“Life doesn’t make you tougher. It just teaches you that you’ll live.”
– Hope Corrigan, aka Astra, from Ronin Games
Wearing the Cape Series Book 5, by Marion G. Harmon
When Hope says this to the audience, as she narrates her adventures, she is remarking on what the experiences of her life have taught her.
She’s not had a particularly easy life. Oh, sure, she never lacked for necessities, never had to beg to survive, but she has known plenty of pain and loss. She suffered from cancer as a child, and became terrified of hospitals. She lost her best friend to teenaged suicide, for reasons too spoilery to elaborate on. She has seen innocent people, good people, children, die right in front of her. Friends and comrades and even dearer people have been killed in battle, at the hands of the very worst of humanity. And the sheer physical trauma she has repeatedly endured is staggering.
Yet, she has endured, and become a symbol of strength and power for millions of people. She has come a long way from that little girl she was, who was so afraid of everything.
But she still has that fear of doctors and hospitals. It’s under control, though, because her repeated exposure to gentler, less severe treatments helped her to gain that control. As a child, her fear was based on the possibility of dying. Now, she knows she’ll live. She hasn’t grown “tougher,” really, and she hasn’t become immune to her old fears. She simply knows now that she’ll be all right.
That really struck me, as I read it. We often – in fact, we usually do this – look at someone, typically a child or a spoiled brat, someone “soft” and “wimpy” and the like, you know, the sort that makes a huge deal out of every little thing… and we think that life will toughen them up a bit. As though getting “tougher” were the solution. Rather, the solution is found not getting tougher, rougher, callused, etc., but simply in gaining perspective.
Why does a child think this tiny injury will kill them? Because they haven’t learned it won’t yet. (I am reminded of a story I found online, where a child was crying after a spider bit him because he thought it would turn him into Spider-Man and he couldn’t handle that responsibility, LOL)
Why does a teenager think (fill-in-the-blank) is the end of the world and the end of their lives? Because they haven’t learned yet that life goes on. (of course, we do tend to tell teens that everything about their futures is determined right then and there, so, there’s that too)
Why does your first broken heart, your first serious injury, your first and most critical loss, seem like the end? Because you haven’t learned from experience yet.
Once we have learned this, however, we gain a much-needed perspective. It’s never the second or third time something happens to us that we panic. It’s the first, because we don’t know how to deal with this brand new situation. But once we get through it, we know we can get through it again. (even if we would greatly prefer not to find ourselves doing so!) When similar trouble arises, we can face it calmly, with self-assurance.
What is that the older person always tells the younger person when they’re crying about some hurt? “You’ll live.”
For instance: Hope is being operated on right when she mentions this, because, though she is thinking about anything else, she is still maintaining her calm. She knows she will be fine. That, not “toughness,” is what her experiences have given her.
For some reason, I find that to be a very comforting truth.