I believe that sisu got me to where I am today. Sisu is a Finnish word and means guts, determination and the ability to take care of yourself. I have been called “bullheaded” and “headstrong,” but to me, it is good old-fashioned Sisu. Sisu means to grow and learn from my mistakes and to apply this knowledge to my everyday life.
Being a typical teenager, I grew tired of the same day to day social “norms,”which led me to use alcohol to find excitement. Alcohol helped me to come out of my shell and to do things I wouldn’t normally do. After a few months of hanging out with the “wrong” crowd, my parents entered me into a treatment home for adolescent abusers. This was an “in house” treatment center, and I was assigned forty-five days of substance abuse counseling. But, it was also the April of my senior year in high school, so I struggled to complete the twelve step program before the upcoming summer.
I received a letter from my grandmother, and in it, she used the word sisu. I took the letter to mean that she was telling me, in her own words, that whatever I decided to do was okay and that I was allowed to make mistakes. I believe this incident is where I started to comprehend the term sisu. Did I stay in the treatment program and get the help my parents thought I needed or did I leave the program early so I could get back to what I wanted to do? Being a teenager, did I want to miss those last days of high school? Did I really feel like I had a substance abuse problem?
I believe that my grandmother’s letter that day, changed my whole perspective on my life and dreams. I believed that if I did not stand up for myself, and for my beliefs, that I wasn’t ever going to be able to. Her constant belief in me is the cornerstone of my existence today. She instilled in me the knowledge of making mistakes, that I am allowed to make them, as long as, somewhere down the road, I take responsibility and learn from them. So against my parents and the counselors wishes, I checked myself out of the treatment center without completing the twelve step program.
Some people thought this was a huge mistake, but I knew in my heart that I was making the best decision for me. I needed to find my way through this problem on my own and not fall into the trap of society. I may not take the easy road, that’s not my nature, and I do make mistakes, but I also learn very important life lessons from those mistakes. Today, some twenty years later, I am still “bullheaded” and “headstrong,” but I stand up for what, I feel, is important to me and to my family, and in this I believe in my sisu.