Perseverance – Key to Happiness

John - Columbia, Maryland
Entered on May 13, 2009

I believe that perseverance is the key to happiness.

I wear this belief on my sleeve… literally, in the form of a tattoo. The bamboo symbolizes perseverance. When all else is broken and destroyed in the winds of the strongest storms, bamboo sways and bends, sometimes almost to the ground, but never breaks. The bluebird standing on top of the bamboo represents happiness, as does the sun, rising from behind it all, leading to new beginnings. The ribbon, weaving in and out of the bamboo, and in and out of the sun’s rays, represents my own personal experience. It is a cancer ribbon.

At 23 years old, just days before Christmas, I learned that I had stage II Hodgkins Lymphoma. Rather, what I already knew was confirmed. Before the results, even before the biopsy, I told my mother, “I know that it’s cancer.” I could see her eyes tear up, but I needed her to know. I needed to tell her that somewhere deep in my body I could feel that this was cancer, and that I could also feel, somehow, that everything was going to be okay.

Six months of chemo later, with no traces of active cancer, bald and fat, I set off on a vacation. I saw California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Hawaii. As I traveled my energy returned. I went jogging across every new landscape I passed. My beard (I had never missed something so trivial, so much, in my life before) started to poke back out of my face, and my eyebrows reappeared to line my eyes. My appetite returned and I indulged myself in every way possible. And with every person that I met and every laugh that I shared along the way I realized that happiness is much more than just a choice you make.

Looking back, I know where that feeling stemmed from… the feeling that compelled me to tell my mother that everything would be okay. It came from her. It came from every moment of adversity that I faced as a child, my mother standing by me, refusing to let me quit. Because of her, I knew that I was not going to give up. That no matter how bad it got, no matter what the prognosis was, I was never going to quit.

So I was lucky this time. The treatments worked and the cancer went away. But there will always be another challenge waiting around the corner, or maybe even the same challenge will reappear again down the line. As I move forward in life though, I have the comfort of knowing that I will always be happy, no matter what the obstacle, because I will never stop. I will never stop hoping, dreaming, fighting, succeeding, and at the very least, trying.

I believe that perseverance is the key to happiness. After all, have you ever met a happy quitter?