Brown: Struggle on

Columnist Aaron Brown encourages readers to challenge themselves in life and emerge from the cocoon a butterfly. 

Aaron Brown

Meandering across campus on my bicycle and contemplating the things I would write for the sixteenth anniversary of Catalonia’s struggle for independence and secession, I overheard a most remarkable and puzzling confession. So, reader, you shall be spared from a thorough analysis of the on-going Spanish oppression of Catalans because, as Jordan Peterson says, we need to clean our room. The aforementioned remark was an explanation that somebody had chosen their major merely to avoid taking a class. Are you really going to change the course of your life to avoid a couple difficult classes?

Every choice you make affects the outcome of your life. Thankfully, we need not have a panic attack at the campus dining center when choosing between taco pizza and chicken tendies because typically smaller, less important decisions have smaller impacts on our lives and larger, more major decisions have greater influence. Would we not describe the selection of a major as major?

There is a greater lesson here, one of struggle. Within the cocoon, the caterpillar dissolves itself into a glob of goo. It is only after months of hard work, striving against the cocoon to be free, that the butterfly emerges to make the world a slightly more lovely place. Year after year and decade after decade, slaves struggled to be free before their labor bore fruit. We are not just talking about the American system of chattel slavery here. Every story of slaves struggling to be free is inspiring and beautiful. The inventor and the athlete alike face many challenges before success. The U.S. Navy SEALs did not take the easy path in life.

Why are you studying at Iowa State? If you weren’t up for a challenge, you’d be flipping burgers (although not for long). The one who does not attend university, or chooses to become a wife and mother, is no less valuable a person. But you are here. You have a few short years to transform yourself — without dissolving into a pile of goo, please — before you emerge into the world a different person. You ought not take the easy road. Wide and easy is the road that leads to destruction, says the preacher.

If you talk to professional runners about marathons and the like, you may hear how there is a barrier, so to speak. The runner must push through that seeming wall. When he does, he finds a new source of energy which he did not see before. Challenge yourself to find your limits and take a peek past those bounds. You may be surprised to find what the human creature is capable of becoming.

The decisions you make this day will affect you, and everyone else in the world, for the rest of history. Make good decisions, “go big or go home,” and choose to struggle sometimes. Would you rather be a caterpillar inching along life, or a free-flying butterfly drinking that sweet nectar? As General George Patton said, “A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood.”