Challenges – Thankvember Twenty-Seventh
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When was the last time you truly challenged yourself?

If it’s been a while, what are you waiting for?

It seems to me that I have always thrived on challenges – just not the challenges others set for me.

I’ve always been the type of person who preferred blazing my own trail (or, more often, simply leaving the trail to wander around in the wild places, looking and listening). When others impose their expectations and demands upon me, I tend to settle into an almost rock-like immovability.

I spent all of my childhood, and a good deal of my adulthood, trying to camouflage my inner tendency toward passive resistance, all the while finding my own subversive ways of setting challenges for myself that I truly felt inspired by.

When I was six and seven, I had personal breath-holding challenges in the bathtub, by submerging my head for as long as I was able. I never told my parents I was doing this; it was a way, quite simply, to challenge myself privately, without anyone else claiming any part of my private, victories and defeats.

When I was ten, a friend and I spent nearly all of our fifth grade year drawing horse pictures – a passionate, two-person challenge that evolved into other drawing for us both, and lasted, on and off, through high school.

At thirteen, the same friend introduced me to Star Trek, and, soon, we were creating mock consoles. This led to “graffiti boards”, and then to short story segments that we exchanged and played with.

In time, those story snippets became full fledged tales – what we did not yet know was fan fiction. We kept several going at once , sometimes filling entire notebooks with our side of the story, and mucking about in each other’s plots in a reflection of the power struggle that existed in our relationship at that time.

We generally wrote throughout the day – school was not often intellectually challenging; and, even when it was, it was seldom the type of challenge I preferred for myself. Of course, teachers were not inclined to consider this a good idea – many of them required note-taking, and nearly all wanted students at least to present the image of paying attention, and students who could answer questions and pass tests despite being clearly otherwise occupied were often seen as an affront, if not an outright violation.

In order to forestall problems, we each developed a code alphabet, so that our stories could not be easily translated. Even when our notebooks were examined, our words were unreadable.

Now, though, I am an adult long since, and I have, through deep and numerous personal challenges, come to a space where I claim my life and the right to set my own challenges – challenges that reflect who I have been, who I am in this moment, and who and what it is that I aspire to become.

I began these posts with an expression of appreciation for A Round of Words in 80 Days, but, although that has been my most intensive challenge during the last year, it hasn’t been the only one.

It’s been a challenging year – and I mean that in the best of ways, mostly. Aside from Jim’s serious motorcycle accident, most of my challenges are ones I chose: growing and deepening, on many levels, for myself, and honoring my deepest passion – writing.

As part of the framework for my four ROW rounds, I have undertaken several other larger, “official” writing challenges, which I am going to list below, so that I can spend a moment basking in the glow of my bravery and daring:

I have also embarked upon several smaller challenges which intrigued me:
Challenging myself in another way, Montana, 2000. Photo by Jim Burton.

What truly matters, to me, is the striving – the deciding to give my energy to projects that was not required in any way, and then to plan and move forward, always assessing whether the energy and striving are truly serving me in living in accordance with my own purpose.

As I was finishing this article, I validated my NaNo 2012 draft and was proclaimed a winner – but even that is not the point.

What truly matters is the process of creation, and the 56,000 word first draft that has fired my imagination, fueled my growth, and delighted my passions.

That’s always the case, for me.  Simply undertaking a challenge for no other reason than that I wanted to always brings inner riches, rewards, and learning.

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