For the last five years, I've cultivated resilience as the antidote to adversity. Resilience, defined as "the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, or the ability of an object to spring back into shape," seemed essential to maintaining spiritual equilibrium. However, after hearing Aimee Mullins speak about her life journey, I no longer believe resilience is sufficient to achieve our ultimate goals.
Aimee Mullins, college NCAA scholarship athlete, international model and actress, was born without essential structural bones below the knee. She states in her Ted Talk that adversity activates new potential. Using her condition as a double amputee with prosthetic legs, she challenges the prevailing mindset of disabled as "useless" or weak. Instead, through an indomitable will, she exceeds all expectations to live a remarkable life. According to Aimee, challenge activates the potential; it clarifies and forges the path for the human spirit to achieve extraordinary things.
Aimee’s path made me think about my own, as an individual and a woman. Society tells women they are most desirable as unmarred; unmarked by childbirth, expression lines, or gray hair. However, experience leaves its marks. Developing a career, raising children, managing a household, caring for parents -- often simultaneously – takes an inevitable physical toll. However, as Aimee says, it’s only by leaning into those challenges that we achieve success and therefore realize our potential. What if we challenged that perception of beauty? Leaned into our own adversity? Celebrated it?
I nurtured the dream to design my own jewelry while working in a successful corporate career. That secret ambition was based on an innate intuition; a thrill and joy inspired by beautiful jewelry design. Interestingly enough, every time a life juncture opened up a path to that dream, simultaneously a safer path presented itself in the form of a step forward in my career. Over and over again, I chose the easier path, ignoring my intuition to keep building the stable, shiny, understood career.
Then, unexpectedly, life handed me a game changer, a personal wild card. It was scary and hard. I had to make difficult decisions to overcome that challenge, to care for and restore loved ones. The risks were real and time was precious. I had to make stark, quick choices. Priorities were quickly shuffled, and fell into sharp relief. Success came from positive energy; believing in a miracle outcome while jumping over each hurdle. And somehow, the path unfolded with each leap.
My increased confidence enabled me to face my fears and pursue my dream with my unperfect, marred self. That journey through adversity crystalized my unique footprint and gave me my design voice. It poured out of my spirit and gave me my path.
Aimee is right; simple resilience would have returned me to my old, safe career. Adversity led me to the unique path that was yearning to emerge; it activated my true potential. It led me to capture my light.