Inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on
It’s nearing the end of the year, a time where everyone celebrates various milestones of what they’ve accomplished. The New Year often brings this about, the looking back through a lens. For some of us though, it brings a heavy sigh – we made it through another year and the remaining boxes seem pretty empty.
This year, I have lost a mentor, a prized champion.
This year, I have watched people I love fall seriously ill.
This year, I have felt certain opportunities winnow.
This year, I’ve struggled.
As an Underdog, this is a common narrative. Success comes flavored with small hints of sadness, of struggle, and of trying to weigh the balance. Professionally, my smile stays on. Personally, my heart is breaking and my makeup is flaking.
My soul is painted like the wings of butterflies
Fairy tales of yesterday will grow but never die
I can fly my friends
What’s helped during this time is finding purpose within all of this and finding a place for “self care” – mine comes in the form of painting and getting lost in music. Some of these I’ve read are great ways to cope, but not move on. It’s also helped to remind myself to not look at the triumphs of others as benchmarks. This year, I’ve made it though. And this year, that’s enough.
I visited a friend and mentor recently. We chatted openly and honestly about our worlds, what’s happened since we’ve last been in touch, and passing thoughts. She looked at me towards the end of our visit and said one thing that’s sat with me.
“You’re resilient as hell. Own it.”
At the time, I wanted to push back, to explain there’s a cost for resilience. But, then I’ve had more conversations with others. Not everyone is resilient.
When we look at life as a race, we see people come down to the tracks, focused and ready. They’ve emerged from cars to the locker rooms, changing only recently into freshly laundered track suits. Their skin is bright and clear as they settle into running position, their shoes with only the slightest bit of dust from the track. They run with a beauty and ease we envy.
Meanwhile, we race from our homes, dodging traffic, racing against the clock to get to the track in the first place. The stain on our tracksuit exposes the truth, the rush out the door, the last minute sip of coffee we felt we needed to save. We run, sweat dripping from our foreheads, our hair just that bit disheveled, and our shoes filthy from the road and grass. We make it – sigh of relief – before the race starts and we run towards the door in the track. Someone stops us, unsure who we are and not happy that we’re trying to enter the track from somewhere other than the locker room. We explain to an unforgiving face. A coach intervenes and gets us on to the track just seconds before the race starts. We run, we give it close to our all, all while trying to get the moments before out of head. Maybe we use the outrage as fuel. Maybe we work to fight shame.
The show must go on
I’ll face it with a grin
I’m never giving in
Let’s say we place on this one. We get 2nd. We still need to find the energy to walk home. There is no car, no ease in getting home, and no moment of quiet comfort. We head home, shower, and head to work. We won two races that day, the race to make it, and the race to place.
Ooh, I’ll top the bill, I’ll overkill
I have to find the will to carry on
(On with the show, on with the show)
As Underdogs, we start out behind. We run many races in the day, often those others don’t see. We use these sometimes as fuel, as points of small victories. This year, my small victory is simply persisting.
The show must go on.
This song was written by Brian May in honor of what Freddie Mercury did with his last days. Freddie was an Underdog in so many ways, but kept on.