By Sudeep Stauble
A mother struggles to balance her writing career and take care of her family. A student with an eating disorder strives every day to pursue her goal of helping those with similar issues. What do these struggles have in common? They belong to any of us, whether you’re a celebrity or merely an ordinary person. Maybe you have a mental illness. Maybe you suffer the stress of a chronic medical issue while juggling a full course load. Maybe, after years of enduring hardship after hardship, you suddenly find yourself breaking down in paroxysms of hopeless sobs.
We often associate acts of heroism as committed by soldiers, police officers, firefighters, or, for some of us nerds, comic-book characters in tights or capes. However, we fail to recognize the heroes all around us, ordinary men and women who face daily challenges just to get by. While it is true soldiers and police are heroic, the day-to-day sacrifices of these everyday heroes deserve just as much recognition.
Most of us recall being asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Little do we realize that our goals are often impacted by what we have endured. Brittany Dutton, a student at Southern Maine Community College, is majoring in human services and psychology. When asked about her goals, she told me, “I want to get my doctorate in psychology so that I can be an eating-disorder psychologist and help people who are struggling.” Ten years ago she was diagnosed with an eating disorder. This mental illness impacted her in multiple facets of her life. Her relationships were nearly destroyed, and her health was deteriorating. She has stated that, after spending six weeks in an eating-disorder center, she has striven every day to pursue this noble endeavor. She continues to remind herself that she is in recovery, which enables her to fight her battle with her disorder.
While some of us can go through the motions and live through the monotony of every day, there are those whose days are full of challenges. Brittany Lewis, age 29, described her daily routine and the balancing act between her writing career and caring for her children. “My youngest is autistic and he receives ABA therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and has a special-education teacher. They all work with him at our home. In between helping the therapists, I do my best to work on my author career for several hours a day; writing, editing, growing my following on social media and doing interviews are just some of the things I do for work. After all my son’s therapy is over around noon, I stop working and focus on cooking and cleaning. I pick up my daughter from the bus stop at 3:50 p.m. and we do her homework before I cook, serve and then clean up dinner, give them baths and get them ready for bed.”
As a writer, I can relate to her to some degree. While I myself am not a parent, it’s all I can do to imagine how difficult a task it would be to divide my time between my aspirations and my family. I admire her dedication to her family and her passion as a writer in spite of what she has been through. In fact, I often express to her my admiration. She has inspired me to finally take my own writing passion seriously.
When looking back, my sources have relayed to me that their battles with their respective demons have shaped them into the people they are today. An anonymous source remarked, “As a gay woman, I want to advocate for marginalized communities.” She has explained that growing up, she often faced stigmas regarding homosexuality. As such, she would like to put to rest those negative viewpoints and impact society and advocate for those without a voice.
When asked how her struggles have affected her, Dutton explained that she feels she can “take care of people better because of what I went through.” By the same token, Lewis explained, “Having my son has helped me to be more patient and more aware of children with special needs in general. Autism was something I didn’t know very much about before he was born. With my own health issues, it has helped me to want to have much deeper relationships and helped me to strive to work that much harder to reach my professional goals.”
Have you ever felt as though you were at your wit’s end? As though you were running on reserve energy, that your suffering would never end? I know I certainly have. There are those who persevere through their suffering by reminding themselves that this is temporary.
Throughout my interactions in my research, I kept contemplating role models. We all have someone we admire, sometimes wishing we were them. These may include celebrities, leaders, even heroic characters in film or literature. But for me, role models are ordinary people who have flaws, people who overcome obstacles and strive to pursue their goals, people who persevere when night is darkest before dawn. These people possess qualities and virtues by which I myself try to live, qualities such as courage, ambition, and confidence. I cannot build monuments, paint portraits, or plaques for them. But through my writing, I hope to pay them an homage long overdue.