, comfort, for me, prevents me from growing in ways that I could and should. The best things in my life are the things I’ve worked hard for with ‘blood, sweat, and/or tears.’ A little bit of discomfort can make us grow. [Sometimes discomfort can make us grow forward or grow toward something else, too. Some of us may be in real tricky seasons where the discomfort istraumatizing. In those moments, I encourage you to seek professional medical help.] I know the most difficult part may be either in process or on the horizon, but I know the discomfort now will make way for the blurry future to come into focus with clarity.


A second reason I’m not giving up is because someone believes in me. My wife, my children, my family, my friends, and my colleagues. I owe it to them to believe in myself, because they see me for who I am, and who I am becoming. I may struggle to see myself, but they see me just alright. I’ve given up on a lot of things in life, even when people believed in me. I could regret those decisions, but I won’t. I’ll learn and grow forward because of them. The most humbling thing to me is that even if and when I give up, people still believe in me. We all need someone like that in our lives, and I’m sure we all have someone like that. We may not recognize them, but I guarantee we all have someone who believes in us when we feel like giving up.


Whatever your dreams, goals, aspirations, ambitions, may be for this year: don’t give up. There will be plenty of chances for you to do so, BUT DON’T. And when you don’t, ask yourself why you didn’t. My guess is that it’s probably related to the two reasons I just gave. I could’ve have given up a long time ago, but I didn’t. I’m now starting to figure out why.


Cheers to 2023.


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